News & Opinion

If you like vanilla, you’ll love CBS’ new lineup

With its telecasts of 3 PGA Tour events, CBS whiffs in its bid to appeal to a younger golf audience by ditching Gary McCord and Peter Kostis. But if you like happy talk and pompoms with your Tour coverage, then grab a lollipop and enjoy the rest of the show

Three weeks into its 2020 coverage of the PGA Tour, the network that brought us Archie Bunker and J.R. Ewing has assumed the lead role in turning golf on TV into a good nap spoiled. CBS used to know a good character when it dared to show us one. These days, its presentation of the little white ball is notably deficient of authoritative voices or the requisite pizazz, due in a large part to the termination of longtime broadcasters Gary McCord and Peter Kostis last fall.

The Eye wanted to freshen up its golf telecasts and, for whatever reasons, appeal to a younger audience. That’s what McCord and Kostis were told when CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus informed them that their contracts would not be renewed. Three tournaments might amount to a small sample size, but it’s still 18 hours of airtime, more than enough to rue the personnel absences and the void they have left on a once-peerless product.

Davis Love III, one of the nicest guys in golf, lacks the broadcasting experience and insight of his predecessors at CBS to provide viewers with anything of substance.

McCord was effectively irreverent, snappy and playful. A 180-degree departure from the unsmiling Kostis, whose ability to dissect a golf swing – flaws and all – in less than 30 seconds made him one of the most unique and underrated analysts in the game’s TV history. Their combined talents and wealth of effective insight helped compensate for the bumbling Nick Faldo, whose off-the-cuff observations and thin perspective have failed to register with viewers for 15 years.

Obviously, McManus got rid of the wrong guys. This wouldn’t have hurt CBS nearly as much if he’d seduced Phil Mickelson into the booth and ordered that Faldo spend his Sundays walking with the third-to-last pairing. Instead, McManus hired Davis Love III, who wasn’t heard on Saturday’s telecast from Pebble Beach until almost an hour into the show.

It was the one afternoon each year when golf producer Lance Barrow focuses on the celebrities playing in the pro-am. Without Kostis around to instantly tear apart Ray Romano’s action or explain why Tony Romo is just so damn good, a component that made CBS better than NBC had been sacrificed for the purpose of a so-called youth movement. If you really want to lure the millennials, shouldn’t you ditch the corny Yanni knockoff that has served as the musical backdrop since those kids were born?

Love is a rookie, a wonderful man without a mean bone in his body, which makes him an inexperienced version of Ian Baker-Finch, whose next critical comment about a tour pro will be his first. In IBF’s world, everything is great and wonderful and fabulous and terrific and outstanding. It’s a sensational, absolutely awesome way to glide through life, but when a tour pro misses a 3-footer for par and follows it up with a double bogey, something needs to be said.

With its current lineup, CBS doesn’t have anybody to say it.

God bless Johnny Miller. Thank goodness for Paul Azinger, whose willingness to describe what it feels like to choke your guts out with three holes to play makes him a delicious commodity in a truck full of vanilla ice cream. It’s golf. People screw up. Kind of like when Dustin Johnson had a complete meltdown at the start of the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, although IBF and gang chose to ignore that little spasm Saturday in favor of several mentions on how well Johnson plays the course.

Dottie Pepper is excellent. Mark Immelman has a high ceiling and is fast becoming a source of pertinence and polish. Since David Feherty hopped to NBC in 2016, however, the Eye has gone blind to the value of building a team with people who played the game and are fully stocked with knowledge about every competitor, yet remain unfazed by the task of imparting pure objectivity when the situation demands it.

“Hopefully, that came out of the plug mark,” IBF offered after Matt Every dumped a pitch into a greenside bunker Sunday on Pebble Beach’s eighth hole.

“When things go wrong here, there’s no real way of taking the shortcuts,” Faldo added while Every cleaned up his triple bogey.

Pompoms and nonsense. They’re fine at a high school pep rally, but at a gathering of the world’s finest golfers vying for the largest share of a $7.8 million purse, a major network with more than 60 years in the business should know better than to shortchange its educated, dedicated viewership.

McCord might not have been for everyone, but his distinctive, easy-listening style found the ideal balance in a game that should be taken seriously only by the participants. Kostis’ crusty demeanor seemed only to validate an endless fountain of information, which is why he rarely failed to enlighten an audience when breaking down a swing or assessing Tiger Woods’ latest shot from the right trees. Sometimes, you don’t realize how good people were until they’re gone.

Both men are sorely missed. Even the Archie Bunkers of the world would concede that.

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