Since Tom Rinaldi left ESPN for FOX in December, many wondered who would step into his shoes as the network's emotional storyteller. That question would be perhaps nowhere more evident than at Augusta, where Rinaldi's talents of tugging at heartstrings was always on full display.
Today we got our first answer with Gene Wojciechowski taking a swing and making solid contact at a tribute to Tiger Woods, who is missing the 2021 Masters as he continues to recover from his car crash in late February. You won't need tissues after watching this piece, but you might want a hug.
This wasn't the easiest fairway to manage. On the one hand, Woods will be missed. His presence, as Wojciechowski mentions and so too do his interview subjects, changes the atmosphere at a course where atmosphere is everything. But this isn't the first time Woods has missed the Masters and this isn't, presumably, a career-ending injury that will preclude him from playing the tournament again.
Despite those challenges, Wojciechowski stayed in the short stuff. The reminder of Woods' history at Augusta, from the hug to the sequel as Wojciechowski eloquently called it, produced some goosebumps on this scribe's forearms. It also reminded us of why Woods, like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer before him, is so special to these hallowed grounds.
No, it wasn't the same vibe as Rinaldi, if for no other reason than Rinaldi's voice is as smooth as Morgan Freeman's when narrating. But Wojciechowski hit one straight and true. There's a long way to go before we declare anything set. But, at least at The Masters, ESPN might have found their new voice of emotion.