Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
Joe Buck says people will “totally be blown away” by the Fox Sports golf coverage. Greg Norman, Buck’s sidekick in the tower, gave the strong impression he will be provocative on the air. And coordinating producer Mark Loomis said Fox has shown over the years that it can “push to the next step with technology.”
So it went Wednesday in a news conference that introduced Buck, the voice of Fox football and baseball, and Norman, the candid Hall of Famer, as the anchors of Fox’s coverage of U.S. Golf Association championships starting in 2015.
That Fox team will announce at least four USGA events–the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur. Their preparation will include spending a week together at the 2014 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C.
Loomis is in the process of piecing together the rest of the broadcast team, saying Fox probably needs “eight to 10 voices.” For now, it has a pro in Buck, an avid golfer with a 3.5 handicap index, and Norman, who will be working in a new role as television analyst.
Norman said his objective won’t be to criticize golfers but, as the Fox slogan goes, to be “fair and balanced.”
“I want it to be very fan friendly and informative,” Norman said. “Being informative doesn’t mean sugar-coating. I’ve always been forthright in my feelings. At the end of the day, they’ve been thought-provoking. It’s my responsibility to do that.”
Norman went on to say he’s a fan of NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller “because he brings thought-provoking things to the audience.” So expect more of the same from the Shark. Norman recounted that late CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian complimented him years ago for “being open and honest” during post-round interviews in the tower.
Buck, who has yet to meet Norman, said he was on his honeymoon in Mexico when Norman called and left a message that said, “I’m scuba diving until 5, so I’ll call you after I get out of the water.” Buck’s takeaway? “I’m going to be partnering with the world’s most interesting guy.”
Lest you think Buck is just a football and baseball guy, he counters by saying that golf has “completely infected my blood. There’s nothing better than watching golf coverage at home and letting it take you somewhere.”
There’s certainly room for improvement in golf telecasts these days in terms of giving viewers pertinent information and graphics. As Buck says, don’t expect Fox’s approach to be typical. But at the same time, don’t expect to see Bart Simpson as an on-course reporter.
“First and foremost you have to respect the sport,” said Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, whose network last summer signed a 12-year agreement with the USGA. “No way will the Fox brand and attitude be put above the USGA or U.S. Open brand.”
• Norman said he thinks Tiger Woods will win another major but won’t win five more and break Jack Nicklaus’ record because time and physical condition aren’t on his side. Norman also pointed out Woods doesn’t have the “intimidation factor” he once did and that golfers lose their nerve as they age. The Shark said Woods’ challenge after returning from back surgery will be to readjust things such as practice time, workouts and tournament starts.
• The U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 will be played without rough, it having been replaced by sandy areas and wire grass. An Open without rough? Now that should get Woods working overtime to get his back ready for a June return.
• A U.S. Open without rough? That probably sounds better to bombers’ ears than the smooth sounds of Adele.
• A U.S. Open without rough? On top of that, Pinehurst No. 2 figures to favor someone with a great short game and creativity. Perhaps no Open site sets up better for six-time bridesmaid Phil Mickelson.
• USGA chief Mike Davis said the other day that the biggest threat to golf long-term is water supply. That’s a big statement in a game with too many “too” issues: Takes too long, costs too much, can be too hard.
• When the golf guy’s woman says she doesn’t have anything to wear, it means she has no new clothes. When the golf guy says he has nothing to wear, it means he has no clean clothes.
• Who’s the best golfer ever based on where he had to play his drives from? If we’re thinking short, Paul Runyan or Corey Pavin. If we’re talking crooked, Seve Ballesteros. If we’re going long, Woods or Mickelson.
• The competitive game’s future would appear to be in good hands with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth around. One question is: Which of those two will end up with the better career?
Twenty years ago, I asked a famous writer the same question regarding Mickelson and Ernie Els. The man scoffed and said, “Els, of course.” Point is, we don’t know. But it will be fun to watch the unfolding.