Observations on TV coverage of Day 2 at the PGA Championship:
The annual shotgun marriage between CBS and TNT at the PGA Championship always has felt kind of clunky. That’s evident right from the start of the live shows. We saw Ernie Johnson and Ian Baker-Finch set up the show at the top of the second-round coverage. Then they kicked it over to Verne Lundquist, Dottie Pepper and Gary McCord to … uh, well, set it up again. It was as if TNT and CBS had to establish their turf rather than work together seamlessly.
If you’re a golf fan and you’re psyched to spend this week watching the year’s final major, I’m fairly certain the last thing you want to see is not one, but two sets of talking heads cluttering the top of the telecast?
I’ve been writing Golfweek’s TV column for the better part of the past 12 years, and one of the points I’ve made over and over is this: No sports fan ever has tuned in to listen to an announcer. They turn on their TVs to watch great athletes.
There’s a bigger point to be made here, but I’ll save it for another time. What I will say is this: The openings of live telecasts are formulaic drudgery that suck the energy out of the coverage right at the outset. Producers are locked into these tedious openers, and their announcers mumble and stumble through those awkward introductions before we finally get to see some golf.
Ernie Johnson nothing but class
I really enjoy watching Ernie Johnson anchor TNT’s coverage of the NBA. I can’t say I’m quite as crazy about his work at the PGA Championship. But if this is the point where you’re expecting me to criticize him, let me be clear: It ain’t gonna happen.
An oddly poor decision on Kisner
Odd decision during the early streaming coverage to ignore tournament leader Kevin Kisner’s group. (“Odd” is my euphemism for “bad decision.”) It made sense to move off the Phil Mickelson group given that Lefty already had shot himself out of the tournament.
The group we saw – Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Chris Kirk – might have slightly more juice than Kisner’s group, but they were scrambling just to play the weekend. Kisner wasn’t just leading the tournament, he and playing partner Daniel Berger are strong bets to make the Presidents Cup team. The third member of that threesome, Jim Furyk, will be an assistant captain on that team.
Amanda Balionis grows into job
I can’t say I’ve paid close attention to Amanda Balionis’ career in recent years, nor did I have high hopes for her when she joined the CBS crew as the post-round interviewer. I have to say, however, she seems to be growing into the job quickly.
Balionis tends to ask concise and pointed questions that provoke thoughtful answers from players. I judge an interviewer by how engaged his or her subjects appear to be. In Balionis’ case, the players seem engaged in the conversations, which suggests she has their respect. That usually results in productive interviews.
Time to put ‘show ponies’ out to pasture
I’d like to propose a drinking game: Pound a shot of bourbon every time Gary McCord uses the phrase “show ponies.”
As I wrote recently, McCord drives me nuts because you know he has the potential to be a good announcer. (I realize “potential” is an odd term to use for a guy who has been on the CBS crew for some 20 years, but I keep holding out hope that he’ll live up to it.) He’s the classic example of a guy who has been allowed to phone it in for years. And so all we get, as viewers, is garbage like “show ponies” masquerading as analysis. It’s embarrassing.