News & Opinion

DirecTV adds major viewing bonus

Clearly, the additional coverage available for viewers at golf’s major championships on American satellite carrier DirecTV is designed to supplement, not supplant, the broadcasts of the traditional networks.

Whether it’s NBC/Golf Channel, CBS, ESPN or TNT doing the heavy lifting on a particular day during a majors week, the four bonus channels available on DirecTV offer morsels from the bigger Grand Slam buffet, and are mostly viewed by those who prefer to watch specific holes or players in feature groups.

Yet, secondary and subordinate, it isn’t. In fact, on a given day, the observations and analysis emanating from the satellite company’s off-Broadway stages are better than those of the primary network carrier.

During certain key sports events, DirecTV added multiple secondary channels to its lineup a few years ago, resulting in a boon for golf and tennis fans, in particular. The analysis can be every bit as pithy and probative as the content delivered by the free-to-air TV crews.

Also, it’s frequently less restrained. This week, with mega-conservative CBS handling the coverage – the carrier of the first two rounds, TNT, is leaning heavily on CBS’ on-air talent – the insight on the DirecTV supplemental feeds has been hilarious and heretical by comparison.

While CBS has never met a controversy or awkward circumstance it couldn’t outright ignore, the secondary channels have been funny, flip and at least as illuminating. For those who consider themselves devotees of the game, the DirecTV feeds are a welcome source of inside intel that hasn’t been diluted for mass consumption.

Consider the tandem of Brian Katrek and Michael Breed, who often have been paired for video streams at the majors over the years, and used their coverage of one of the PGA Championship’s featured group to illuminate, educate, and to a degree, titillate.

Breed, a PGA instructor and a staple of golf instruction on Golf Channel, was discussing the obscene lengths that players such as Rory McIlroy are driving the ball off the tee. Some of the gains are because players have grown larger over time, he said.

“The average shoe size on the PGA Tour from 1993 to 2013 has gone from 9.5 to 11.5,” Breed said. 

“You know what that means?” Katrek said.

He paused while listeners with dirty minds pondered the inevitable off-color reply. Wait for it.

“Bigger socks,” said Katrek, delivering the punch line with perfect timing.

It isn’t just that the coverage is more untethered, either. They even dropped a few newsy tidbits on listeners, pointing out that Quail Hollow founder Johnny Harris and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua were heard agreeing in principle to stage another PGA at the Charlotte, N.C., club.

The commentary, at times, is braver than anything typically uttered on one of the main golf networks. For instance, when McIlroy stood in the rough during the first round, considering the ramifications of a risky approach shot, he turned to his caddie, a boyhood pal from their native Northern Ireland, who took over bag duties for the first time last week.

“Rory said, ‘Is that front bunker a good leave?’ ” Katrek told listeners. “[Caddie] Harry Diamond said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

Katrek, a longtime frontman on the PGA Tour’s SiriusXM coverage, then slung a saucy, rhetorical question toward Diamond that you won’t hear posed anywhere else: 

“How would [Diamond] know?” Katrek said.

Excellent, biting observation.

With the bonus coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET over the first two days, the channel selection list included two daily feature groups and coverage of the three closing holes, which has been wrongly dubbed “The Green Mile.” It’s barely a green kilometer.

Many of the guys in the analysts’ chairs pull double duty serving as voices during the online streaming coverage, too. They include Aussie broadcast veteran Luke Elvy, Fox regular Shane O’Donoghue, Milwaukee Brewers play-by-play man Brian Anderson and former tour player Bill Kratzert, a fan favorite who has worked for every broadcaster on this side of the Atlantic. 

Katrek joked Friday morning that he’d barely have time to eat or take a bathroom break. He went from walking as a roving analyst in the morning straight into the announcer’s chair as the afternoon wave began. Rest assured, unlike some of the big-money guys in the air-conditioned network booths, the DirecTV crew has been trodding sod all week.

As Katrek climbed into the broadcast booth Friday after spending a steamy morning marching with the Kuchar group, Katrek looked at Breed on camera and cracked, “I hope we look better than we smell.”

Actually, it’s the sound that matters most, and the DirecTV lineup is an aural treat for those looking for more variety on their majors menu.

Steve Elling has covered golf for the Orlando Sentinel, and numerous other global print and online outlets. Email:; Twitter: @EllingYelling