TV blog: Delay in Sunday broadcast frustrating

Tiger Woods was 2 over through the first nine holes, while Phil Mickelson was 5 under on the front nine.

Tiger Woods was 2 over through the first nine holes, while Phil Mickelson was 5 under on the front nine.

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Hilton Head, SC - Harbour Town Golf Links

9:44:01 AM ET. 04/18/2014




PosNameTodayThruScore
1Matt KucharE -5
T2Tim Herron-29-4
T2K.J. Choi-38-4
T2Charl Schwartzel-35-4
T5Charles Howell III-16-3
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The 49-minute gap in Sunday’s coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am didn’t rise to the historic level of the 18 1/2-minute gap in the Nixon tapes, but it sure did raise the ire of golf fans. 

Golf Channel was contractually obligated to end early final-round coverage at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, a half hour before CBS was scheduled to come on the air with coverage from Pebble Beach. Unfortunately, that meant Golf Channel had to leave a great story right as it was starting to percolate. It was following a made-for-TV pairing of Phil Mickelson, who had just reached the par-5 sixth in two, and Tiger Woods, who had an eagle putt. But Golf Channel had to sign off before viewers saw Mickelson make his eagle and Woods his birdie. 

That set off the fast-twitch complainers in the Twitter sphere. A couple of examples: 

“I’m not sure what is going on on the #Golf Channel. . .Why are we recapping when there is actual golf being played right now,” tweeted Patrick Claybon, a sports anchor for the CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Ala.

Another person tweeted, “Shame on #golfchannel and #cbssports for the 30 minute pebble beach broadcast gap. 6, 7, 8 at pebble with Phil and Tiger together! Grrr.”

Well, maybe it’s a good sign that they were upset that the PGA Tour was not on the air, if only for 49 minutes.

Golf Channel’s decision to switch to its studio show at 2:30 p.m. was standard procedure, which it follows on every weekend that it airs early coverage of the PGA Tour. But it got more attention this weekend because Woods and Mickelson were playing together, and it was at Pebble Beach.

Under its contract with the PGA Tour, Golf Channel has to go off the air 30 minutes before CBS’ coverage is scheduled to begin. Golf Channel spokesman Dan Higgins said this is done so that some changes can be made to the production and announcing crew and also the graphics. 

Viewers’ patience was further tested when the Michigan-Illinois basketball game ran long, and CBS didn’t come on the air until 3:19 p.m. Golf Channel didn’t have the option of filling that 19-minute window.

“We can’t go into CBS’ window, and contractually we have to be off at a certain time,” Higgins said.

• • •

Here are a few miscellaneous observations from TV coverage of the Clambake:

• Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee said something Sunday that I’ve never heard any analyst say: “I do believe for the first time in Tiger Woods’ career, he was intimidated today.”

Chamblee also expanded on his past criticisms of Woods’ swing.

“The forward lean that he has in his shaft is something that looks very good on camera, but there is a big, big difference between what looks good on the camera and what works in theory and what works in practice. . . . Jack Nicklaus said, from the top (of the swing), he threw the club at the ball. Ben Hogan said he wished he had three right hands because he threw the club at the ball. They didn’t work on lag, they didn’t work on forward lean of the shaft. That is a very difficult thing to control in the heat of the battle.”

• Here is CBS anchor Jim Nantz’s script from Sunday’s “FedEx Global Focus” segment: “Pebble Beach is an exhilarating mixture of rich history and stunning beauty, a cathedral that has held a magnetic attraction for . . . blah, blah, blah. . .” 

These weekly segments are among the weakest promos we see during golf, which is saying something, and they’re made worse when Nantz’s script is filled with the usual Pebble clichés. That probably wouldn’t bother me so much except for this fact: FedEx is inarguably on the short list of the greatest companies in American history, and the quality of these insipid segments is so far beneath the company as to be inexplicable.

• I’ve heard golf equipment marketers lament the fact that PGA Tour players aren’t more like NASCAR drivers, who take pains to recognize every last sponsor following victories. Well, there is one exception in golf, and that’s Phil Mickelson. I don’t know how much Callaway Golf is paying him, but I suspect he’s worth every penny of it after comments like this on Sunday to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands: “I felt like I had an advantage by the way my ball was flying and being controlled through that wind. We’ve got a new ball this year, that HEX Black, it just flew so good and penetrated through the air so much better that on this thick, cold air, I felt like I had a big advantage.”

• It’s difficult to find anything positive to write about the celebrity-centric coverage during the first three days of the Pro-Am, which, of course, is more about the Ams than the Pros. But I will concede this: In past years it seemed as though Nantz and Nick Faldo, situated near the 17th tee, only interviewed CBS personalities during the third round. This year they interviewed every celebrity who came through 17. At the Clambake, that qualifies as progress.

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