TV blog: CBS has big plans for 2017 PGA Championship - but can it deliver?

PGA Championship Golf Chris Carlson/Associated Press

TV blog: CBS has big plans for 2017 PGA Championship - but can it deliver?

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TV blog: CBS has big plans for 2017 PGA Championship - but can it deliver?

CBS is talking a big game regarding its plans for this week’s PGA Championship. The network will have a lengthy list of technologies at its disposal, including several items that we typically don’t see on CBS’ weekly coverage.

For the first time CBS will have Trackman on all 18 holes, cranking out data such as ball speed and curvature, and wireless Toptracer technology to track approach shots.

“I’m most excited that we can use the technology on all 18 holes,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said during a conference call last week.

CBS also plans to use: ARL Virtual Eye, which shows Trackman tracing of ball flight over a hole graphic adjacent to live shots of players hitting tee shots; bunker cameras; a cable-mounted camera tracking action on the practice range and 4K coverage on DirecTV of the final three holes.

This is all good news. The key question on my mind: Will these cool technologies be used consistently, or only sporadically? The PGA Championship should be for CBS what the U.S. Open has become for Fox Sports: a showcase of technologies that enhance the viewing experience.

At a loss for words

It was mildly amusing listening to the Golf Channel crew Sunday as they searched for euphemisms to describe In-Kyung Kim’s deliberate style of play.

“They have had an awful lot of conversation the past two days,” Judy Rankin said of Kim and her caddie.

“And not seemingly always on the same page,” replied on-course reporter Jerry Foltz.

Later, Tom Abbott said: “She’s certainly not rushing, is she, Jerry?” And later still, Abbott said, “She certainly hasn’t been too swift.”

As she closed in on victory on No. 16, Foltz said, “No matter how much she tries to block the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow out of her mind, it’s becoming more evident by her pace of play, the indecision, that the thought is there.”

At one point, after another Kim par, anchor Rich Lerner said, “Steady, still. Just needs to stay methodical.”

No need to worry about that. Kim seems like a delightful player who’s easy to root for. One just wishes she would play a little faster.

Mad about Madill

Regular readers know my fondness for the commentary of Maureen Madill. She typically works for the BBC, though we sometimes hear her in the U.S. when she works on radio, her preferred medium, for SiriusXM at the majors.

Golf Channel teased us by having Madill sit in for two hours during the opening two rounds of the Women’s British Open. It gave viewers a hint of her wonderful grasp of language. On those rare chances when I’m able to listen to her, I find myself hanging on her every word.

I was curious how Madill got into broadcasting. She had a great amateur playing and coaching career, but certainly there were better-known players in Europe. So I emailed Rob Nothman, the producer who first hired Madill to work for BBC’s 5 Live 20 years ago, to ask what qualities he saw in Madill.

“Hiring Maureen was one of the easiest decisions any producer could make,” Nothman wrote in an email. “Her pedigree as a player and coach illustrated her knowledge and love for the game. And when you mix that with a warm, friendly, yet authoritative Irish voice, a wonderfully broad and varied vocabulary and a sharp sense of humor, you have a heady cocktail for the ideal commentator.

“I’ve not come across anyone who has adapted more smoothly to golf broadcasting in the last 20 years, and it has come as no surprise to see her flit so effortlessly between radio and TV commentary.”

The perfect cliché

Recently I ranted about some of my least favorite golf clichés. One that aggravates me on a weekly basis is overuse of the adjective “perfect.”
“Golf course now – perfect conditions, perfect for scoring,” CBS’ Gary McCord said Saturday.

Later, while discussing greens conditions with Peter Kostis, Ian Baker-Finch said, “They’re perfect, Peter, aren’t they?”

Look, I don’t want to make too much of this. In the scheme of things, it’s a small issue.

But in televised golf, there’s so much happy talk that’s passed off as analysis.

The weekly recitation that every course on the PGA Tour is “perfect” just illustrates the intellectual laziness of the announcers. The courses are wonderfully maintained, but they’re not remotely “perfect.” You could stand anywhere on the courses and find multiple imperfections without stepping beyond your shadow.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

(Note: This story appeared in the Aug. 7, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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