News & Opinion

Sounding off on PGA Tour’s wired experiment

2020 Colonial Charles Schwab Challenge
Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, is the site of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, where the PGA Tour has restarted its season after a 3-month suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

PGA Tour pros say little when they’re mic’d for sound, so it’s a waste of time, John Hawkins contends. Mike Purkey counters that it’s all a numbers game, and the guys with the largest social-media followings likely would offer something worthy of our ears

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Are PGA Tour telecasts more interesting when players wear microphones?

Hawk’s take: No, quite frankly. Wiring tour pros for sound isn’t any different than hiring some pretty girl to ask Coach Saban a couple of inane questions as he runs off the field at halftime. It’s meaningless overkill, the residue of overproduction. The networks do it because television is an industry overrun by copycats and knockoffs. And because one of these days, somebody actually might say something funny or enlightening in the heat of competitive battle.

When’s the last time you heard a pro golfer utter something memorable – be it to his caddie or his ball – with a microphone clipped to his chest? The best stuff comes from conversations between a player and his looper when discussing what club to hit and where to hit it, but 98 percent of that dialogue comes to you courtesy of a boom mic, which is carried by a guy accompanying the cameraman.

A lot of players won’t wear microphones because they don’t want you to hear them dropping F-bombs all afternoon. Others simply prefer not to deal with the hassle, while those willing to do so know they’re wired, which basically serves as a license to clam up. It’s one of those ideas that sounded good when it was conceived, pardon the pun, but really hasn’t done anything to heighten the viewer experience.

Until Tiger Woods agrees to don a mic and enliven a telecast with some of the saltiest language known to mankind, we’re talking about an exercise in excess. A banality owing to TV’s herd mentality.

Purk’s take: Like sales, the key to achieving the desired results when you put microphones on players is a numbers game. It’s imperative to get the right number of the right people to produce something that pays off. Rickie Fowler wore a mic on Thursday during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, and he was a good choice.

As one of the four players at last month’s TaylorMade Driving Relief charity match at Seminole, Fowler was quiet for the first few holes but became chattier as he started to make birdies. On the other hand, you got nothing out of Dustin Johnson, and who didn’t know that? At The Match: Champions for Charity, Phil Mickelson was slinging it from before the first tee shot. That was a load of fun.

Though Fowler was agreeable this week, Justin Thomas was a loud “no.” He thinks what he talks about with his caddie Jimmy Johnson is none of our business. Fair enough.

You’d have to be creative as to whom to ask. The first place I’d look is the players who have a sizable social-media presence. Max Homa, for instance. I’d bet it wouldn’t take much to close that sale. And the viewers would be better off for it.

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