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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Tigers Woods is back

The Masters helpfully has selected Tiger Woods' threesome (insert your joke here) for its "Featured Group" offering on Masters.com today.

That means his entire back nine will be live on Masters.com, easing the blow from the fact his round will be over by the time ESPN begins at 4.

I was unable to watch Mr. Woods tee off live on ESPN Thursday because I was busy touring New Meadowlands Stadium (more in my next post).

But it apparently was quite the spectacle.

Given the constant state of fear in which CBS and ESPN reside regarding offending the Masters, ESPN deserves credit for addressing the planes that flew overhead during the big event and mocked Woods' recent off-course issues.

I did catch some of the late-day coverage. I thought CBS' announcers (as seen on ESPN) struck a proper balance between referencing the Woods scandal without dwelling on it.

Verne Lundquist at one point called the fans a "gallery" before quickly correcting himself to the approved "patrons."

On the late-night wrapup show, Jim Nantz not only called the spectators a "gallery," he even used the term "crowd." Gasp!

Predictably, Woods' return affected ratings for the first round, which were up 50 percent over 2009 and 80 percent over '08 in major markets.

Overall, the leaderboard is a storytelling dream.

Cool as it would be to see Tom Watson stay in contention, I'm going with Fred Couples.

Having a guy older than me leading the Masters compensates for my ongoing depression over the first President of the U.S. who is younger than me.

It's even better that he didn't wear socks and wore golf shoes that looked like slippers.

I had a long, pleasant chat with Couples on the driving range at the 2004 Open at Shinnecock, during which Bob Papa, Butch Harmon, Couples and I discussed both golf and the Giants.

Not bad for a guy Couples' close friend Jim Nantz accused of not knowing a birdie from a bogey!

Go Freddie!

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