This stand-up-and-cheer golfer's fantasy for EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, seemed a little too good to be true. C'mon, right? No way Augusta National Golf Club, which prizes its privacy and exclusivity, would let a camera crew and a bunch of actors walk all over its storied course for an ad - for a video game ad.
Well it did. These Green Jacket moments had no green screen. "James from San Jose" really did blast out of the sand on No. 10. "Thomas," the guy representing "you" on No. 18 really did drain that eight foot putt - and he did it left-handed. And ShortGame99? The crew needed three takes for his majestic tee shot on the famed No. 12, but the 12-year-old boy really did drive the green.
All three times.
"Sometimes, you just get lucky," said Craig Evans, EA Sports' director of marketing, and he was referring to the fact they found actors with such adaptable golfing talent, not the actors' shots themselves.
Filmed in a day this February at Augusta National, the ad concept came from the San Francisco-based Heat creative agency. It was one of about five suggested and EA Sports instantly loved it. They needed to make sure Augusta National loved it, too. They did.
"Augusta National, throughout the entire process, were world class partners in terms of the level of access to their club," Evans said. "They don't take it lightly to have a crew of photographers and directors and actors and producers and production assistants running around their course."
The crew used the broadcast towers that have been put in place for CBS' coverage (they, like all other features of the course, are permanent) and recreated other camera angles familiar to longtime viewers. Indeed, the entire spot, beginning with the soaring anthem and Jim Nantz invoking Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, sounds very much like a broadcast promo, which are ubiquitous during CBS' coverage of the NCAA Tournament.
Then Nantz hits you with the punchline, heralding "ShortGame99!" and a little boy in a Tiger Woods cap places his tee shot on No. 12's green.
"He's an incredible golfer," Evans said, of the actor. (Woods is pretty good, too.) "We only needed three takes with him and he put all three on the green."
"James from San Jose" is also an actor with some golf skill, nimbly recreating the spray-of-sand recovery from the bunker on No. 10. The best trick shot belongs to "Thomas," the goofy everyman representing the viewer, who seals his Masters victory on No. 18 and leaps into his caddy's arms. The actor is right-handed, Evans said. From that angle, a right-hander would have his back to the camera. So they asked him to do it left-handed, and he bottomed out the clutchest of putts in one take.
"It was really very neat," said Evans, who was at Augusta National with the crew. "I'm a big golfer myself, and it's like making a pilgrimage. For golfers, it's the gold standard.
"The Masters and the ability to play at Augusta National has been our No. 1 requested feature for the last 20 years," Evans said. "What we tried to do with the spot is put people in the shoes of somebody who now can play in The Masters Tournament."
Evans admitted, however, that a couple of things were fudged in the ad.
"The kid's Gamertag is probably not ShortGame99. Anyone out there with that tag who gets a lot of friend requests, we apologize," Evans said.
"And James is not from San Jose."