Top 10: Picking golf’s top TV talkers

Johnny Miller (left) and Dan Hicks in the NBC booth. The PGA Tour’s six-year deal with the CBS and NBC is set to expire in 2012, so ratings will be important this year.

Johnny Miller (left) and Dan Hicks in the NBC booth. The PGA Tour’s six-year deal with the CBS and NBC is set to expire in 2012, so ratings will be important this year.

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Who is your favorite golf announcer?

That’s a popular topic of conversation among those of us who spend far too many of our weekend hours watching far too many flat-bellies joylessly shooting 66s. I got to thinking about it again after the staffs of Sporting News and SportsBusiness Journal recently published their list of the top 25 football broadcasters.

I thought SN/SBJ nailed their top two picks – CBS college analyst Gary Danielson was No. 1, followed by NBC’s lead NFL analyst, Cris Collinsworth.

Their assessment of Danielson: “He explains it before most of us have seen it.” If I were picking that list, I’d say something similar about Danielson; each Saturday during the fall, I’m struck by his almost-clairvoyant comments on strategy. That’s what I want from an analyst: someone who gives me better insight into what I’m watching rather than resorting to clichés. Danielson and play-by-play man Verne Lundquist (No. 8) are so good together they even manage to make those weekly 13-10 Southeastern Conference scrums seem exciting.

I could quibble with the SN/SBJ list in other places. Al Michaels seems too high at No. 3, and Ron Jaworski is way, way too low at No. 16. But it’s not a bad list.

It inspired me to put together a list of my favorite golf announcers. I’ll limit my list to 10 since the pool of golf broadcasters isn’t as deep as it is in football.

photo

Brandel Chamblee

Here’s one man’s very humble opinion:

1. Brandel Chamblee, Golf Channel – Whether he’s working in the studio or the 18th tower, Chamblee’s take on issues always is worth hearing. Thoughtful, provocative and persuasive. He’s “The Natural.”

2. David Feherty, CBS – His wit sometimes causes viewers to overlook his wisdom. He’s TV’s sharpest on-course announcer. Unlike colleague Gary McCord, Feherty has found a happy balance between levity and insightful commentary.

3. Johnny Miller, NBC – In past years, he probably would have finished first on this list. He still makes for must-listening, though I sense that he too often relies on intuition rather than informed analysis.

4. Dottie Pepper, Golf Channel/NBC – She’s the type of announcer I always hoped Lanny Wadkins would be when he worked for CBS – a fiery player who adapts well to broadcasting. Her decision to cut back her schedule in 2010 and work only for NBC is a blow to Golf Channel.

5. Paul Azinger, ESPN – He initially developed a substantial fan base several years ago when paired with Nick Faldo on ABC. I actually thought his work was markedly better – crisper, more assured commentary – following his Ryder Cup captaincy.

6. Curt Byrum, Golf Channel – If you told me I could watch only one tour each week, I’d pick the Nationwide Tour, and the underrated Byrum is a big reason why.

photo

Judy Rankin

7. Nick Faldo, CBS/Golf Channel – He suffers from erratic performances. There are times when his work is good enough to be ranked No. 1 here, and other weeks when he wouldn’t even sniff this list. He needs to bring his “A” game to the booth more often.

8. Judy Rankin, ESPN – Count me among those who have a soft spot for Miss Judy. She has a reputation as a hard worker and it shows in the quality of her commentary.

9. Peter Kostis, CBS – His swing analyses alone might be enough to earn him a spot on this list. His post-round interviews are painful to watch, but his on-course analysis is spot-on.

10. Frank Nobilo, Golf Channel – He probably suffers when compared to his sidekick, Chamblee. But his work is steady, and I sense that he still has a big upside if Golf Channel pushes him harder.

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