TV: NBC takes tired approach with Ryder Cup; Chamblee shows fire on Golf Channel

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TV: NBC takes tired approach with Ryder Cup; Chamblee shows fire on Golf Channel

2018 Ryder Cup

TV: NBC takes tired approach with Ryder Cup; Chamblee shows fire on Golf Channel

During the second day of Ryder Cup play, NBC’s Johnny Miller suggested that Tiger Woods “needs to get some energy.” That became a recurring theme. “(Woods) certainly didn’t seem to have the energy we would expect,” Gary Koch said the next day.

Truth is, Woods wasn’t the only one experiencing a post-Tour Championship hangover in Paris. NBC’s coverage also would have benefited from a booster shot of adrenaline.

NBC’s formula, honed over decades, is as familiar as that old couch you keep saying you’re going to replace with your next Christmas bonus, only to let it slide another year.

NBC’s announcing team still insists on stating the obvious ad nauseam. While competitors now use shot-tracing technology on all holes at big events, NBC’s production team still picks its spots; it had tracers on seven tees and two fairways, though it seemed like less. (A spokesman attributed this to the fact European Tour Productions managed the facilities, though I suspect budget considerations were a bigger factor.)

NBC still forces viewers to second screens to track the state of the matches. And while NBC usually shows more live action than competitors, it still misses too much easy stuff. (I’m still trying to figure out why we didn’t see the first singles match hit tee shots off No. 2, when there were only four players on the course.)

Miller showed a little of his old fire. He bristled at Saturday’s “head-scratching” pairings. “I don’t know what Captain Furyk was thinking about,” Miller said. “Bubba (Watson) seems like he’s not certain he likes being here. Tiger Woods is not a good Ryder Cupper, even though he won the Tour Championship. Bryson DeChambeau had a sort of disastrous first try.”

That’s the Johnny we used to love, but we rarely see that Johnny anymore. That’s a shame because the NBC crew needs some vigor, some punch. When talk turned to the experience of the European captain’s picks, Peter Jacobsen chimed in, “I guess you could say experience is also on the U.S. side with captain’s picks in Tiger and Phil (Mickelson). Pretty solid there.”

“Yeah, if they could get a point,” Miller scoffed.

I wish we heard more of that Johnny. Instead, we get the Johnny who shows up in the third hour of the final day’s show, who says Sergio Garcia “is 42, I think” (he’s 38), and who seems, to this viewer, to not be terribly engaged.

If you were looking for a frank discussion of what happened in France, you had to wait until Golf Channel’s post-game show. Brandel Chamblee lit into an American team that “on paper, was almost twice as good” as the European team but couldn’t hit enough fairways.

He came down hard on the game’s two biggest stars. Chamblee described Mickelson’s “erratic style of play” as “tough to partner, it’s tough to captain,” and took issue with Mickelson’s “leadership skills.”

“Leaders take responsibility for their losses; they don’t blame other people for their losses. That’s what Phil Mickelson did in 2014…” Chamblee said. “Some people might call this karma, what happened this week. But you cannot mistake the fact that Tiger and Phil should be Ryder Cup legends, but they’ve been anything but.”

That’s the sort of strong commentary one would like to hear from someone, anyone, on the NBC crew, but they’re too busy telling us that Mickelson hit another errant drive or Woods missed his par putt – because apparently those things aren’t obvious to viewers.

I watch every shot of every Ryder Cup, but increasingly, it’s less a joy than a grind. The level of competition rarely matches the hoopla and histrionics. (In this century, the average margin of victory in nine Ryder Cups has been 4.1 points.) And NBC’s formulaic productions inevitably leave me wanting so much more. Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the November issue of Golfweek.)

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