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Masters TV coverage extends to Internet

The Masters Tournament will extend an extra hour each day of televised golf coverage to the Internet in an experiment to see if online media can increase the contest's viewing audience.

Billy Payne, the new Augusta National Club chairman, said his organization was using online media to attract more viewers to the venerable golfing event, which runs April 5-8.

"The Internet complements our broadcast and it fulfills one of our principal objectives of exposing as many people as possible to this great sport of golf," Payne said. "Online coverage of the Masters has great potential to reach an even larger audience.''

Last year, the Augusta National Club reported that 3.7 million unique users visited its www.masters.org Web site and that 3 million video streams of live golf action were served up.

The extended Internet hour, called Masters Extra, will be webcast from 3-4 p.m. EDT the first two rounds before the USA Network comes on the air; 2:30-3:30 p.m. prior to CBS Sports coverage on Saturday; and from 1:30-2:30 p.m. prior to CBS's final-round coverage.

Last May, Payne succeeded Hootie Johnson as chairman. Among his goals are to use new media to expand interest in the sport of golfing. As part of that effort, live player interviews will be broadcast this year from the Master's media center in Augusta.

Some have argued that streaming video would compete with the network TV broadcast, but Payne, former president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, said this has not been proven.