By Norm Elrod
(CBS Miami/CBS Local) — Jim Nantz will be covering the Masters this weekend on CBS for the 34th straight year, and hosting it for the 32nd straight. So he’s seen a lot of memorable golf, from Phil Mickelson’s first title in 2004 to Jordan Spieth’s 2016 collapse. A couple of his earliest recollections from his time at Augusta even involve Nick Faldo, the CBS Sports lead analyst for its Masters coverage and his partner in the 18th hole tower. Faldo won back-to-back Masters in 1989 and 1990.
But a couple Masters memories stand out for Nantz, and they center on a particular hole at Augusta. As Faldo put it in the recent CBS Sports Masters conference call, “the 12th is one of the greatest par-3s in the world.” He was speaking of the 12th in terms of how it plays, given where the hole is placed, and how the winds swirl in Amen Corner. But he could’ve easily been referring to what has transpired at the far edge of Augusta.
Nantz’s top moment at the 12th hole, known as the Golden Bell. dates back to 1992, relatively early in his Masters hosting tenure, “when my friend and college suite-mate Fred Couples was on his way to taking the green jacket.” As Nantz sets the scene, “because of overnight rain at Augusta, the bank had not been mowed. And he [Couples] was fortunate enough to see a ball that would start to trickle down the slope, short of the green, and start rolling toward the water.”
Lucky for Couples, who won his only major championship at the Masters that year, the ball would “…hang up at the last moment on the edge of the water, on the side of the bank.” From there “…he was able then to pitch it up to about a foot away and make a par and hold off Raymond Floyd and have the greatest thrill of his Hall of Fame career.”
In 1997, the 21-year-old Tiger Woods won his first major championship at the Masters going away. There would be many more, but this win served notice on golf’s biggest stage that the 21-year-old was truly special. As Nantz remembers it, “Tiger had just shot 40 on the first nine, in the opening round of the Masters that year. And then holed out from the back left off the green that fueled a second-nine 30 on his way to a win for the ages.” For Nantz, “the whole spark came at the 12th hole.”
The Masters holds a special place on the golf calendar, and the 12th hole at Augusta still remains special to Nantz after all these years. So much so that CBS Sports Masters host has a standing date with the iconic Hogan Bridge each April. As he describes it, “the 12th hole is a very meaningful place to me… It’s a ritual for me to go out to the 12th green, walk over Hogan Bridge, stand and look at the 12th green, reflect on the many, many good fortunes and blessings I’ve had in my life…”
Jim Nantz will no doubt visit the 12th hole at Augusta this week, in the days leading up to the Masters. And then so will will every player in the field, as the world watches. Will the fabled hole fuel another major championship run or close the door on a green jacket? Nantz and Faldo, along with the rest of the CBS Sports team, will be on hand to find out.
Tune in to CBS Sports’ coverage of the Masters Saturday, April 13, 3-7 pm ET and Sunday, April 14, 2-7 pm ET, along with its week-long comprehensive coverage on cable and digital.