Golf on TV: Scottish Open coverage illustrates value of less-is-more approach

GULLANE, SCOTLAND - JULY 29: Ariya Jutanugarm of Thailand embraces her caddie after sinking her final putt at the 18th green to wins the Ladies Scottish Open during the final day of the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Course on July 29, 2018 in Gullane, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images) Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Golf on TV: Scottish Open coverage illustrates value of less-is-more approach

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Golf on TV: Scottish Open coverage illustrates value of less-is-more approach

The Ladies Scottish Open felt a little like a throwback to a simpler era in televised sports.

It had what I would describe as a stripped-down feel. There were only two commentators – anchor Richard Kaufman and analyst Alison Whitaker – on the coverage that aired in the United States. If someone told me the last time only two announcers worked a significant professional tournament, the coverage was in black and white, I would believe it. By contrast, Golf Channel assigned six announcers to the Senior British Open and six more to the Canadian Open.

Despite being outgunned, there was something decidedly appealing about what we heard, and didn’t hear, from Kaufman and Whitaker. They had a running discussion of the players, the conditions, the course, the shot options.

More importantly, they generally avoided telling us what we could see. They typically did not, for example, tell us whether a putt was short or long or left or right of the hole. We could see that.

Despite the fact that there were only two announcers, I didn’t get the sense that we were missing much, if anything.

As regular readers know, I’m of the belief that every golf announcer would do his or her audience a favor by being more economical in their commentary. But we live in an era when the production model is to flood the zone with more voices and more chatter.

In the traditional configuration of announcers – two in the 18th tower, two or three hole announcers, and two or three following the lead groups – it sometimes seems as if everyone feels compelled to say something, even though it’s usually unnecessary.

Consider what we heard Sunday night when Dustin Johnson hit a pitching wedge over the flag on No. 16 from 169 yards.

“No, no, that’s not possible,” Frank Nobilo said.

“That is unbelievable,” Trevor Immelman said. (An aside to Immelman: Please vow that this will be the last time you say, “This is unbelievable” on the air. It’s the ultimate throwaway line.)

“That’s when strength counts,” Ian Baker-Finch said.

“That’s ridiculous,” Nobilo said.

“Wedge from thick rough, off a downslope, and he flies it 170,” Baker-Finch said.

“He looks like he does it every day,” Nobilo said.

I had the sense as I was watching that the announcers all felt the need to chime in, lest there be even the briefest moment of silence in which we could have savored the magnificent athleticism that Johnson had just displayed. One or two of those comments would have been fine; the rest was just noise.

Chip shots:

  • Third-round coverage of the Ladies Scottish Open was difficult for all involved – mostly the players, but also the production crew – because of the strong winds. To illustrate, Kaufman noted that Amy Yang started the day three shots off the lead, was even par for the day standing on the 14th tee, and suddenly had a two-shot lead.The crew did something smart when they had Sandra Gal sat in with Kaufman and Whitaker after her round. Gal was able to provide more perspective on the playing conditions.

    “I had a couple of putts coming in that were right to left, and the wind was left to right, so I would aim left of the hole to allow for that break…” Gal said. “With these winds, you can almost throw out the greens books, (because) it’s all about feel.”

  • Golf Channel’s Phil Blackmar committed one of the cardinal errors of announcing during Sunday’s early coverage of the Canadian Open. On the second hole, Byeong Hun An hit his second shot left of the green, and it ended up in some flowers next to an out-of-bounds fence. We could clearly hear the rules official explaining the drop options to An. Yet for some reason, Blackmar felt the need to talk over the official, just confusing the situation.Normally I would say that’s a case where a producer should tell his announcer to hush up. But the truth is, Blackmar shouldn’t have needed any such directions; he should have known to be quiet so that we could hear the rules official.
  • With Ariya Jutanugarn on her way to a one-shot victory Sunday, Kaufman noted the importance of a rake that prevented her ball from rolling into a fairway bunker on No. 11.To which Whitaker quipped, “The Rake to the CME Globe.” Gwk


 

 

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