From The Inbox

Canadian unloads on state of TV golf broadcasts

Too many shills, not enough candor and twisted sponsor references leave much to be desired, reader contends

I hope that Mike Purkey's article about golf commentary is just the start of more incisive look at the way golf is presented (“TV networks’ lovefest with PGA Tour cheats viewers,” April 22). Purkey touches on so many elements of golf coverage that have irritated me over the years. 

I understand, to a certain extent, the contractual requirements of networks to adhere to certain rules imposed by the sponsors, but what about the talking heads on Golf Channel? Are they journalists or just shills for the golf industry?  

Case in point: At the final LPGA event of the season, the CME Group Tour Championship, the sponsor had the opportunity to overturn a horribly bureaucratic rule that kept the Women's British and U.S. Women’s Open winners out of the competition. Instead, the company chose to invite two players who, once they were named, never were heard of again. How did the Golf Channel commentators react? Oh, yes, CME had every right to choose whomever it wanted, yadda, yadda, yadda, entirely missing the point, that the company could have covered itself in massive good feeling and righted an obvious wrong by including those two golfers in the tournament.

Then there is the matter of the names of golf tournaments. I am often bemused when I hear that the Acme Widget Classic was won by Arnold Palmer back in whenever, long before Acme Widgets even were invented. OK, so the networks have to adhere to these fictions by contract. But are golf commentators bound by the same rules? I was particularly put off by the recent LPGA major championship at Rancho Mirage, Calif. It was ANA thisANA thatANA 50 years ago. Nice to take credit for 50 years of tournaments having been the sponsor for a scant few years.  

And it was almost comical to hear the announcers of the WGC Mexico twist themselves all out of shape to talk about the previous winner of the, uh, Mexico Championship at, uh, Miami, Florida.

And names of club manufacturers? These names exist only in ads. Heaven forbid that they should be mentioned during a broadcast. So, Rory McIlroy has changed clubs. You'd never find out what he's playing on a golf broadcast. No, sir. (Well for some reason the Scotty Cameron putter seems to get an occasional free pass.)

Purkey mentioned David Feherty as another case. I loved his interview show. You never knew where he was going to go with his questions, and he was able to give full play to his quirky sense of humor. But his move to NBC seems somehow to have muted his voice quite a bit. I'm not sure whether it's because he no longer has his repartee partner, Gary McCord, to rap with or whether he's been told to tone it down. Either way, it's a loss for us, the viewers.

And while there often is talk about slow play, with a few exceptions, the announcers dance around the issue. Brian Harman, e.g., is described as “meticulous.” No, he's just slow.

And, we're still waiting for the unmade documentary: Dustin Johnson, the Lost Half-Year.”

Tim Schobert

Why can’t they just shut up and show live golf?
Kudos to Mike Purkey for his article about the horrible commentary at the PGA Tour tournaments on TV  (“TV networks’ lovefest with PGA Tour cheats viewers,” April 22).

I don't even watch the show until an hour into it. This allows me to fast forward through all of the inane comments from the announcers, sidebars of no importance and NBC’s very annoying “Playing Through” segments. I could do better, and I have no experience. I do have one thing that is needed: silence. No commentary is needed a lot of the time, but for some reason the announcers think they have to say something, no matter how stupid it sounds.

We see way too many putts. Who cares about the short putts that they make 95-plus percent of the time? The few times they miss a critical short putt, the networks could always go back and show it because they tape everything. A lot of what we see isn't even in real time; it is taped.

Michael Merrill
McKinney, Texas

It’s time for some imagination in golf telecasts
Reading the recent comments about the announcers and their styles got me thinking about what really needs attention (“From the Morning Read inbox,” April 23; April 26).

The technology being used to broadcast golf is so far behind the times, it's just sad. The camera behind the green zooms out to cover the approach shot from 200 yards out. We have no idea of the situation facing the player unless we just happen to know that there is a big false front to the green, and even then, it's left up to our imagination to picture it. Then when the ball is struck, the camera simultaneously lifts up to follow the ball into the sky and starts zooming in. The camera comes down with the ball showing a blur of trees or whatever else is in the distance as the ball lands. The poor camera operator is furiously trying to follow the ball, but there is so much tilting, panning and zooming going on, we lose our bearings, and then we are left to try to figure out what the player has left to the hole.

Shots have been shown like this forever on TV. There has to be a better way.

The Toptracer technology is a step in the right direction, but even that doesn't always give us the correct result of the shot. Maybe I'm jaded, having attended a lot of the Masters in person since 1965, and nothing beats being there, but come on, golf broadcasters. I know you can do better.

The use of drones is one thing that comes to mind. I've always wondered what it would look like if a drone were hovering 100 feet over the player and, as the ball is struck, the drone takes off with the ball just out in front, so it's showing the ball in flight and the terrain it's approaching. Sort of a “ball’s-eye view” look at the shot. The technology is there to do this.

The late Frank Chirkinian was not afraid to try new things and was a pioneer in golf broadcasting. It's time for the next Chirkinian to step up and really show golf on TV using some imagination.

Pete Kellos
Bluffton, S.C. 

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Touring pros are slow
Kudos to Brooke Henderson for a great final round (“Brooke Henderson caps a near-perfect 10 on LPGA,” April 26).

But if Henderson and J.B. Holmes were to play an 18-hole round at the pace of play of the final group, they would have been eligible for the early bird and twilight rates during the same round.

These endless discussions (I don’t remember Jack Nicklaus having these endless discussions) between player and caddie, which are put into hyperdrive by TV coverage, are not only boring but depriving viewers of real action.

On Saturday, Henderson typically took two minutes to play a shot. On the green, as the third player to putt, Henderson took way too long. Of course, the Golf Channel commentators made a vague reference (the mantra on TV is now see no evil no matter what) but never really addressed the issue. It certainly was something that might be worth including in your column.

Gary Cohen
Great Neck, N.Y.

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