Some observations from Day 2 coverage of the Presidents Cup:
I was trying to figure out why Day 2 of the Presidents Cup seemed to be such a lethargic affair. There appeared to be a good crowd onsite. The International team was putting up a fight early in the day, trying to close the gap heading into the weekend. The weather was calm and pleasant, lending itself to good scoring and viewing conditions.
And yet, something seemed missing.
Then, 2 hours 49 minutes into the show, Tom Abbott said this: “The first match has reached one of the most picturesque spots on the golf course, the short 10th hole.”
In other words, the pace of play was about 5 hours, 30 minutes for 18 holes. I’m not sure there’s anything a producer or director could do to inject excitement into the event when the players are sucking the life out of it with such tedious play.
Saturday’s TV window on NBC is 10 hours for two sessions – morning foursomes, afternoon four-balls. I’ll be shocked if they don’t go over their allotted time.
Post-round interviews disappointing
The quality of the post-round interviews with the winning teams has been disappointing. Even Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, normally a good interviewer, dropped the ball.
“We’ve used a lot of adjectives to describe your play the past four or five hours,” Sands asked Justin Thomas after a 3-and-2 victory. “How would you describe it?”
Sands’ question to Thomas’ teammate, Rickie Fowler, was just as bad: “Justin just talked about the two of you meshing so well today. What is it about this duo that performs so well together?”
There are numerous problems here. For one thing, Thomas and Fowler already fed us the “we mesh so well together” storyline on Day 1. So let’s find something new to ask.
They just defeated Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who were undefeated playing together since 2015 and perhaps the International side’s best team.
Ask Thomas and Fowler about the significance of handing that team their first defeat. Or how about asking Thomas about his hole-out from the bunker on 14 to save a half when the Internationals had a chance to close the gap to 1-up?
In match play – even in a match such as that one, where Thomas and Fowler never trailed – there are key moments that can swing the match one way or another. Those are the questions someone like Sands needs to ask, not vague generalities that don’t elicit any worthwhile information.
The questions Sands and his colleagues were asking were a waste of time. Viewers would have been better served if we had skipped the pro forma interviews and kept the cameras on the matches still in play.
No. 10 key hole
It’s become clear that No. 10, the short par 3 that has been creating so much havoc, has become one of the most pivotal holes of the tournament. It will be interesting over the next two days to see if NBC can find some way to illustrate why it’s so difficult for players to hit that green with a short iron.
I can’t tell you how disappointing it is that we don’t more tracers on these live shows, particularly on No. 18, a par 3. One example: Jim “Bones” Mackay, covering the first match of the day, said of Patrick Reed on the final hole, “With Patrick’s pronounced hook, this is a pin he can get to.”
We saw a lot of body English from Reed, but with no tracer, we had no idea what the ball was doing until it landed short of the green.
Lefty off-limits with Bones
I’ve written a few things about Mackay’s early work for NBC. Here’s what I think we’ve learned so far: Don’t ask “Bones” to tell a story about Phil Mickelson. NBC wants that inside scoop, but Mackay clearly feels uncomfortable sharing any information about Mickelson. So NBC producer Tommy Roy needs to tell his crew not to go there.
However, when Mackay is talking like an experienced caddie, he can be pretty interesting. For example, he was talking about the wind conditions on 18 as Hideki Matsuyama prepared to play.
“They are not getting nearly as much help as they were getting two minutes ago when they got to the tee,” Mackay said. Matsuyama pulled 8-iron, prompting Mackay to say, “I would think he’d have to get every ounce of this to get it to the hole.” Matsuyama’s shot came up short of the green.
I’ve been critical of some of Mackay’s early work, but that was really good, astute on-course reporting.