If you're trying to watch the Masters on TV on Thursday or Friday morning, don't bother. The Masters isn't broadcast on TV until 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
Why? Because Augusta officials say so, and no one can stop them. There's really no reason beyond that.
Explaining the Masters TV schedule
The famous Augusta National is the most recognizable brand in golf, as courses go. And it's willing to give up millions of dollars in revenue to protect that brand — this aura of exclusivity it's so carefully crafted over the last 80 years.
Augusta believes less is more, and over-saturation of TV coverage will hurt its brand and mystique. As a result, it leaves more than $100 million on the table and generates a revenue of only $30 million, none of which comes from TV.
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CBS has aired the Masters for the last 60-plus years, operating on a one-year contract with Augusta for each of them, according to this piece from Golf Digest. Just since the turn of the century has it shown Sunday's final round in its entirety, and not until 1995 did the first two rounds get any TV coverage. Imagine that — the most popular event in golf, by a mile, got no TV coverage for half its rounds as recently as 20 years ago. The Masters' final round in 2015 had 14 million viewers, well clear of the U.S. Open, which came in at 11.2 million and had considerably more drama.
It's incredible, as Golf Digest notes, that as sports become more and more branded and commercialized, the Masters is going in the opposite direction, or at least keeping its status quo. We're just a few years away from American sports leagues putting ads on their jerseys, and yet the only thing you can associate with Augusta is a green and yellow cut-out of the United States with a pin stuck in northeast Georgia, grass groomed perfectly as spring hits and that soft, soothing piano riff. It's pure, and it's not going to chance.
Augusta can and has done whatever it wants, like with its long-time exclusion of women and far less egregious choosing of first-round pairings and tee times without any checks of balances from the PGA.
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We all want the Masters on TV from sunrise until sunset. CBS and ESPN would happily do that, if they could. But we're not even close to getting there. You can watch limited Masters coverage online on its official website starting at 8 a.m. ET during the first two rounds.
Masters first-round TV schedule
3-7:30 p.m.: Live first round - ESPN
8-11 p.m.: Replay of first round - ESPN
9:15 a.m.-finish: Featured groups stream
10:45 a.m.-6 p.m.: Amen Corner
11:45 a.m.-7 p.m.: Nos. 15 and 16
Follow the entire tournament with our live Masters leaderboard and get live updates and highlights at our Masters tracker.