Get ready for all Tiger, all week on Golf Channel, which has expanded its news and tournament coverage of this week’s Hero World Challenge.
Starting Tuesday, you’ll wake up to live hits from the practice range on Morning Drive, followed by Golf Central Pre Game. There will be 18 hours of live tournament coverage over four days, including 5 1/2 hours of weekend coverage on NBC. That will be followed by a daily wrap-up on Golf Central, then a four-hour tournament replay each evening.
- Like Jordan Spieth, who gushed about his love of Australia in interviews last week, I have a natural affinity for our friends from Down Under. Australia historically has been a wonderful, stand-up ally of the U.S. The country has those great Sandbelt courses. Australians have the Sydney Opera House, which is cool. And kangaroos, which are really cool. Plus, they have that accent we love to imitate. But my goodness, they can be a chatty bunch. A typical opening sequence to coverage of the Emirates Australian Open involved on-camera comments from seven (seven!) announcers, culminating with the bubbly Bree Laughlin interviewing a player on the practice range. As pleasant as all those announcers were, they need to remember that we’re turning on the TV to watch the players, not them.
- Cheers to Pat Welsh, who was anchoring Australian Open coverage, for calling out one of the tournament’s biggest stars for backstopping late in the final round. “Jason Day has left his ball right next to the hole,” Welsh said after Day’s playing partner, Lucas Herbert, chipped onto the 16th green. “That’s rubbish. I’m sorry, but that’s absolute rubbish. And it’s happening more and more.” At the time, both players were at -8, three behind eventual champion Cameron Davis. Backstopping has become a pretty troubling trend on the various tours recently, and we can speculate how the issue will be resolved. A tournament outcome will be impacted, and the ruling bodies will have to take action because the players’ integrity – arguably the most important of golf’s values – will be open to question.
- Speaking of Davis, the young Australian has the makings of a YouTube sensation. During the second round of the Australian Open, we saw a clip of him effortlessly striping mid-irons right-handed and left-handed on the range. Apparently he taught himself to play left-handed because he used to spend a lot of time punching out of the trees.
- The Australian Open included some helpful hole graphics sponsored by Emirates, the title sponsor. There was a time not long ago that purists, myself included, might have taken exception to this. But I have a much more practical perspective on it these days. If it makes the telecasts better, I’m all for it.
- The final round of the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which aired live on ABC on Nov. 19, posted strong ratings and viewership numbers relative to 2016. The final rating was 0.5, up 25 percent from a year ago. The average audience was 699,000 viewers, a 37-percent increase.
- As I noted in last week’s column, I thought the viewing experience was diminished by the decision to bring in an ABC announcing team for the final-round coverage. A lot of insight, garnered from covering the LPGA on a weekly basis, went out the door when the regular Golf Channel crew was sent home after the third round. But the bottom line for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is to get as many people as possible to watch his tour. The move to ABC seems to have accomplished that, especially given that the Tour Championship went head to head with the NFL.
(Note: This story appears in the Nov. 27, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)