Golf Channel has leverage in Woods-Chamblee tiff

Tiger Woods during the Presidents Cup

Tiger Woods during the Presidents Cup

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4:50:11 AM ET. 04/20/2014




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The recent kerfuffle between Tiger Woods and Brandel Chamblee proves one of two things: Either it’s a slow news season, or many news outlets (including this one) are seizing on a non-story because Woods’ name will generate a few more hits for their websites.

The story went nuclear more than a week ago when Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, issued an empty threat to sue Chamblee for some not-so-nice things that Chamblee insinuated about Steinberg’s client. In fairness, Steinberg, who is less a counselor to Woods than a bodyguard, was just doing what he’s paid to do. But it’s a safe bet that Woods will write a tell-all book about the pre-fire hydrant meltdown before Steinberg brings suit against Chamblee.

Yet the furor continues. While driving to the gym around 6 a.m., I was listening to a replay of John Maginnes’ show on PGA Tour Radio (yes, I know, I really do need to get a life). Callers were venting about Chamblee, and Maginnes was hemming and hawing (he does a lot of hemming and hawing) about meetings that likely were taking place at Golf Channel to decide Chamblee’s fate.

Here’s the reality: Brandel Chamblee is more valuable to Golf Channel than Tiger Woods. Yes, I realize that sounds crazy at first glance. I follow the TV ratings. I know that Woods can double the viewership when he’s in contention.

But Woods has no leverage in this instance. Golf Channel and its parent, NBC Sports Group, have locked up PGA Tour rights through 2021. If Tiger Woods wants to play on the PGA Tour, he’s going to have to appear on Golf Channel and NBC. And the Tour’s media rules mandate that he make appearances in the media center before and during events.

So maybe Woods declares that he no longer will do separate interviews with members of the Golf Channel crew. So what? Woods seemingly has been trained since birth to say absolutely nothing of interest to the media. On those days when he deems Golf Channel or NBC or CBS worthy of a post-round audience, he offers nothing more than stock answers. I suspect golf fans will be able to muddle through absent those moments of unenlightened banter.

Chamblee, by contrast, is Golf Channel’s one bona fide star. He’s not just the best analyst in the world of televised golf, he’s one of the best television analysts in all of American sports. He combines the work ethic required to pore over the statistics and the relevant tournament history with the verbal gifts and the wit to communicate that information to viewers in a thoroughly engaging fashion.

So to those foolishly calling for Chamblee’s scalp, bear this in mind: Golf Channel’s talent pool isn’t particularly deep, and it can’t afford to discard its lone ace because of a bluff by Woods’ handler.

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