TV column: Strike hinders CareerBuilder telecasts

HONOLULU, HI - JANUARY 14: Golf Channel commentator Jerry Foltz operates a camera after International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) members walked off the course due to a labor dispute during the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 14, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR) Stan Badz/PGA Tour

TV column: Strike hinders CareerBuilder telecasts

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TV column: Strike hinders CareerBuilder telecasts

If nothing else, hopefully the CareerBuilder Challenge served as a reminder that producing live golf is really hard – perhaps more difficult than any other sport.

With its technicians union on strike, Golf Channel had to implement its “contingency plans,” cobbling together a crew to produce the tournament. It didn’t help that the tournament is played on three courses.

The most significant problems were evident at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. During the second and third rounds, players such as Jon Rahm looked as if they were being shown on a bad streaming connection in a web video.

The images from La Quinta Country Club appeared washed-out – roughly low-definition quality. Sometimes, as was the case when Rahm was putting Saturday, images weren’t properly framed, so we didn’t see the ball at address, only after it was struck.

I don’t recall any on-course audio during the second and third rounds, and the only tracers I can recall were on the 18th tee at PGA West’s Stadium Course. And those weren’t predictable; you might see the tracer for one player’s drive, but not for his playing partner.

I debated with myself whether Golf Channel should have explained why these problems were occurring, particularly the sketchy images from the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Golf Channel probably made the correct call in not explaining that a strike was in progress. There was no sense in throwing the crew in Palm Springs under the bus.

Also, the reality is that most viewers don’t follow this stuff that closely; they have better things to do than keep tabs on Golf Channel and its union. They just want to come home on the weekend, flip on the TV, flop down on the couch and watch some golf. If the pictures aren’t perfect, they’ll probably just chalk it up to “technical difficulties” or maybe some ionospheric disruption in the desert. And then they’ll forget about it.

But the problems at CareerBuilder were a reminder of how challenging it is to produce golf. Hopefully Golf Channel and its union will find common ground so that we won’t have to worry about this again – at least until the next contract negotiation comes up in 2019.

Announcing issues, too

The video problems at CareerBuilder were predictable. What I found more troubling were the audio problems among the announcing crew.

Specifically, there were too many instances of announcers talking over one another. I hate to say it, but I think part of the problem was Steve Sands’ inexperience in the anchor seat. I’ve long thought of Sands as one of the cornerstones of Golf Channel’s announcing crew, but when he anchors, he gives me headaches. He is a product of the Mike Greenberg School of Broadcasting, where the motto is: Always use the maximum amount of words. If Sands’ words were on paper and I were editing his work, there would be red ink through entire passages.

Here’s an example from Saturday, when we saw players on the par-3 17th at the Stadium Course, with its island green. Sands said: “That’s a beautiful view there, Gary (Koch), of 17. And we talked about it the first couple of days, but for those who were not here on Thursday and Friday with us, how would you compare the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass, where you have spent almost a quarter of a century behind that green calling The Players Championship on Golf Channel and NBC, to this 17th hole?”

Now, here’s how a seasoned anchor would ask that question: “Gary, how would you compare this hole to the 17th at TPC Sawgrass?”

Boom. Done. That’s all you have to say. We didn’t need the references to the “beautiful view” or what was discussed in previous days or the nod to his employers at Golf Channel and NBC. Just ask the question, simply and concisely.

Carbon copy

The Golf Channel crew had a bit of fun at the expense of architect Pete Dye, noting the similarities between TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship, and PGA West’s Stadium Course, host course for the CareerBuilder Challenge. (My recollection is that Golf Channel has used this graphic in the past, but like “The Shawshank Redemption,” it never gets old.)

Koch walked through a side-by-side comparison of the holes on the back nine on each course.

“The back nine at TPC Sawgrass and here at PGA West is asking you to do virtually the same thing, isn’t it Gary, on every hole?” David Duval said. “It’s almost a carbon copy.”

Aside from the similarities in design, Koch noted that par is the same on every hole.

“If you’ve had success on one design, you might as well go ahead and do it again,” Koch said.

Pretty, pretty pleased

During his back-nine rally to defend his title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Tommy Fleetwood hit a fabulous recovery shot from the desert on No. 13 Sunday. Fleetwood clearly was pleased with himself, which brought this quip from Ken Brown about Fleetwood and his distinctive mane: “You see his little tail wagging.”

A Detry by any other name …

You know how we’ll know that Thomas Detry truly has arrived as a star on the European Tour? When the announcers settle on the pronunciation of his surname.

Anchor Dougie Donnelly and Tony Johnstone pronounced it “De-TREE,” but Brown and host Mike Ritz preferred “DEE-tree.”

There’s some debate about this issue even among our staff, though the prevailing view is that it’s “DeTREE.” But Donnelly and Johnstone might want to debate the point. Gwk

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