ESPN will show first two rounds of 2008 Masters tournament

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The first two rounds of The Masters next year will be televised in the United States by ESPN and ESPN HD, along with ESPN Deportes.

Mike Tirico will host ESPN's telecasts, which will run from 4-7 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, April 10-11, 2008. The shows will be replayed from 8-11 p.m. ET each day.

There will also be a preview show on ESPN on Wednesday, April 9 -- the day before the tournament starts.

In addition, ESPN Deportes will televise the first and second rounds from 4-7 p.m. ET. ESPN will also continue to televise the tournament internationally to Latin America, Canada and parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as it has since 1993.

CBS will be the television home of the weekend rounds from the Augusta National Golf Club. ESPN replaces USA Network for the weekday coverage.

"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," Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne said in a news release.

"We are honored by the opportunity to work with the Tournament to help it achieve its goal of growing the game of golf around the world," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said in the same statement.

The Masters, traditionally, is the most-watched golf tournament of the year. Last year's victory by Zach Johnson drew a 9.1 rating for Sunday's final round.

ESPN Classic will also televise official Masters films on the Wednesday and Thursday preceding the first-round telecast.

Also, Masters tournament officials announced that the tournament will partner with a small number of prominent international companies to support television coverage and golf development programs outside of the United States.

Mercedes-Benz and Rolex were announced as two initial partners on Tuesday. Augusta National officials said in a statement that they want to use "the Masters brand to further promote the game of golf."