Golf on TV: What worked and what didn't work in 2017

This being Golfweek’s final issue in 2017, I went back through all of my columns and blogs from the past 12 months to review some of the most impactful moments from this year’s TV coverage. Here’s what jumped out at me. What worked? 8 GolfSixes: European Tour commissioner Keith Pelley’s grand experiment got players to be more engaged (first-tee walk-up music, player-fan interaction, on-course interviews) and accepting of a shot clock. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a useful laboratory for testing ideas that could be used in the future. 8Second-screen coverage: This isn’t new, but this year it felt as if it became more than a supplement to regular coverage. At the Masters in particular, it has become a valid alternative. One example: Viewers watching the dedicated digital coverage of Amen Corner during the final round received better information on Sergio Garcia’s errant drive on No. 13 than was available to those watching on CBS. 8On-course audio: I’ve harped on this subject so much that subscribers probably are as tired of reading about it as I am of writing about it. All of the networks showed some improvement this year in capturing this audio, with Golf Channel’s LPGA crew doing the best job. The industry still has a long way to go on this issue – and it still lags behind other sports in this area – but at least it’s trending, slowly, in the proper direction. 8 David Feherty: After Feherty’s disappointing first year with NBC in 2016, one got the sense during the Florida Swing that the game’s most prominent cut-up finally was beginning to find a home on the dead-sober NBC crew. What didn’t work? 8Lack of consistency: This is a continuing industry problem, from week to week and year to year. One obvious example is the use of tracers and other helpful technology. CBS won’t use tracers at the Masters, insisting it’s better without, but it boasts about using tracers on every hole at the PGA Championship. NBC used tracers sporadically, at best, during the British Open and Solheim Cup, but was much more aggressive with this technology at the Tour Championship. The point is, when we get to these big events, I’d welcome a little consistency. 8Post-shot tracers: On a related note, NBC started using tracers after shots at some tournaments. The whole point of tracers is showing viewers the ball flight in real time. Using tracers after the fact makes them seem like little more than an artistic element. (Oh, look at the pretty lines in the sky!) 8Tiger Woods: On Jan. 27, after the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open, ESPN’s 6 p.m. ET “SportsCenter” led with a story about Woods, who had just missed the cut in his first full-field event in 17 months, and who would play only one more competitive round over the next 10 months. For all the talk about the Tour’s young stars, the reality is that ESPN probably would not have run a story on Farmers absent Woods. While it’s great that Woods finally appears to be healthy, the excitement he engenders only underscores the Tour’s continuing reliance on an aging, fragile star. The jury’s still out on . . . 8Bones: NBC decided to throw Phil Mickelson’s former caddie, Jim Mackay, into the deep end at the British Open. It didn’t go well. He was robotic, fell back on announcer clichés (e.g., “This is going to take all of his short-game wizardry”) and seemed unwilling to share any insights he has gleaned on players while caddying for Mickelson the past 25 years. At the Presidents Cup, Mackay seemed more assured, even predicting, correctly, when players had pulled the wrong club. At the Hero World Challenge, Mackay reverted to his British Open form. So the question is: Which Mackay will we see in 2018? 8 Fall schedule: The quality of the fall events, across all of the tours, has greatly improved over the past 15 years. But the reality is that, for most sports fans, the only must-watch event of the past three months was an 18-man tournament, the Hero World Challenge – and only because Woods played. That’s a lot of time and money spent airing tournaments toward which the American market has little interest. It just feels like something has to give. Gwk Getty Images

Golf on TV: What worked and what didn't work in 2017

Golf on TV

Golf on TV: What worked and what didn't work in 2017

This being Golfweek’s final TV column of 2017, I went back through all of my columns and blogs from the past 12 months to review some of the most impactful moments from this year’s TV coverage. Here’s what jumped out at me.

What worked?

  • GolfSixes: European Tour commissioner Keith Pelley’s grand experiment got players to be more engaged (first-tee walk-up music, player-fan interaction, on-course interviews) and accepting of a shot clock. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a useful laboratory for testing ideas that could be used in the future.
  • Second-screen coverage: This isn’t new, but this year it felt as if it became more than a supplement to regular coverage. At the Masters in particular, it has become a valid alternative. One example: Viewers watching the dedicated digital coverage of Amen Corner during the final round received better information on Sergio Garcia’s errant drive on No. 13 than was available to those watching on CBS.
  • On-course audio: I’ve harped on this subject so much that subscribers probably are as tired of reading about it as I am of writing about it. All of the networks showed some improvement this year in capturing this audio, with Golf Channel’s LPGA crew doing the best job. The industry still has a long way to go on this issue – and it still lags behind other sports in this area – but at least it’s trending, slowly, in the proper direction.
  • David Feherty: After Feherty’s disappointing first year with NBC in 2016, one got the sense during the Florida Swing that the game’s most prominent cut-up finally was beginning to find a home on the dead-sober NBC crew.

What didn’t work?

  • Lack of consistency: This is a continuing industry problem, from week to week and year to year. One obvious example is the use of tracers and other helpful technology. CBS won’t use tracers at the Masters, insisting it’s better without, but it boasts about using tracers on every hole at the PGA Championship. NBC used tracers sporadically, at best, during the British Open and Solheim Cup, but was much more aggressive with this technology at the Tour Championship. The point is, when we get to these big events, I’d welcome a little consistency.
  • Post-shot tracers: On a related note, NBC started using tracers after shots at some tournaments. The whole point of tracers is showing viewers the ball flight in real time. Using tracers after the fact makes them seem like little more than an artistic element. (Oh, look at the pretty lines
    in the sky!
    )
  • Tiger Woods: On Jan. 27, after the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open, ESPN’s 6 p.m. ET “SportsCenter” led with a story about Woods, who had just missed the cut in his first full-field event in 17 months, and who would play only one more competitive round over the next 10 months. For all the talk about the Tour’s young stars, the reality is that ESPN probably would not have run a story on Farmers absent Woods. While it’s great that Woods finally appears to be healthy, the excitement he engenders only underscores the Tour’s continuing reliance on an aging, fragile star.

The jury’s still out on . . .

  • Bones: NBC decided to throw Phil Mickelson’s former caddie, Jim Mackay, into the deep end at the British Open. It didn’t go well. He was robotic, fell back on announcer clichés (e.g., “This is going to take all of his short-game wizardry”) and seemed unwilling to share any insights he has gleaned on players while caddying for Mickelson the past 25 years. At the Presidents Cup, Mackay seemed more assured, even predicting, correctly, when players had pulled the wrong club. At the Hero World Challenge, Mackay reverted to his British Open form. So the question is: Which Mackay will we see in 2018?
  • Fall schedule: The quality of the fall events, across all of the tours, has greatly improved over the past 15 years. But the reality is that, for most sports fans, the only must-watch event of the past three months was an 18-man tournament, the Hero World Challenge – and only because Woods played. That’s a lot of time and money spent airing tournaments toward which the American market has little interest. It just feels like something has to give.

(Note: This story appears in the Dec. 18, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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