TV blog: Technical problems interrupt CJ Cup finish

Matt Roberts/Getty Images

TV blog: Technical problems interrupt CJ Cup finish

PGA Tour

TV blog: Technical problems interrupt CJ Cup finish

I awoke Sunday morning planning to watch a recording of the final round of The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, which concluded well past my bedtime here on the East Coast. Instead, I encountered a minor Twitter storm because Golf Channel lost its satellite feed after the first hole of the playoff between Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman.

A Golf Channel spokesman released this statement Sunday morning: “The satellite path of the television feed provided by tournament organizers stopped feeding at 2:30 a.m. ET. Golf Channel personnel immediately alerted the tournament production group to the problem. We apologize to our loyal viewers who stayed up late to watch coverage live.”

During the outage, Golf Channel replayed the end of the final round. Delayed playoff coverage resumed at 2:55 a.m. ET, with the players’ approaches to the second playoff hole. Anchor Rich Lerner apologized for the technical difficulties. Thomas birdied for the victory. Golf Channel put video of the playoff, minus the second-hole drives, on its website and replayed the coverage Sunday evening.

It’s understandable that viewers who stayed up late would be frustrated by this glitch and vent on social media. But I’m inclined to cut Golf Channel some slack here. As I sometimes say, TV is hard, particularly when you’re trying to produce golf halfway around the world, and you’re not working with your normal production partners. In the end, viewers missed two shots and got a slightly delayed ending. That’s not ideal, but it’s a reasonable outcome in a difficult situation.

• • •

While most of this column’s attention is focused on the networks and Golf Channel, some of the most interesting production ideas are originating with the PGA Tour. Some see that as evidence that the Tour is preparing to bring production of its tournaments in-house. We’ll leave that for another day.

One of the recent innovations brought to our attention was livestreaming using HatCam, an ActionStreamer camera that, as the name suggests, attaches to the brim of a hat. The Tour tested it during practice rounds at the Web.com Tour Championship. It also was worn by fans following Sam Saunders when he shot a first-round 59.

HatCam weighs just 65 grams, and Greg Roberts of ActionStreamer said a smaller version “about the size of a money clip” is in the final stages of development. HatCam has a self-contained battery, is controlled remotely and has MEMS gyroscopes that minimize the bouncing effect in point-of-view transmissions.

Golf Channel tested a similar idea in January, attaching a tiny camera to the hat of Mark Zyons, Billy Andrade’s caddie. It was a worthy experiment, but the constant movement was disorienting. The HatCam seems much more promising, based on video it captured at the Web.com Tour Championship. Scott Gutterman, VP of digital operations for the PGA Tour, said HatCam could be used more in the future in pro-ams and practice rounds, though no decisions have been made.

It’s easy to imagine PGA Tour Champions or the Web.com Tour caddies wearing HatCams during tournament coverage, much like Zyons did. Players and caddies on those tours are more open to this sort of experimentation than are their counterparts on the big Tour.

Roberts suggests an exciting possibility: livestreaming simultaneously from all 18 holes. We’re not there yet, but it’s a pretty heady idea to consider.

• • •

My colleague Jason Lusk and I were beating balls a few days ago at the new Topgolf Orlando, which opened to the public Oct. 20. The Orlando location is noteworthy for being the first Topgolf to include Toptracer (formerly Protracer) technology, which you often see on NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage.

The experience at Topgolf was a reminder, as if we needed it, of the power of this technology. After every shot, Lusk and I studied the Toptracer data, especially the ball speed, carry distance and curvature. (It’s great fun seeing who can hit the biggest hooks and fades.)

People watching golf on TV typically only see this tracer technology on a couple of holes each week – and sometimes less than that. The Topgolf experience was anecdotal evidence that golf fans can’t get enough of this technology.

• • •

Dom Boulet, who covers the Asian Tour and was sitting in with the Golf Channel crew, had this quip about the modern pace of play: “Back nine, Sunday. My favorite two hours in golf. Well, nowadays it’s about 2½ hours. But, anyway. . .”

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