Golf on TV: Fox deploys technical firepower for U.S. Open

OAKMONT, PA - JUNE 17: A Fox Sports cameraman is seen during the second round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 17, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Golf on TV: Fox deploys technical firepower for U.S. Open

Golf on TV

Golf on TV: Fox deploys technical firepower for U.S. Open

What does it take to put a U.S. Open on television? Consider these numbers: more than 500 staffers, 101 cameras, 218 microphones, 38 miles of fiber optics and 848 ethernet ports.

Those are some of the resources Fox Sports will use to produce 160 hours of coverage across network, cable and four digital channels. That includes at least 45 hours on FS1 and the Fox network, including at least 17½ hours of network coverage during the final two rounds.

The network, now in its fourth year televising USGA championships, will have an impressive display of technical firepower at Shinnecock Hills, but it is taking a less-is-more approach with regard to the people calling the action.

“The U.S. Open will look a lot like it did last year, but we’ll have fewer announcers,” said Mark Loomis, executive producer of the network’s golf coverage.

Loomis said that he had been concerned in past years about burning out his announcers on the 10- and 12-hour U.S. Open days, so he kept going to his bench for new voices. Now, he says, “Maybe I was a little overprotective.”

Joe Buck and Paul Azinger will be the lead team, as usual.

When they’re on break, Shane Bacon and Brad Faxon will take over, with contributions from architect Gil Hanse.

OAKMONT, PA - JUNE 19: Fox Sports golf anchor Joe Buck looks on after the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 19, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Once again, Joe Buck will be leading Fox Sports TV coverage from the U.S. Open this week. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“What I’ve learned over the past few years, is that if I just have Joe and Paul call a few hours, then have Shane and Brad call a few hours, we can get it done with less people and still not burn people out,” Loomis said. “What I like about that is that, because people don’t see us from week to week and aren’t as familiar with our voices, it gives people a chance to get a little more familiar with our voices.”

Fox Sports has helped nudge the industry forward on the technology front, particularly its ambitious use of ball-tracing technology. At Shinnecock Hills, the network will have Trackman on every hole. Ten holes will be equipped with Fox FlightTrack, which shows live ball-tracing over a graphic representation of the hole. The other eight holes will have standard shot-tracing technology over live video, with enhanced club and ball data.

The new twist this year, if all goes according to plans, will be FlightTrack on the two par 5s, Nos. 5 and 16.

“We’ve always wanted to show that like we’d show a guy trying to drive the green,” Loomis said. “There’s a little bit of a challenge in that it needs to be wired (cameras), it can’t be (wireless). But we think we have a solution to do that.”

Fox will use Green Reader, which it used at the U.S. Women’s Open, to illustrate how putts will break. The animation appears as a flap next to the live shot of the green. It’s not as flashy as some of the green-reading tools we’ve seen over the years – such as those that superimpose the putting line on the green – but it can be used on every hole and with taped shots.

“You talk about the guy in the bar watching the putt and trying to give him an idea of how the putt will break,” Loomis said. “I think it tells a pretty good story about how much the putt will break.”

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