As a golf fan, the Solheim Cup and U.S. Amateur are two of my favorite events of the year. Here are a few observations on the TV coverage of those events:
For this contrarian’s money, Golf Channel’s LPGA announcing crew is the best group we hear on a week-to-week basis. I say that largely because it’s not populated by personalities who feel the need to dominate the telecasts. So I was happy to see that the crew was allowed to handle the Solheim Cup.
I always worry that NBC is going to give in to its paternalistic instincts and have Dan Hicks and/or Johnny Miller parachute in for the weekend, as it used to do for the U.S. Women’s Open, just because the Solheim Cup is one of the biggest events on the LPGA calendar.
Hardly a tracer
A week ago I praised CBS – something I don’t often do – for its liberal use of tracers to track tee and approach shots at the PGA Championship. That felt like a tipping point, as if tracers finally had become standard equipment on every hole at every big event.
I was wrong about that. At the Solheim Cup, we saw tracers sporadically on only four or five holes. Their use typically was preceded by Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott saying, “Trackman tracer technology presented by Rolex.”
I try to be cognizant of the exorbitant costs of producing golf, so it doesn’t bother me if the tracers are sponsored. I only care that we see them used consistently. If they’re used sporadically, it makes a big event such as the Solheim Cup seem just a little smaller.
Leaderboard was missing
Regular readers know I constantly use this space to lobby for a continuous leaderboard in the corner of the screen during tournaments. I’ve never heard a remotely compelling argument why it works in every other sport but not in golf.
I can’t think of a time when an on-screen leaderboard would be of more value than on the final day of a team event, when there are 12 matches in play simultaneously. Inevitably, we won’t see some matches for 30 minutes, an hour, perhaps longer. In some cases we might only see a few shots from some matches. The problem is exacerbated when precious time is wasted showing the scoreboard for all 12 matches when attention should be focused on the course.
In my mind, there are two obvious solutions. One would be an on-screen leaderboard that scrolls continuously through all 12 matches. The other, stripped-down option would be a continuously updated tabulation of the matches. It might read something like this:
- U.S. up in 4 matches
- Europe up in 4 matches
- 4 matches AS
The alternative: Some viewers will feel the need to follow the matches on a second screen. That always makes me wonder this: Having spent the money to acquire the rights to show a great event, why wouldn’t a broadcaster want to monopolize its viewers rather than allowing them to seep away to the internet?
You know who had a nice two-week run? Shane Bacon from Fox Sports. I’ve been critical of Bacon at times, but he did a solid job anchoring Fox’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and early-round U.S. Amateur coverage.
Bacon was one of the few bright spots in Fox’s otherwise dismal debut at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. We didn’t see much of him over the next year, then he reemerged in 2016 doing post-round interviews. As I’ve noted in the past, he didn’t seem well suited for that role.
While serving as lead anchor the past two weeks, however, Bacon seemed to find his comfort zone. At the risk of being struck down by lightning, Bacon displayed an economy of words that was almost reminiscent of the late, great Pat Summerall. Bacon would set the scene, then step away, allowing his analysts – Paul Azinger and Brad Faxon last week, Faxon and Juli Inkster the week before – to carry the conversation. (Lord knows those folks don’t have any trouble filling the airtime.)
Nowadays, many anchors seem to think that the more they say, the better job they’re doing. The opposite is true, and Bacon was the unlikely person to demonstrate that.
Over their heads
Announcers need to bear in mind that some golf lingo might go right over their viewers’ heads. One example: During the first two days of the Solheim Cup, on-course announcer Jim Gallagher Jr. referred several times to push-up greens and newer, sand-based greens. Viewers who don’t follow course architecture might not understand what is meant by push-up greens and why they play differently than sand-based greens. Late Saturday, Judy Rankin offered a brief explanation.