Wednesday, October 10, 2007

(AP) - The first two rounds of the Masters are moving to ESPN.

The network will televise the Thursday and Friday action when the tournament tees off in April, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne announced Wednesday.

``With the worldwide reach of ESPN, and their demonstrated leadership in new media, we think ESPN is uniquely positioned to showcase the Masters and golf to new audiences,'' Payne said in a news release.

USA had aired the first two rounds since 1982.

``The Masters and USA Network enjoyed a wonderful 26-year relationship,'' NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol said in a statement. ``We wish them all the best.''

A Spanish-language broadcast of the first two rounds, carried by ESPN Deportes, will be available in the U.S. for the first time.

ESPN has televised the Masters internationally since 1993.

``We think our new worldwide initiative is important,'' Payne said. ``The other major golf organizations have rightly identified a need to accelerate the growth of golf throughout the world.''

The schedule of coverage will remain the same. The first two rounds will be televised live from 4-7 p.m. EDT each day, with a replay aired from 8-11 p.m.

Mike Tirico will host the ESPN telecasts.

The 2008 Masters will be April 10-13.

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