A photo caption in yesterday's Sports section misidentified CBS golf announcer Peter Kostis as CBS Gary McCord. (Published 9/17/94)

As CBS Sports announcers wandered into their Presidents Cup production compound over the last few days, they found a copy of an excerpt from Machiavelli's "The Prince" tacked to their mailboxes, courtesy of Frank Chirkinian, the network's longtime executive producer for golf and a man his minions semi-affectionately refer to as "The Ayatollah."

"Change is not easy," it reads. "The reformer has enemies and only lukewarm defenders. He must confront the incredulity of mankind who do not truly believe in anything new until they actually experience it."

The green jackets of Augusta National Golf Club who run the Masters as their own feudal fiefdom have experienced CBS golf analyst Gary McCord since he first went on the air in 1986. Two weeks ago, they announced to an incredulous audience of golf viewers they found McCord's remarks at the 1994 Masters -- references to "bikini wax" and "body bags" -- "distasteful" and ordered CBS to remove him from the 1995 telecast.

Or else.

Fearful of losing one of the few remaining major events still on its sports calendar, CBS meekly acquiesced, opting for dollars instead of doing the right thing. So far, their public defense of McCord has been lukewarm at best. Chirkinian has said McCord still remains a cornerstone in the network's future golf coverage but offers a no comment when asked about the Masters.

So do all of McCord's colleagues on the broadcast, though lead announcer Jim Nantz admitted the other day, "We all have strong feelings about it, believe me."

McCord understands all of this. His public posture has been to take the high road. In an interview this week at the Robert Trent Jones Club, where he'll handle the Presidents Cup for CBS, McCord insisted again he has no enmity toward the green jackets. There's no question his comments, meant to amuse and avoid the usual golf cliches -- were clearly over the line, though hardly outrageous enough to have him removed from the telecast.

"Augusta has the contractual right to evaluate the announcers," he said, "and if they think the announcer has degraded their tournament, they also have the right to get rid of him. I have no problem with that.

"I honestly believe that I'm a pair of brown shoes and they're blue suits. I'm not naive. We don't have the NFL anymore. This is one of the major sporting events we do have. There's no way, shape or form we were going to let it go. If they had, I would have quit, no question about it. I would not deny CBS an event like this."

CBS executives, including Peter Lund, president of the network, and new CBS Sports president David Kenin, have apologized to McCord privately for not being in a position to tell the green jackets to take a hike. McCord said he appreciated their support too, not to mention Chirkinian's private fury over the decision.

What McCord least appreciates was the role he believes Tom Watson played in all of this. A few days after the Masters, Watson wrote Chirkinian an indignant letter and suggested that what McCord had said on the air was nothing less than a firing offense. While he was at it, Watson also dropped a note to Jack Stephens, chairman of Augusta National, complaining about McCord's comments.

McCord said yesterday that Watson has not said a word to him since the Masters and has had plenty of opportunities to do so.

"If Tom would have come up to me and said, 'Gary, what the hell are you doing?' I'd have been happy to talk to him about it. Everyone else out here has no problems talking to me, and when I'm wrong, I'll tell them I'm wrong. Then if he wanted to write a letter, no problem.

"But I don't like the backstabbing. Do it face to face. I know I'm out there on a limb. I know what I said was questionable at best. But don't try to take my job and my livelihood away from me like that."

Watson, in a telephone interview from his home in Kansas City, Mo., said: "McCord said something that was very offensive to me, something I thought was out of line. I wrote a letter to his boss {Chirkinian} and the chairman of Augusta National {Stephens} and said it was in poor taste.

"I did say to his boss, you ought to fire him. I didn't say that to Jack Stephens. I wanted to know if Augusta had addressed the issue. Six months later, they came to the conclusion that what he said was not worthy of him being on the telecast, and that's all I want to say about it."

Ironically, the removal of McCord already has begun to backfire. The green jackets have managed to once again draw attention to their club and its shameful past history of exclusionary membership policies concerning minorities and women. There is still just one African American member, though there are unconfirmed reports that the club will announce a second in the next few weeks. There are no women.

They've also managed to make McCord, once and still a journeyman golfer at best, a bigger star than he probably ever thought he could be. Since the firing, he's been interviewed on radio talk shows coast to coast and the subject of irate newspaper columns across the country, including in Augusta, Ga. People magazine has called and he's soon to appear on "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Late Show with David Letterman."

Most of all, this ill-advised decision has shown CBS to be spineless and the green jackets to be exactly what they are, a collection of out-of-touch fuddy-duddys who ought to lighten up and listen far more closely to the most refreshing voice in golf, at any venue, public or private.