A few days ago I heard a radio commentator talking about the virtues of brevity. It was similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s old routine about leaving the audience wanting more.
I was reminded of that while watching Day 1 of the Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour’s answer to the Ryder Cup. The Tour never has embraced the “less is more” philosophy. More, in the Tour’s view, is always more. So while three days are perfect for the Ryder Cup, the Tour draws out the Presidents Cup over four days.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a terrific event, one that we golf fans all look forward to. But NBC’s Johnny Miller seemed to be reaching when he talked about “how pumped (spectators) are . . . These matches are alive right now.” That might have been the feeling on the ground, but it didn’t come through on television. The crowd was large, but the Day 1 reaction seemed muted even as the U.S. team dominated the front nine.
I’m sure the NBC crew would have liked more of the energy that typically sets apart team events from regular Tour events. (NBC produces the Presidents Cup, though the first two days of matches are shown on Golf Channel, part of the NBC Sports Group.) By the weekend, we’re likely to see a lot more fire and passion, particularly if the Internationals put up a fight, and the resulting energy likely will lift the shows.
The Day 1 telecast was technically proficient, but certainly not flashy. When Keegan Bradley eagled the fifth hole, for example, we saw a graphic showing he had the best par-5 scoring average on Tour in 2013.
But a minute later, after seeing a live shot and replay of Hunter Mahan stiffing his approach on No. 9, the crew didn’t even bother to track the flight of Graham DeLaet’s approach, which was almost as good, judging by the crowd’s reaction. When we finally saw DeLaet’s ball, surprised anchor Terry Gannon said, “You know what, it was as good (as Mahan’s).” It was a minor flaw, but it just fuels the perception, which we often hear in Olympic years, that NBC sometimes gets so caught up covering American teams that it forgets to cover the story.
I’ll reiterate something I’ve written a couple of times recently: We need to see a running scroll of scores. Even with only six matches on the course, viewers need to be updated on what is going on. It’s not like baseball or football, where viewers can see everything that is happening. In match play, viewers might go a half hour or longer without seeing certain matches.
Such a scoring scroll also would be a chance to provide regular updates on which players are playing well – piling up the birdies, for instance, in four-ball matches – and which ones are playing poorly. (A small aside: When we did see leaderboards, U.S. teams that held leads were listed in green – an odd choice for the Red, White and Blue.)
It was worth hanging around post-match for the captain’s picks and analysis by Golf Channel’s crew. Brandel Chamblee had a quick and, as usual, strong reaction to the pairings. He questioned International captain Nick Price’s decision to keep Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen together for Friday’s foursomes, despite the fact that they won their four-ball match. Chamblee recommended pairing Schwartzel and Brendon de Jonge.
“You need a stellar team in foursomes. . . . You’ve got to find fairways, you’ve got to find greens,” Chamblee said. “Oosthuizen has a lot of holes in the boat, off of the tee and into the greens. Schwartzel doesn’t. But if (Schwartzel’s) hitting from the rough, which he very well may be with Oosthuizen, or chipping from around the greens, he won’t be playing the same type of game that he did today. The way de Jonge played today, he looked like Ben Hogan out there. You put those two together and it’s a different animal.”
We’ll see how that pans out on Friday. But one reason Chamblee remains the best analyst in golf is that he’s not afraid to state a strong opinion and back it up.