It wasn’t that long ago that we used to tune in to major championships expecting to see Tiger Woods either lap the field or, at the very least, thrill us with some memorable moments. Now we tune in to see what parts of his game will betray him. His errant drives? His irons that airmail the greens? His poor bunker play? All of the above?
The anticipation was evident as Woods prepared to hit his opening tee shot during the second round of the PGA Championship.
“I think this might be a defining round for Tiger Woods,” Peter Kostis said.
“It feels like a tipping point,” added David Feherty.
By the time Woods reached the final hole, even Jim Nantz, who usually can see the sun through a raging hailstorm, said Woods “looks like a guy whose confidence is shot.”
After Woods took a drop on 18, then stiffed a wedge, Feherty said, “And yet there are these flashes of brilliance.”
Nantz: “That happens when there’s no pressure, though. That’s an easy shot to hit when it’s your fourth.”
This can’t be good news for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who is heading into negotiations for a new TV contract. Businesses never like uncertainty, and right now, there’s an abundance of it surrounding the Tour’s rainmaker.
• • •
For all of the 12-plus hours of live coverage Thursday and Friday, there were times when the TNT telecasts didn’t feel anything like a major because of all of the commercial breaks. Consider this first-round sequence:
• TNT came back from a commercial break at 5:07 p.m., showed four shots, then went to break at 5:08 p.m.
• Live action resumed at 5:11 p.m. with three shots, followed by a break at 5:13 p.m.
• At 5:16 p.m., TNT’s Jim Huber delivered a truly bizarre essay on Rory McIlroy’s agent, Chubby Chandler. For whatever reason, Huber was utterly incoherent, stumbling over his words and repeating the phrase “shrugs his shoulders” three times. Huber ended by apparently quoting Chandler saying this about Rory McIlroy’s wrist injury: “With the injury to that young man, I’ve got to just shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Good on him.’ ” Then a break, thankfully, at 5:18 p.m.
• At 5:20 p.m., we got three shots, followed by a break at 5:21 p.m.
• Back on at 5:24 p.m.; break at 5:26 p.m.
• Back at 5:29 p.m., five putts, then more commercials at 5:31 p.m.
Does that sound like any way to broadcast a major championship? I’m not sure whom to blame for this because the TNT and CBS crews jointly produce the first two rounds. But having suffered through past British Opens and PGA Championships on TNT, I’m going to cut CBS some slack on this one.
The PGA really needs to take a look at this. It operates two great events – the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup – and it can’t afford for either tournament, or the PGA brand, to be diminished by such sloppy production.
• • •
To say that Ian Baker-Finch, serving as TNT’s lead analyst, is a glass-half-full kind of guy would be an understatement.
The Highlands Course at Atlantic Athletic Club? “This may be the best-conditioned Southern course I have ever seen.”
The greens? “Absolutely perfect!”
The putting fringes? “Absolutely perfect!”
Adam Scott’s putting stroke? “So perfect.”
Every time I watch Baker-Finch, I think: When is some company going to give this guy a starring role in an infomercial? Any product he pitches would be – you guessed it – absolutely perfect.
• • •
It was suggested to me that it won’t be long before the PGA Tour offers the live tournament streaming that we saw on PGA.com. I don’t know what the Tour’s plans are, but as a guy who has watched baseball on the Internet many nights over the past few years, I would have a hard time believing that the Tour hasn’t at least studied the idea.
I really liked some elements of Turner Sports’ streaming version on PGA.com. The hole flyover graphics are useful even if you’re simultaneously watching on television. They would be even better if they were in a pop-up box so that viewers could watch the streamed telecast and see the hole graphics at the same time. The streamed version also highlights key moments on a timeline, a nice feature if you aren’t watching live and want to see a few key shots.
What didn’t work? The 360-degree camera, which was too blurry to be of use.
• • •
McIlroy is a great talent and a likable personality who seems mature beyond his years. So everyone understandably was concerned when he played on after injuring his right arm Thursday. That said, the coverage of his injury seemed overdone as McIlroy received the full Tiger Woods treatment.
McIlroy was injured 87 minutes into TNT’s first-round telecast. For the next hour, TNT essentially stopped covering the rest of the tournament. It was the television equivalent of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Cameras lingered on McIlroy – standing around, walking, getting treatment – almost to the exclusion of everyone else on the course. This is where a split-screen would have come in handy; put McIlroy in a box in a corner of the screen, and return the focus to live action elsewhere on the course.
All of this was accompanied by too much speculation from announcers. When McIlroy missed a putt by 5 feet, Feherty said, “That almost looked deliberate,” suggesting that McIlroy was looking for a reason to withdraw. When McIlroy blew another putt 10 feet past the hole, Gary McCord said, “(He) can’t feel (his) right hand.” But then McIlroy drained the comebacker, and apparently everything was OK.
The concerns about McIlroy were understandable. But that doesn’t excuse all of the speculation and what amounted to a temporary suspension of live tournament coverage.