TV column: Web.com appeal rooted in good stories, promising storytellers

ATLANTIC BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 01: The ninth green is seen as wind and rain delay the start of the fourth and final round of the Web.com Tour Championship held at Atlantic Beach Country Club on October 1, 2017 in Atlantic Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images) Michael Cohen/Getty Images

TV column: Web.com appeal rooted in good stories, promising storytellers

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TV column: Web.com appeal rooted in good stories, promising storytellers

I sometimes say, as I did this past weekend to a PGA Tour employee, that I feel like this column reviews the work of the same 10 people doing the same job week after week. I’m exaggerating slightly, but the point is that the world of televised golf is a tiny universe. We’re watching and listening to the work of the same producers, directors and announcers every week.

That’s why I was unduly excited about the return of the Web.com Tour to Golf Channel with the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. At the very least, it was a chance to see some under-the-radar players and listen to some announcers I’ll rarely hear after we get into the heart of the PGA Tour season.

If you’ve been reading this column for a number of years, you might recall that I’ve long had a soft spot for the PGA Tour’s Triple-A circuit, probably for the same reason I like minor-league baseball. I like the stories about the dreamers, the grinders, the hotshot All-Americans, the Division II wannabes.

It didn’t hurt that there was a time, not that long ago, when the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) coverage was the most entertaining live coverage on any channel. This year, however, Golf Channel will air only 12 Web.com tournaments. Sunday’s coverage from the Bahamas was more limited than usual because of a wildcat strike by production staffers, but Golf Channel has been doing the bare minimum on Web.com coverage for several years to cut its losses on that tour.

On Sunday, coverage was confined primarily to the par-3 13th, which played just 97 yards, and the drivable, 308-yard 13th. Aside from being an efficient use of the small production team, it showcased two scenic, oceanside holes, which the folks at Sandals Emerald Bay probably didn’t mind.

The Bahamas event also was a chance to listen to Gary Christian, an announcer who hasn’t been able to break into the big leagues, though he probably deserves a shot. To plagiarize myself, I’ve often said that network announcers are like federal judges – it seems as if they have lifetime appointments. (This isn’t unique to golf. I could point to a few MLB Network and NFL Network analysts who probably should have been fired after their first week on the job but have hung around for years.)

Christian projects an easy manner, a quick wit, a likable persona and good insights. In the windy conditions on No. 13 Sunday, the Englishman had good observations about how to play that short wedge shot – for example, discussing the differences between playing from the right or left side of the tee box, riding the wind off the sea as opposed to drawing it back into the breeze.

Given the logjam of established golf announcers, someone like Christian always will be hard pressed to get assignments covering bigger tours. But this viewer would like to see guys like him get a crack, if only to have some new people to write about in this space every week.

Head-scratcher in Europe

European Tour Productions and Golf Channel have done a better job over the past decade of packaging European Tour coverage for the American audience. But sometimes, I find myself scratching my head.

One example: Before the second round of the BMW South African Open, anchor Dominik Holyer talked about some of the challenges the players would face that day, including holes “4, 5 and 7, three long and very demanding par 4s.”

The next day, Holyer opened the show by saying he wanted “to put the spotlight on a couple of the tougher holes, the two par 3s on the front nine.” He told us about the third, “a real test because you have water all down the left-hand side” and the sixth that “plays down across the water” with a “pretty sporty” hole location that required a precise iron shot.

You know what the problem was? We only saw Holyer; none of the holes he discussed were shown during his opening monologue. As we always say here, it’s a visual medium: Show us, don’t tell us.

But the bigger point here is that there’s no need for Holyer’s scene-setter. Golf producers always feel the need to introduce their announcers or take us up to the 18th tower at the start of the show, when the fans would be just as happy if they could skip over that and go right to the live coverage. Gwk

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