Golf on TV: Tiger Woods’ charge made this PGA feel like the good old days


“I have never had so much fun watching nine holes in my life,” CBS’ Gary McCord chortled midway through the final round of the PGA Championship.

McCord chortles often when simple statements would suffice, and he’s given to hyperbole. But there’s no denying that Tiger Woods and a stacked leaderboard can make for compelling television.

The PGA Championship kind of felt like old times, even if, in this instance, Woods had to settle for second.

“There’s always something special when Tiger is in the mix,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, told me immediately after the tournament. “What he did today was almost historic. It was terrific and it was spellbinding. The combination of what he did with what Brooks Koepka did and the way he hung in there made for unbelievable drama.”

Lead analyst Nick Faldo often seems to wing it when he and anchor Jim Nantz open the show, but he had a pretty good line about Koepka at the top of Sunday’s coverage.

“He’s like a cruise liner,” Faldo said. “He’s on a path and he creates a wave, and everyone is stuck in the wave behind him.”

Woods and Adam Scott almost crested that wave and caught Koepka. The result was one of the most memorable PGA Championships in years – perhaps the best since Martin Kaymer’s playoff win in 2010.

Great competition can mask the occasional flaws, such as Verne Lundquist referring to Matt Wallace as “Mike” – a particularly egregious mistake given that Lundquist had time to prepare because Wallace’s ace on Saturday was shown on replay. Lundquist also referred to the tournament leader as “Brooks Kupka.” I have a huge soft spot for “Uncle Verne” because of so many wonderful fall Saturdays spent listening to him call SEC football, but it’s hard to overlook those sorts of mistakes.

The biggest gripe I hear each year with regard to the PGA Championship is the heavy load of commercials relative to the other majors. It’s a legitimate gripe, but it’s also an issue that falls largely at the doorstep of the rightsholder, in this case the PGA of America. Bigger rights fees translate into more commercials.

From 3-4 p.m. ET, right after the leaders teed off, there were, by my count, 9 minutes, 30 seconds of commercials. The next hour, there were 12:15 of commercials, and 14 minutes from 5-6 p.m. I actually thought those numbers would be higher, but it’s still more commercial inventory than any viewer would like to see during a major championship. Hopefully, in the next round of TV contract negotiations, the PGA will reconsider that approach.

Aug 12, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Tiger Woods hits from the fairway on the 17th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Tiger Woods hits from the fairway on the 17th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the 17th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

My bigger concern is all of CBS’ sponsored elements – the “Maximum Efficiency” promotion for ExxonMobil; the Citi “Player Profile”; the Brighthouse Financial “Shot of the Day”; and of course, Peter Kostis’ slow-motion swing camera. I’m sure there are other sponsored elements that I’m forgetting. That’s a lot of noise that adds little or nothing to the viewing experience.

In a perfect world, I’d rather see those sponsorship dollars consolidated around fewer, more effective elements.

For example, the Hawkeye virtual putting line we saw on five holes at the PGA is terrific. Rolex sponsors the same technology occasionally on the European Tour. I asked McManus what it would take for the network to use the putting line on a more regular basis. He noted that we’ve seen more Toptracer technology at regular Tour events, and the same could be true of the putting line in the future.

“It’s sponsorships and finding the money to do it,” McManus said. “But the Hawkeye (putting line) I think you will see a lot more of in the regular tournaments. We’ll figure out a way to get it sponsored or come up with some new funds for it.”

That’s good to hear. Golf Channel ditched its AimPoint putting line seven years ago, and there’s been nothing comparable in the industry since that time.

I was dubious of another new technology that CBS introduced at the PGA Championship: 4D Replay. (I’m still dubious of the name CBS gave it: “EyeVision.” I get it – CBS is the Eye network. But I’d definitely rethink the name if it’s used in the future.)

CBS used its 4D Replay on the 15th tee, and I thought it provided a better perspective on players’ swings than the static slow-motion camera that CBS has used for more than a decade. I found myself rewinding the coverage to get a second look at some of the swings.

It’s also probably too expensive to use on more than one hole, so it’s unlikely that it would be overused. That’s one of the problems with Kostis’ slow-motion camera; it’s sometimes used too often on regular tournament coverage. Gwk

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