ESPN to televise early Masters rounds


NEW YORK -- ESPN will televise the first two rounds of The Masters, the first change in the televised coverage of the golf tournament in years.

The Masters is one of a kind in the annals of sports TV, without a formal bidding process for the rights that are always given in one-year increments. CBS will broadcast the final rounds, like always with limited commercial interruptions, but ESPN will be taking over from USA Network this year. ESPN will also have limited commercial interruptions, four minutes per hour.

ESPN has had the rights to the Masters internationally since 1993, but this is the first time in years that USA Network will not have the one-year contract. The tournament, from the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, will be held April 7-13. CBS has broadcast the Masters every year since 1956.

ESPN will have the first- and second-round coverage live between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day, with primetime repeats beginning at 8 p.m. ET. It will also be televised on ESPN Deportes.

ESPN said Mike Tirico will be the host of the first- and second-round telecasts; it's done every year with CBS' production crews.

In 2003, feminist Martha Burk led a protest against the Masters Tournament over its male-only membership rules.