I thought I’d be writing about Tiger Woods failing to win the British Open and how it absolutely doesn’t mean he’s going to go majorless for the rest of his career and that I’m still willing to place money on the belief he’ll tie or break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships.
But I figure I’ll break that one out after the PGA Championship when he finishes seventh, four shots out of the lead.
Instead a look at how ESPN, NBC and CBS cover golf, from someone who’s not a TV critic and doesn’t know exactly how to operate a DVR but makes up for it with insightful golf expertise drawn from years of hitting wayward tee shots, when they’re not simply skidding on the ground 40 yards in front of me.
After the U.S. Open I wrote about how much I enjoy Johnny Miller‘s analysis and that puts NBC at the top for me. But it’s not a gimme. Faldo and Feherty are fantastic on CBS and Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt are the anti-Berman on ESPN’s coverage. I like Paul Azinger but his voice sounds so much like his co-analysis Curtis Strange that it gets confusing. If one of them starts bragging about how great a captain he was during the Ryder Cup, I know it’s Azinger. Most of all, this weekend I missed Peter Alliss, who takes an hour run on ESPN each day but apparently earlier in the coverage when I’ve yet to rise.
Tiger unleashing a “God damn it!” after a particularly terrible shot or, occasionally, after a shot that’s really not that bad but isn’t up to his standards. There’s always a second or two of silence by the announcers, who then have to decide how they’ll lecture Tiger this time. Azinger wondered if Tiger knew the mics were on him, a notion Tirico said was basically ludicrous and it’s simply a matter that he can’t control himself. Then, a few minutes later, when someone responds without swearing, passive-aggressive shots fill the airwaves as the commentator talks about how some people know how to handle bad shots on the course, compared to you know who. Of course when other golfers, say Charl Schwartzel, break a club after throwing it into the ground, it shows how much he cares.
“Here’s David Simpson. You haven’t seen a single one of his shots in three days. But here he is on the 16th green from 55 feet away. Let’s see what happens. …Wow, what a putt!”
Sometimes the announcers admit this shot was “a few moments ago” but all too often they act like it’s live and the producers just somehow captured this moment with perfect timing.
I do like when they go to these shots after you hear a roar during a live shot. You know someone’s made a long putt or hit one in from the fairway or knocked in a bunker shot. Now we get to see it.
FAVORITE THING EVERY NETWORK DOES THAT INFURIATES GOLF PURISTS AND/OR PEOPLE WHO REALLY DISLIKE TIGER WOODS
If Tiger has the same score as two other players or six other players, every network puts his name first. No big deal. Except it upsets a portion of golf viewers who always want to know why he gets put on top (insert joke), even if the other players have already finished. Really, this perturbs people.
WORST USE OF REPLAY
ESPN dominates this category, breaking away for 10-minute round recaps of action that was on two hours earlier, while current action is being missed. It usually gives the networks the chance to get someone else on the screen — Bob Costas, for instance — who need to contribute to the telecast. Split screen, something.
No one does overwrought, sappy, background-music playing softly features and essays like golf. But somehow I enjoy every one of them. Dick Enberg was a master for years and Costas and Jimmy Roberts are tremendous during the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup. But again ESPN has proven to be great at this as well, adding in-round ones that are superbly written and produced even as a final round is only halfway done. All of the majors are ripe for these types of efforts — the history of The Masters, the brutality of the Open, the…something at the PGA — but the British also adds that it’s the birthplace of the sport. Even more importantly? ESPN has Ian McShane narrating.
FAVORITE MAJOR TO WATCH
It’s difficult to top The Masters, because viewers know every hole and remember every great shot and every missed putt. But the lack of extensive coverage on Thursday and Friday — and the limited coverage on the weekend — is no longer charming, not in a world where we expect to see every shot. The U.S. Open is fun because the pros look like amateurs much of the time but even that can get old year after year. The British has probably become my favorite, mostly because it’s a style of golf we never see during the year. Also, there’s little tricked up about the courses. If the conditions are good players can reel off a lot of birdies and go low but if they’re bad the scores will rival the Open back in the former colonies. ESPN starts broadcasting when everyone in America is sleeping and shows us everything we could possibly want, aside from those 10-minute recaps.
And now it’s onto the PGA on CBS, where I’m looking forward to watching Tiger swear, be tied after the second round with 3 players but get listed first, be the subject of a Jim Nantz-narrated essay, take up five minutes of highlights while he’s actually still competing and, of course, win major 15.