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No running commentary from Watson at Augusta

By Peter Hutcheon

There are plenty who would say covering the Masters barely qualifies as work at all.

Hobnobbing with Graeme McDowell at his millionaire's mansion and even getting to play the most famous 18 holes in golf, yes it's a tough old life for BBC NI's Stephen Watson.

“It was a dream come true,” he says. “We first went two years ago which was Rory McIlroy's first Masters. We had tried before to get accreditation but didn't get it. But with Rory making such an impression in America at the time and making his debut at the Masters, we were able to make our debut as well.”

And of course working for live television in Northern Ireland from America is not as effortless as it seems back home.

“Well, there isn't a lot of time for socialising,” says Stephen. “We work incredibly long hours because of the time difference with all the different deadlines to meet. Graeme McDowell invited me and my editor Gary McCutcheon to a barbeque and at first we thought it was just to do a bit of filming, but no, it was just a barbeque for family and friends.

“It was great to see the other side of how the golfers actually prepare. They have their multi-million pound houses with absolutely everything, even bringing in their own chef.”

Television is actually the poor relation at the Masters compared to their print cousins for whom the press facilities at Augusta were originally designed. Tradition, after all, is everything.

“Normally television takes precedence which is just the way the world works,” Stephen says. “But not there. Even when the golfers do their interviews after each round they go and see the writers first and then do television where everywhere else it always works the other way round.

“But they do have incredible facilities for television, built just in the last few years, but the way they have done it you would think it had been there for years.”

Hard-won accreditation at Augusta can just as easily be lost and the Belfast team were also aware they were part of the BBC which has established a strong relationship with the committee over the years.

“I was rushing to try and beat a deadline on one occasion and I was running with a tape to try and make sure we got it on air and I was stopped and told in no uncertain terms that there is no running at Augusta,” recalled Stephen.

“You wouldn't even chance taking a mobile phone onto the course even turned off because if you are found with it, that would be goodbye and you wouldn't be covering the Masters any more.”

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