When Broadcaster Gary McCord Was Banned From The Masters

Thirty years on, McCord remains absent from the line-up of broadcasters at Augusta after a joke about the speed of the greens backfired badly in 1994

Gary McCord commentating at The Match in 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Masters not only heralds the return of golf to many people's screens as the first Major of the year but the prestigious tournament also invites a wealth of famous names and voices back into viewer's homes. 

Yet there has been one voice noticeably absent from Augusta since an infamous , ill-advised comment about the speed of the greens at the venerable Georgia course on US TV channel CBS in 1994 which upset the club's notoriously strict hierarchy.

American golf broadcaster Gary McCord was removed from the line-up at Augusta National after he made a joke about the greens at the world-famous course as Jose Maria Olazabal was putting. “I don’t think they mow these greens,” McCord said on the broadcast. “I think they bikini wax them.” 

McCord also used the phrase "body bags" for a treacherous spot on the course but, ironically, it was McCord's Masters broadcasting career that swiftly died.

He recalled, per Golf.com,: "It was late in the day and we went to a commercial break, so I started looking at a magazine in the booth. I think it was People Magazine. I see an advertisement for a place called the Golden Door Spa, and it’s a menu of things — cucumber presses, seaweed wraps and, all the way down at the bottom, bikini waxes.

"Then all the sudden, we come back to me at the tower on 17. I say: ‘one thing these guys are afraid of when they come here is green speed, but towards the end of the day, these things just accelerate beyond belief. In fact, I don’t think they mow these things, I think they bikini wax them.’

In those days before social media, McCord didn’t hear anything more about the controversial quote until several days later, when he was called into the office of Frank Chirkinian, the director for CBS’s coverage of the Masters back then. 

According to McCord, the TV producer showed him a hand-written letter from two-time Masters winner Tom Watson, who called McCord a “lesion” on the sport and the “Howard Stern” of golf, insisting on his removal from the Augusta broadcast team. 

Tom Watson speaking at the Masters at Augusta

Two-time Masters winner Tom Watson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And sure enough, a couple of months later, McCord was indeed scrapped from CBS's Masters lineup. The following year, McCord confronted Watson at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in a heated conversation at their hotel but they have since repaired their relationship.

McCord even insists he has no regrets over the incident as getting fired by Augusta National effectively 'made' him in the public eye. 

Asked recently if he had any regrets?

McCord replied: "Zero. That got me to another level. I got on the frickin’ Jay Leno Show and the first thing they asked is how I got kicked out of Augusta. It got very complicated, but man, I learned how to fight. I think that was the biggest thing, and it’s helped me ever since."

James Nursey

James Nursey is a freelance contributor to Golf Monthly after spending over 20 years as a sports reporter in newspapers. During a 17-year career with the Daily Mirror, he covered mainly football but reported from The Open annually and also covered a Ryder Cup and three US Opens. He counts a pre-tournament exclusive with Justin Rose at Merion in 2013 as one of his most memorable as the Englishman went on to win his first Major and later repeated much of the interview in his winner’s speech.  Now, after choosing to leave full-time work in newspapers, James, who is a keen single-figure player, is writing about golf more.  His favourite track is the Old Course after attending St Andrews University but has since played mainly at Edgbaston, where he is a long-time member. James’ golfing highlights include previously winning the club championship and scratch knock-out there. He is also an active member of the Association of Golf Writers and Press Golfing Society but his favourite round is playing the game with his young children. James is currently playing:  Driver: Ping G400 3 wood: Ping i20 Hybrid: Ping i20 Irons: Ping i500 4-SW Wedges: Ping Glide forged 50, 56 Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Ball: Titleist ProVIx