I was sitting in my home location, on my sofa, the other Saturday watching golf on TV when it occurred to me that perhaps we’d gone a bit too far in trying to make our telecast language precise. I thought, and I’m no pro here, that “hole” could mean two things, couldn’t it, just as “club” can be a thing we join and a thing we swing? So maybe lay off the “hole location” stuff for a bit.
But hey, that’s nitpicking.
Golf telecasts are pretty amazing these days. How did we ever live without Shot Tracer? Or the shot pattern maps or the diagrams with the ball position of every player in the group? And if you’ve got Maltbie and Zinger, Hicks and Nantz and Tirico, Dottie and Woody explaining things out there, you’re doing just fine. Even without Feherty and Faldo. Or Judy. (I really miss Judy.)
Nevertheless, it struck me that with the disruptive LIV Tour instigating changes at the PGA Tour, it might be time to do the same to telecasts. Tweaking them, at the very least, so that while the players get their $500,000 annual guarantee (which translates to $10 million or whatever for the four dozen guys on the LIV Tour) that we viewers get a guarantee, too, that the commentary stays lively and interesting and never gets stale and we don’t have to hear how players have to step up or respond to the challenge or make something happen every other swing.
This is not about changing the tournament format, but rather about adding elements to the presentation.
So in the interest of fair play, I offer these suggestions to either tour.
So I’m suggesting that we go further and add an architect to the telecast, at least early in the week; someone who could tell us about the person who designed the layout and the cleverness he or she used to tempt you, fool you, or just to force you to play one shot or the other.
Add an architect: Before you finish that yawn, let me explain. The other day I watched a PGA Tour event from somewhere in the Midwest with guys shooting 20 under and hitting it so far it seemed like another sport, cannonball golf or something, and for an hour nobody mentioned the name of the golf course, the architect, or what they meant by “signature” holes they talked about.
I hung around because I wanted to know about the course until at sign-off they said, “So long from such-and-such town,” without one mention of the course. Not even a chyron. The play-by-play guy and the color man had talked about strategy, but no one thought to say, this is what the designer was trying to do here. That doesn’t happen at majors or on those courses where they promote some stretch of holes named Reptile Run or something. But for the most part, telecasts emphasize the mano-a-mano aspect of the competition and de-emphasize the mano-a-course or mano-a-designer aspect.
Yes, the majors do a lot more, but the architect’s philosophy, his bag of tricks if you will, is ignored in other events. So I’m suggesting that we go further and add an architect to the telecast, at least early in the week; someone who could tell us about the person who designed the layout and the cleverness he or she used to tempt you, fool you, or just to force you to play one shot or the other. As with players who try commentating, not everyone can do it.
But I can think of several architects who could keep it lively and informative, not too reverential, maybe even feisty. (Tom Doak?) The average golfer watching the telecast could learn a great deal more about playing the game, or even how pros play it, than a rules official, for example, can tell them. Call it the Pete Dye chair.
Average stats: Speaking of the average Joe, with all the amazing stats the telecasts are able to present almost instantaneously – “She’s got a putt of 7 feet 2 inches and the average “make” percentage is 38 – what if, once in a while, the stats of average players were included? So on driving distance, say, you not only learn Tony Finau just hit his drive 32 yards past the average driving distance of the field, but his drive is 60 yards farther than the average scratch player at your club would hit it, and 100 yards past where a 10 handicap would land – all illustrated on a shot map.
They might even suggest that to play a course as the tour players do, that is to hit a similar set of clubs, those club players should choose tees that total X and Y distances. Again, this would not be a constant, but it would really put “These guys are good” into new perspective. The tour has collected a lot of amateur data, I’m pretty sure. We could use it.
The Ultimate: I said no format suggestions but that doesn’t include a new event, does it? When the AFL hung on, became the AFC and got to play the NFC in the NFL championship, we got a pretty good new event called, eventually, the Super Bowl. How about four-on-four PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf? Let’s steal from Frisbee and call it The Ultimate.
Shot clock: If LIV really wants to LIVen things up, it should add a shot clock. At first, the clock would be “informational.” But eventually it ought to be like shot clocks in other sports and hold players to the 40- or 45-second limit they’re supposed to or get penalized. For a new tour, a clock – reasonably set – would add drama and entertainment. As for the PGA Tour, it could start, as baseball has, with its developmental tour, making those telecasts a little more interesting at the same time.
Time’s up. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 2.0 cents worth.
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