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County Louth Golf Club

County Louth Golf Club, photo via countylouthgolfclub.com

 

When my elder son was an infant, on the weekends he and I would vegetize on the couch in the morning and watch European Tour events on the Golf Channel.  I like to think he found the announcers’ voices soothing and the verdant scenery interesting.  I, of course, agreed.  To this day, I cannot tell you what the commentators names are, they do their jobs with such aplomb; few words, add some value here and there, and then be quiet.  I was going to look up their names for this post, but it’s kind of beside the point: they are not the story, the golf is, so their relative anonymity is, to me, fitting.

Before we get to the list itself, here is a brief list of what I want from my televised golf viewing experience:

What I want from golf on television is fairly straight-forward: I want to see as many golf shots covering as much of the course and as many of the players as possible.

I know golf is probably one of the most difficult sports to televise, if not the most difficult.  I get it.  The course changes every week, the weather changes every day, the action is spread out over a couple hundred acres of land, etc. etc., I get it.  But, on the other hand, you’ve been doing this since Arnie was a strapping young lad, going on what, sixty years now?  I really think there’s plenty of actual action to fill the 46 minutes in an hour of golf television without showing the entire leaderboard five times and chatting in the booth for ten minutes about what happened yesterday or last week.  I don’t need a ton of color commentary on who’s changed swing coaches, or caddies, or how many drivers Mickelson is carrying this week.  I also don’t need to see too many of the player interviews; with the exception of many of Peter Kostis’ pieces, they’re mostly generic filler, same as with any other sport.  “Well, I’m just gonna try ‘n get some sleep and try to stick with my game plan tomorrow.  Maybe eat another banana.”  Revelatory.  I don’t need to see players arriving and walking to the locker room.  I don’t want to just see the three players in contention with huge gaps between shots, gaps which are then filled with fluffy nonsense.  I don’t need to see tap-ins.  Ever.  Unless it’s literally the last shot of either the tournament or a record round.  I don’t care if you’re showing me someone out of contention who (SURPRISE!) still hit a very high quality shot.  I want to see good shots, the more difficult the better.  I don’t care who hit it, in particular.  There are players every week not in contention who are wildly gifted players; this is why the leaderboard changes week-to-week.  Do I want to see the leaders?  Yes, of course, duh.  But rather than looking at talking heads handicapping the race, I’d rather see the race itself.  I do want to see the “worm cam” on the putts; anything you can do to show elevation changes is helpful; anything you can do to show the shots from the player’s perspective is helpful.  I like overhearing the caddie-player conversations.  I do not care if they swear.  I do want to see trophy presentations, particularly if the win is a first win, a first major, or otherwise emotionally important to the victor.  Crying is good, it means they care.  Swing vision, or whatever you call it, is okay, not great.  I know it’s where the money is, but words cannot express the degree of my utter exhaustion with erectile disfunction drug commercials.  I know that’s the demo and all, but I watch this with my grade-school kids, assuming they haven’t managed to wiggle out of the restraints yet, and I’m tired of trying to explain why the unusually-attractive-though-older couple are in separate bathtubs outside or what “the time is right” might mean.  Sorry, but I do not care in the slightest about the “FedEx Cup” thingie.  About the only good thing about it is the purses at the end of the season are apparently obscene enough to get the top 20 in the world to stay on the course after the PGA.  Stop trying to make The Players a major.  It’s not.  Neither is the PGA, really, but whatever.  Okay, I take that back.  The PGA is sort-of a major IF it’s played within two states of the Canadian border.  It’s in AUGUST, people, plan accordingly.  No one wants to play in Alabama in August.  This is less of a problem than it used to be, but if Tiger is not on the front page of the leaderboard, I truly DO NOT CARE how he’s doing.  You can show him, along with other non-contending players, but stop showing him tapping in for double or hitting out of the woods or whatever.  No one cares, AND this will cut down on network apologies for player swearing.  Win-win.  Oh, and have announcers who know the game, the course, and the players and who know when to not talk.  Oh, right, that’s what this is about: the announcers.

Disclaimer: As a parent of (still) relatively young children, I do not have the time I once had to watch televised golf, though I do manage to sneak in a few dozen hours mainly during the Majors.  My lack of recent volumetric experience will not stop me from expressing my opinions on the announcers here, however, and, since I have pledged positivity, I will attempt to offer constructive criticism to those [ahem] further down my leaderboard.

 


The LEADERS (in no particular order):


 

Feherty_logo

@Fehertwit

David Feherty   David Feherty is one of my favorites mainly because of his accent.  Lends a certain authenticity to the broadcast, doesn’t it?  No, that’s not why, though it is a positive.  I enjoy his commentary for the perspective he brings as a former player, his sharp wit and humor, and his ability to still be genuinely amazed at some of the things he sees players do.  His personal relationships with many of the players adds interesting texture and background, but as it relates to golf, not in a gratuitous, gossipy way.  He also knows when not to talk.  (That being an important criterion of mine in these reviews.)  His cable interview show is also generally highly informative and entertaining.

zimbio.com

zimbio.com

Roger Maltbie  I followed Roger Maltbie around a little bit when I was at the U.S. Amateur at Brookline in summer 2013.  (Sadly, not as a player.)  So knowledgeable and professional and warm, clearly genuinely interested in the people he’s interviewing, I’ve always appreciated his on-the-scene coverage style.  Also knows when not to be talking.

