What It’s Like Hosting SportsCenter for ESPN at The Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga.—Everything at the Masters is larger than life. Except for the TV studio.
On a rainy Tuesday in Augusta, the studio building tumbled out of the ground in a white heap. The home of countless hours of Masters television was barely perceptible in its perch among the trees. Turn your head the wrong way on the boardwalk next to the practice ground and you could miss it entirely.
In the case of the studio, we use “home” literally. From the outside, the building is indistinguishable from a typical two-storey house. White pillars guard the front door. Windows jut out to the outside world. A walkway bisects a neatly manicured lawn.
This is the Master’s life Matt Barrie, sitting in a metal chair on the porch. The SportsCenter host is one of the lucky few to have adopted the Augusta National TV studio as their April vacation home.
During tournament week, ESPN’s studio corner is his living room…if you can call it that. It’s an okay studio — about the size of a midtown Manhattan studio apartment — and on a busy Augusta morning, The Studio can be filled with up to 10 people.
However, Augusta National’s ESPN studio has an edge over New York City’s studio apartments. When the sun is shining, a garage door opens and gives a clear view of the most beautiful driving range in the world.
Barrie, who is now 43, has been around the sports world a number of times. First as a local television sports reporter in such rough places as Wausau, Wisconsin, and Lawton, Okla.; and later as an exceptional host for ESPN. He’s crammed into the Augusta National Studio for most of the week, where he hosts “SportsCenter” live reports for ESPN. It will be his 10th master for the network but he admits he would host SC from a broom closet if it meant spending a tournament week in Augusta.
“I was on cloud nine,” says Barrie, grinning as he tells the story of his first Masters TV stint for ESPN. “I ran through the house. To sit there with Andy North and Curtis Strange a weekend at the Masters. It was a dream.”
Life as a SportsCenter host during Masters week is nomadic, Barrie admits. As the tournament progresses, the schedule becomes less predictable by the hour.
“I came into town on Sunday and then started doing the SportsCenter stuff on Monday morning. Then SportsCenter Tuesday. I’ll do that by Friday. I will be doing all the introductory coverage of our SportsCenter on Saturday from 3pm to 7pm and then I will be doing the post coverage broadcast at 7:30pm. Then I call feature holes — holes #4, 5, and 6 — for ESPN+…
“You know, sleep is optional,” he says, laughing, although I’m pretty sure he’s only half joking.
Still, there’s one certainty about Barrie’s week: Tiger Woods.
“Every minute of TV that I’ve done has been related to Tiger,” he says. “He is The needle. I mean Monday felt like Saturday. You could tell there was a buzz, that something else was going on.”
Of course not the 15-time major champion officially announced his intention to play at the Masters this week, but his very existence at the tournament is more than ESPN or anyone employed by the network expected.
After all, it was Barrie who broke the news of Tiger’s near-life-threatening crash in 2021 to the world just 14 months ago on ESPN.
“I’ve been waiting for the producer to answer my ear and say, ‘Tiger Woods is dead,'” Barrie recalls of that fateful day. “Then I would have to be the person telling the esports world on ESPN that we lost Tiger Woods.”
Should Tiger return to the sporting world at 10:34 a.m. Thursday morning on the 1st tee of the Augusta National, Barrie will once again be the man to break the news.
“To be able to be on the air at that point,” Barrie says. “At 10:34 I’d like to say, ‘Let’s go to the 1st tee to see Tiger Woods return to the Masters’ and not say another word. Just let the viewer have it.”
In moments like these, Barrie says, ESPN’s Augusta National Studio comes alive. Every 500 square meters of it.
“Now he’s going to miss the fairway at number 1 – it doesn’t matter,” says Barrie with a laugh. “It will be Tiger Woods walking the course at Augusta National. It’s going to be one of the greatest comeback stories from a guy who’s already given us this.”