TV coverage hits and whiffs from Day 1 at the British Open

British Open-TV coverage AP Photo/Peter Morrison

TV coverage hits and whiffs from Day 1 at the British Open

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TV coverage hits and whiffs from Day 1 at the British Open

I’ve made this point before, but I’m a strong believer that you can’t use shot-tracing technology enough, especially on the tawnier links surfaces where it’s even more difficult to track the ball. So it’s frustrating that NBC uses it so sporadically (though we did see it regularly during practice-tee coverage).

There were moments when the lack of a tracer really jumped out – for example, on Rory McIlroy’s second shot to No. 1. David Feherty called the shot “right, way right,” but it wasn’t until five minutes later that we finally saw how bad the shot was. McIlroy was shown chopping out of some hay right of the first green.

‘Playing Through’ returns

The “Playing Through” feature is back, providing side-by-side coverage of the tournament during some commercial breaks. I made this point last year: I find myself paying more attention than usual to the commercials, probably because the continuing golf coverage keeps me focused on the TV as opposed to pushing the mute button. So that’s a positive.

Here’s the downside: A mini-leaderboard stays on the screen during “Playing Through.” There also are two lines of text – “Golf Playing Through” and “The Open” – at the top of the screen. The result is that the coverage gets squeezed. If we’re being precise, the tournament coverage was reduced to 21.8 percent of my 880-square-inch TV screen (192 square inches) during the “Playing Through” commercial segments. I appreciate the idea of “Playing Through,” but question the execution.

I should clarify something here. Regular readers know I’m an advocate of networks using permanent on-screen leaderboards, much as scores, times and other information are displayed during baseball and football games. I obviously haven’t made that case convincingly; only Fox, which created the on-screen “Fox Box” in 1994, keeps the leaderboard on screen throughout its golf coverage. But I’ll keep making the argument. However, the one time when it doesn’t make sense is during a segment such as “Playing Through,” when it effectively makes a small picture even smaller.

More holes, less Brown 

We saw something smart during the early coverage as course announcer Billy Ray Brown went out ahead of the pack and previewed most of Royal Birkdale’s holes. (He had the same job at last year’s Open.) One suggestion: Give more thought to how those segments are framed. The segments are about the golf holes, not Brown. For example, on No. 15, Brown pointed to “two small bunkers” that players must carry just right of the fairway, but we only saw part of one bunker.

‘Bones’ makes debut

I’ll have more in tomorrow’s blog on NBC’s newest announcer, Jim “Bones” Mackay. One thing that did surprise me is that NBC introduced him about 10 hours into the coverage – mid-morning on the East Coast.

I’m sure NBC thinks it is making a splash with Mackay, but I would have expected the network to get him involved early in the coverage, in the wee hours on the East Coast. That would have allowed him to get acclimated with a smaller audience watching.

Pinpoint delay

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m not a fan of NBC’s Pinpoint technology, which is a poor substitute for Golf Channel’s original Aimpoint putting line. But here’s what else had me scratching my head: Unless I missed something, NBC didn’t use Pinpoint until more than nine hours into Thursday’s coverage, and then it was for a Matt Kuchar 20-foot putt that Nick Faldo described as “straight going straight.” It seemed odd to roll it out on such a routine putt.

Monty speaks 

Interesting comment from Colin Montgomerie on college golf: “It’s amazing the numbers who have been in the (American) college system from Europe and are doing well because of it. Yours truly is with you today because of that fact as well. I must admit, you have a fantastic system there, and the competition was so much better there. And I found I had to go there and get better and learn how to win. We in Europe invite the top three for the prize giving. You in America invite first place. It’s a big social difference.”

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