Matt Barrie's Arizona roots still important while covering The Masters for ESPN

Edwin Perez
Arizona Republic

Arizona will be well-represented this week in the The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Golfers like John Rahm and Phil Mickelson, ASU alumni will be among those teeing off in the tournament, which gets underway Thursday morning.

But one Arizonan you won't see teeing off still will have a high-profile role at the tournament, the first of four majors on the PGA tour.

Matt Barrie, a Scottsdale native and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism alumnus, co-anchors the noon ET edition of SportsCenter on weekdays with Sage Steele.

Matt Barrie, left, an Arizona native, who studied at Arizona State, will be part of ESPN's coverage of The Masters in 2021.

He also will be part of ESPN's coverage of the Masters. Despite that big stage, Barrie says his Arizona roots are important.

“I’ve always said that being an extension of my home is very important to me,” Barrie said. “I’m forever attached to Arizona, ASU and the Cronkite school. So for me, representing all of them is something I don’t take lightly and a responsibility I gladly accept. I hope that I do them justice, so home can be proud that I’ve done good by them.”

Barrie attended Saguaro High School and played football there, which fueled his passion for sports even more. That led him to pursue a career as a sportscaster, attending Arizona State and the Cronkite School.

A stint as an intern with Channel 3 helped launch his career and eventually landed him at ESPN. 

Coming from Arizona, its perhaps no surprise golf is among Barrie's favorite events to cover, especially the Masters, along with college football.

“Golf is my spring girlfriend, to my CFB wife,” Barrie said. “It’s really my favorite time of year, because winter has broken and it’s time to play golf, see all of the flowers bloom and have the ability to get outside and play golf.

"What the Masters represents to me is the beginning of that. The start of major championships in golf, and the beginning of a new spring and summer for everyone to enjoy. Add to that, a vaccine and I feel that the Masters could act as symbol of everything getting closer to the way it was.”

This will be the ninth time he has covered the event, six with ESPN and three times when he worked up the road in Columbia, South Carolina, at WLTX. 

During the first day of the event, he will anchor a three-hour “SportsCenter at the Masters” program that airs from 9 a.m. to noon Arizona time. Barrie will be calling in-progress highlights of live play prior to ESPN’s live TV window, which begins at noon Arizona time, while conducting interviews with some players and special guests.

Apr 5, 2021; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Phil Mickelson waves to the patrons at the practice facility as he heads to the course for a practice round for The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The other days he will be anchoring live reports on SportsCenter on multiple days from Augusta National Golf Club. He will work with ESPN golf analysts and two-time US Open champions Andy North and  Curtis Strange. 

“Both of them are my guys,” Barrie said. “Andy and I first started doing golf coverage together at ESPN in 2015 at The Players. Since then, we’ve become friends who not only work together, but talk throughout the year,'' he said.

"Same thing with Curtis. He and I will text and talk usually about absolutely nothing, but that’s what makes the relationship special. At the event, I’m the host who gets to listen to two major champions talk golf. The commercial breaks are the best with those two. The competitive banter and trash talk between the three of us is why this is my favorite event to cover.”

Last year, The Masters was postponed until November because of the pandemic. Although things are slowly returning to normal, the event will have its protocols for safety in place.

ESPN broadcaster Matt Barrie.

“I’ve never worn a mask walking a golf course, which will make an already physically challenging walk, a little more difficult,” Barrie said. “As an event, and a company, we’re still very mindful of the pandemic and all of the protocols put in place for everyone’s safety. All of which are very necessary, but will make it unique for sure.”

The tournament will be without Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka, who have 19 combined major wins which five of them being in the last 14 overall. Names like Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth have  emerged among the Vegas favorites this week.

However, none of those names are the one that Barrie looks forward to watching throughout the event.

“Anytime Bryson DeChambeau tees it up, he’s must talk and must watch TV,” Barrie said. “He has an ability unlike any player on tour right now to either obliterate a course or absolutely go down in glorious flames. As a fan of the sport, and a golf host, that makes for good coverage.”