Golf on TV: Euro Tour innovation hints at game’s televised future

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland is interviewd by Tim Barter during day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on May 24, 2018 in Virginia Water, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golf on TV: Euro Tour innovation hints at game’s televised future

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Golf on TV: Euro Tour innovation hints at game’s televised future

European Tour Productions recently has been showing walk-and-talk interviews with players during tournament coverage. We’ve seen these sorts of interviews done on PGA Tour Champions and the Web.com Tour, but it typically takes a while for these sorts of innovations to bubble up to the big tours in Europe and America.

During the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, several players talked with Tim Barter of Sky Sports, ETP’s production partner, on the way to hit their second shots. There’s the sense that these sorts of interviews are an inconvenience for the players, but those who participated at the Irish Open seemed to embrace the opportunity, offering lengthy, thoughtful responses to Barter’s questions.

“The players have been very decent the way they’ve chatted away to Barter,” analyst Denis Hutchinson said.

“It’s a great innovation on the European Tour,” anchor Dominik Holyer responded. “We’re going to see more of that in the future.”

Let’s hope so. I keep harping on the need for these sorts of innovations for two reasons: They provide more value to the rights-holders, who need to get more out of their investments in golf; and, if done well, they help provide viewers a better understanding of what’s going on inside the ropes. I’d add a third benefit as well: If the players handle them well, it only adds to their personal appeal.

Andy Sullivan, one of the most likable characters on the European Tour, talked with Barter about how he has been working on his putting with instructor Phil Kenyon. Danish professional Thorbjorn Olesen attributed his good play on links courses to learning the game in windy Copenhagen.

“I just learned from an early age to play in a lot of wind,” Olesen told Barter. “I enjoy it. You have to think about it. Sometimes you get good bounces and bad bounces. That’s just the beauty of it.”

Not surprisingly, Padraig Harrington was one of the chattiest interviews, offering insights into a swing change.

“I’ve been working with Pete Cowen here and trying to get some of the lateral out (of my swing),” Harrington said. “It’s not often that I have a swing thought on the golf course. It’s scares the life out of me. You take the lateral out and you feel like you’re going to hit it left. I’ve winged a few way right. I kind of have to do it, but it’s no fun when you’re out there and you have a swing thought. I much prefer just to think about the target.”

That sort of interview is good for viewers, and it only enhances Harrington’s appeal. So the question becomes: When is the PGA Tour going to get on board with this idea?

2 takes from Sunday’s Irish Open coverage

  • The European Tour decided not to use the new back tee on Ballyliffin’s par-5 fourth, which would have stretched the hole to nearly 600 yards, with a 260-yard carry to reach the fairway. Instead, a forward tee was used and the hole played only 470 yards.On-course reporter Jay Townsend had a strong take on that decision: “I was dead against moving up this tee. You can’t set up the golf course for the lowest-common denominator. It’s a national championship, and you gotta play the whole golf course. If you’re not good enough to get it out there, you need to go to the gym or get a job.”
  • Tony Johnstone on Danny Willett’s putting: “When you see Danny putting like this, with this orthodox grip and stroke, you wonder what on earth he’s been doing with that horribly awkward-looking cross-handed method of his. It looked awful, it didn’t really work of late, and this looks brilliant.”

Language out of bounds on ‘Out of Bounds’

Last week I happened to catch a little of “Out of Bounds,” a PGA Tour Radio show airing on SiriusXM. The show is co-hosted by Pat Perez and Michael Collins.

I had never heard the show before, in part because it normally airs in the evenings, when I’m not near the radio. And, to be honest, any show featuring Perez and Collins isn’t what I would consider to be appointment listening.

I happened to catch a re-airing of the show on the morning of July 4. Apparently, Perez thinks the rules of late-night cable TV apply to the show. In the space of one segment, Perez managed to use at least three variations of the same expletive. Collins, who should have known better, giggled like a fifth-grader whose buddy had just used a naughty word for the first time in front of an adult.

On July 7, the Tour sent this statement to Golfweek: “The PGA Tour does not condone the use of foul or offensive language by its players in a public forum. We are aware of the situation and will address this matter accordingly.”

The Tour would offer no specifics on whether that meant a fine or some other form of discipline for Perez. Gwk

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