News & Opinion

CBS serves up scoop of vanilla for golf fans

Davis Love III parlays political correctness into a sweet gig at a network that says it wants to improve ‘stale’ PGA Tour broadcasts

Apparently, Sean McManus prefers bland over stale. Which is why the chairman of CBS Sports has hired Davis Love III to join the network’s golf team before the bodies of Gary McCord and Peter Kostis were even cold.

McManus told McCord that CBS golf had become “stale” in his eyes and ears and jettisoned the veteran broadcasters late last week, choosing not to renew their contracts. McCord, 71, joined CBS in 1986, and Kostis, 72, came aboard in 1992.
Davis Love III, one of golf’s nice guys, has plenty of experience behind the microphone, but all of it has been as a player or team captain.

The word is that CBS wanted to get younger. Love is 55, which makes him a senior in golf years. He is a 21-time PGA Tour winner, a major champion and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. That’s plenty of playing credentials.

But he has no experience in the TV booth, save for a random guest appearance here and there. That hole in his resume doesn’t appear to bother CBS. You have to start somewhere, even if, in this case, it’s at the top. The rest of us wouldn’t get that opportunity.

No one would criticize Love as a person. He is top-drawer. But the only way we can assess Love’s qualifications for getting this cushy job is to look at the record. He is one of the most accommodating players on the PGA Tour for granting interviews, in print and on the air. He captained U.S. teams at the 2012 and 2016 Ryder Cups, which meant he has been in front of the media plenty.

But, as is the case with his personality, he was always politically correct, always tried to say the right things, always stayed a proper distance away from controversy and always avoided criticizing other players.

In other words, he was always plain vanilla. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but is it what you want in a broadcaster for one of the largest and most influential networks? Especially if you’re trying to overcome “stale”?

So, just what are we looking for? Having played the game at a high level is a plus but not a necessity. Jim Nantz hasn’t played competitively since his college days at the University of Houston 40 years ago. Verne Lundquist might not know which end of the club to hold, as could be the case for Bill Macatee and Dan Hicks at NBC. But they are consummate broadcasters.

So, if you’re a player in a TV tower, active or not, you need to bring something else to the table. You’d better be able to get inside the heads of the players whom you’re talking about. You have to bring insight that non-golfers are unable to provide. And you have to say what you think. You can’t be afraid of being critical of your fellow players.

Johnny Miller, love him or hate him, had all of those qualities. It’s what made him one of the game’s all-time effective analysts. His replacement, Paul Azinger, is far enough removed from his playing days and his time as Ryder Cup captain to allow us inside the ropes and to be fearless about critiquing players. He is the game’s best analyst.

Brandel Chamblee can do all that and more. He never hesitates to offer his opinion – an informed opinion – and he has the uncanny ability to dissect different types of golf swings on Tour, from Tiger Woods’ to Matthew Wolff’s. Nick Faldo occasionally will pull his punches, and he generally thinks highly of his own observations.

It helps to be funny, like McCord, David Feherty and, to a saner extent, Peter Jacobsen. But it’s not required.

It’s unclear whether Love has the aptitude, the ability or, more importantly, the inclination to lend any of those qualities to CBS’ broadcast. He’s still going to play a few tournaments, which makes it tough to criticize players and have to face them inside the ropes at a Tour event.

At first glance, it’s simply difficult to be excited about Love going to TV. From the outside, it appears there are a number of others who would offer CBS a much better choice. Frank Nobilo, for one. Nobilo, who works for Golf Channel, already does a handful of events for CBS, including the Masters and PGA Championship.

Nobilo has had some famous nose-to-nose arguments on set with Chamblee, which is some of the best TV in the business. He was an accomplished player, he’s knowledgeable, smooth and knows the game as well as anyone. He has an opinion and isn’t afraid to voice it, if given license to do so.

If you want a player winding down his career, Phil Mickelson is your best option. He’s intellectually brilliant, a student of the game, and he’s killer funny. If CBS isn’t going to reach out, Fox would do well to scoop him up.

The word is that Trevor Immelman, a South African and former Masters champion, is at the top of the list to be Kostis’ replacement. He brings many of Love’s liabilities to the game. But he has an accent, for which CBS is fond.

Love is scheduled to make his CBS debut in January at the Farmers Insurance Open. No one can replace McCord and Kostis, and no one should try. The hope is that Love has the courage to speak up, be distinct and make people notice him.

Otherwise, he’ll just blend into the background and be just another innocuous voice, doing what TV does worst: continually overstating the obvious.

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