Photo by J.B. Forbes jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Photo by J.B. Forbes jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Judy Rankin  Judy Rankin, as one of the only (the only?) woman covering men’s golf, brings such a nice level of gravitas and experience, and, as a former player, she knows what she’s talking about.  An authentic gem.

floridasportshalloffame.blogspot.com

floridasportshalloffame.blogspot.com

Bob Murphy  About a thousand years ago I spoke briefly to Bob Murphy at what was the be the last Amana VIP tournament in Iowa City.  This was 1990 if I recall correctly, and I was amazed at the names who came to this little town to play in a one-day tournament at a public course. I followed Murphy around for a few holes, watching that crazy slow-and-away swing of his (it made Furyk look pretty classic, in comparison), before I managed to stutter out something complimentary about his TV work between holes to him. He smiled and replied very cordially and went about his business. Brush with greatness.

golfdigest.com

golfdigest.com

Bob Rosburg  Bob Rosburg was another accomplished player (understatement) who made an excellent commentator. He, too, always seemed genuinely impressed with how skillfully players would get out of trouble (usually after he used the phrase “he’s got no shot.”)

cbsnews.com

cbsnews.com

Jim Nantz  Perhaps the only non-golfer on this list, Nantz’s soothing voice, understated manner, and general decorum make watching the Masters (which I would watch happily without sound, except I’d miss all the great shot sounds and the patron’s cheers and awwww’s) an annual joy. Stays out of the way of the action, knows when to talk, and handles pretty much everything thrown at him with a professional grace.

wikimedia.org

wikimedia.org

Gary McCord  Ah, McCord. Again, as a former player, he knows his stuff, understands what players are facing, what they’re likely feeling, the mechanics of the shots, the techniques, the strategies, AND he knows when not to talk. AND he douses the entire process with the most marvelous Sriracha of wit and humor. Add in some Feherty, and I could listen to these two all day long. I’m old enough to miss him at Augusta in April. When he gets rolling, sometimes I get the impression the pilot may have left his seat, and the occasional barrel-roll happens. I was watching live in 1994 during That Telecast and remember audibly gasping and cringing right after I heard him say It. Should he have said It? Um, no. Should he have been banned for life from that particular telecast? At the risk of being blackballed forever from the grounds of Augusta I will venture far enough out the gangplank to say “that seems a bit much.”

bbc.co.uk

bbc.co.uk

Peter Alliss  I usually only get to hear the mellifluous Peter Alliss during the brief time he spends with American networks during The Open Championship, but the perspective and knowledge he brings to the telecast is just lovely and spot-on.  Wish we could here him more often.

 


The JOURNEYMAN


 

Nick Faldo  Some people don’t care for Nick Faldo as a commentator, but personally I think he’s generally spot-on in his opinions, and, if anything, could perhaps warm up just a smidge and share a little bit more of his expertise and let us see more of his personality. Obviously he has serious chops as a player, and he doesn’t prattle on just to hear his own voice.  He does have a tendency to go about two standard deviations past laymen’s level on technical swing/swing flaw/swing error explanations, but that’s not a negative, just over the heads of most viewers (including this one, much of the time.)

 


The LAGGARDS


 

Johnny Miller  Tough one. (Stay positive. Stay positive.) Johnny Miller can… at times… um… give the impression he possesses unlimited golfing knowledge about… well… every potential situation on the course. Yes, we all know he shot 63 one day a long time ago (wearing some truly lovely slacks; my mom had a couch with that pattern), but I don’t believe that then endows the 63-shooter with some sort of golfing omniscience until the end of time. He also says “3-par” and “4-par” and “3-metal” when everyone else on the planet pretty much has conformed to the more traditional forms of these expressions. Yes, we all know that 3-woods are not made of dead tree anymore. No, we don’t care to be technically correct in renaming this club. He also talks too much.
These are all tiny trifles, however, mere peccadilloes.  The truly felonious thing is this: the majority of his commentary is negative. It’s not encouraging, it’s not rolled up politely in some soft, warm diplomacy, and it gives no room for error in his opinion. And It. Is. Tiresome. (I could go and do actual research right now [what is he thinking] and come up with transcripts of his commentary and concrete examples [choke] rather than just using my anecdotal general memory [terrible decision] on this, but frankly the idea of re-living any of that commentary [not what he should be doing here] makes playing a Pete Dye golf course sound fun.) Just listen next time you’re watching golf on his channel.  Turn the sound back on, you’ll see what I mean.  So much for staying positive up here on the High Road.

Mike Tirico  Mike Tirico is generically a good sportscaster. I assume he must be, or he wouldn’t be paid money to talk on telecasts featuring such a wide variety of sports. What he should NOT be doing is talking about golf. I find it hard to believe he plays golf, or, if he does, he can break 100; this lack of experience with the game shows.  He is typically overdressed, like he’s compensating for something, and he talks way too much and adds little if anything to the conversation.

Notah Begay  I don’t have anything particular to say that’s negative about Notah Begay; as a former player he should have a reasonable idea what’s going on out there, but, at the end of the day, he’s timid and is not additive to the telecast.

Ian Baker Finch  After so many years of commentation he still seems uncomfortable, he talks too much, is also a wee bit too negative, and has kind of a grating accent although I usually like Australian accents.

Curtis Strange  I was a huge Curtis Strange fan back in the day, and remember watching him live when he hit that bunker shot at 18 at The Country Club.  Not a fan of his television work, however, and would put him on a similar seat next to Johnny Miller, sadly.

 


The NEXT BUNCH (People I would like to see in the booth)


 

Colin Montgomerie  Just a hunch, but I’ve seen enough interviews with Monty to know he’s articulate and thoughtful and has a great accent.  Would love to hear him on a telecast, but he appears pretty busy at the moment with other endeavors.

Ben Crenshaw  Huge historian of the game, warm and personable in interviews, I think he would be outstanding in the booth.  He’s from Texas, and all Texans have a thousand funny stories to fit any occasion.  That’s like a rule.

 

 

 

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