“In terms of accomplishments, the number 18 is known to us all,” Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, a fellow Texas Longhorn, said last week. “Eighteen major championships. That’s the highest bar. But in terms of comportment, that’s a less obvious aspect of this game. But like the number 18, which took Jack Nicklaus 24 years to achieve, it takes a lifetime to achieve a reputation.
“And that’s what we’ve seen in Ben Crenshaw, a man who’s experienced great highs and great lows in this game. But he’s handled those two with equal grace, which is very much like the man who founded this golf tournament, Bobby Jones. The same was said of him. If I can borrow a line from Ben, My goodness has it been to fun to listen to him, to watch him, and my goodness this golf tournament is going to miss him.”
The tributes to Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion who played his final competitive rounds at Augusta National last week, have been numerable, but one more remains, the Golf Channel documentary, “Ben Crenshaw: A Walk Through Augusta,” that airs Monday night at 10 (EDT).
Crenshaw’s love and passion for the game generally and the Masters specifically is infectious. It often moves him to tears. “It occupies a lot of my thoughts,” he said. “It has for a long time and it always will.”
As his wife Julie put it in the documentary, “It might be an obsession, but that’s all right. It’s almost like he’s got green blood in him rather than red. It’s just the most meaningful thing in his life.”
The dulcet tones of Jim Nantz attracted more viewers to CBS' Masters coverage (or maybe Jordan Spieth has something to do with it)
It's widely known the Masters is the most watched golf event of any year. We base that not just on hard data, but the number of people in the Golf Digest office who say this is the one tournament that some non-golfer in their family sits on the couch and watches tour pros chase the little white ball.
For me, it's my Mom, who couldn't help but call Sunday night and start to gush about that nice young man who was wearing that green coat. "What was his name again, Jordan Speech?" she asked. ("Spieth, Mom. It's Spieth.")
So just how many non-golf fans joined my Mom in making the Masters their yearly golf indulgence? CBS didn't break down its ratings numbers that specifically, but it did tout in a Monday press release that its final-round viewership was up 23 percent from 2014, pulling in a 9.6 rating and a 20 share for its average household metered market numbers. (Each rating point is roughly a million viewers and the share is a percentage of the number of overall viewer watching anything at that time who were watching that specific program.) Not surprisingly, viewership peaked from 6:30-7 p.m. EDT, just as Spieth's coronation became official, with a 11.5 rating and a 22 share.
CBS also offered an interesting note highlighting the five top markets on Sunday:
Fort Myers (Fla.), 15.1/27
Greensboro-High Point Winston-Salem (N.C.), 14.6/25
Greenville-Spartanburg-Ashville (N.C.), 14.4/26
Tampa-St. Petersburg (Fla.), 13.3/24
West Palm Beach (Fla.), 12.9/26
Apparently that nice young man who tied the Masters 72-hole scoring record did connect with some other non-golfers' moms . . . or maybe just retirees in Florida and North Carolina.
CBS' Saturday third-round ratings also were up from 2014, rising 48 percent (Tiger Woods' presence on the leader board certainly helped as well). Earlier in the week ESPN said its numbers rose for coverage of the Par-3 Contest and the first and second rounds. And Golf Channel also said its pre-game and post-game ratings were the highest in its history.
Thanks again, Mom, and all the rest of you non-golf fans. Don't be afraid to come back for the U.S. Open in June. Chambers Bay is beautiful.
Produced by the USGA and Ross Greenburg Productions, "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion" will debut in the United States at noon EST, Sunday, Jan. 18, on Fox prior to its pre-game coverage of the NFC Championship game. In other words, get ready to spend even more time on your couch on Sunday than you planned.
"I never really paid a whole lot of attention to what I did, but to have somebody sort of exaggerate, glorify it you might say, is very flattering," Nicklaus said during a conference call on Wednesday. "It's been years since I've done any of that stuff. To go back and look at it and see some of it and see some of the shots you played, it's kind of fun."
The documentary's premier is all part of an exciting stretch for Nicklaus. On Monday night, his alma mater, Ohio State, won the college football national championship and Nicklaus will celebrate his 75th birthday three days after the film is released.
"We're proud to celebrate Jack's legacy as the 'Golden Bear' approaches a milestone birthday," said Thomas J. O'Toole Jr., USGA president. "His influence on golf can be seen in every player who followed him and every fan who enjoys playing and watching the game. This film tells the story of one of the game's greats."
The USGA also announced the Jack Nicklaus Room will open at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J., on May 27. Nicklaus will join Arnold Palmer, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Mickey Wright as golfers to receive this honor.
So about that putt. . . part of the documentary will tell the story of Nicklaus' springboard win at the 1959 U.S. Amateur, his first USGA title. It was there at the Broadmoor in Coloroado where Nicklaus made an eight-footer on the 36th hole for a 1-up win over Charles Coe.
"That putt I believe gave me the confidence and belief that I could do it when I had to in the future," Nicklaus said. "And so I think that was probably the most important putt I've ever made. . . . That was a big putt."
Nicklaus finds singling out his favorite major win, however, a bit more challenging.
"I think that obviously you can't pick your favorite child or the favorite golf course you did. I can't really pick a favorite major," he said. "I think they were all significant and all my favorites. Every time I won one, it was certainly my favorite at the time."
Here's a preview trailer for the film:
As you watch the rest of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, here's the guy who decides what you're actually seeing
Roy, 55, has won 29 Emmys over his career, including the best sports broadcast of the year for the 2008 U.S. Open coverage of Tiger's win at Torrey Pines. The University of Arizona graduate began working at NBC in the late 1970s as a runner during coveage of the Tucson Open and has gone on to cover some of sports' biggest moments, including three Super Bowls as executive producer, the Olympics, NBA Finals, World Series and many more.
Roy will be busy in the next few weeks as NBC/Golf Channel broadcast the final three FedEx Cup events of the 2013-14 season and all three days of the Ryder Cup for the first time. We spoke to him last week for Golf Digest Stix about the FedEx Cup, Ryder Cup, Tiger Woods and even John Elway. Here's an extended version of that Q&A.
Golf Digest Stix: What separates a golf telecast from other sports?
Roy: The biggest thing is that it's not on one court or one field. Golf is played out on 18 holes spread out over acres of property. So logistically it's much more challenging. And the competition never stops. If you're doing a football game, when you go to a commercial, they're not playing. In golf, it becomes much more complicated to go to break. You try to do it while the leaders are walking in between shots so you don't miss anything crucial. But inevitably, you do. And of course, during commercial breaks in football or basketball, you can catch your breath and regroup before the action starts, then you're ready to get going. But in golf, you're working during the break to figure out what we're coming out of the break with, if we're going to be live or if we're going to show a shot or putt on tape delay. So there's that factor.
And then one of the biggest things is the number of athletes in a golf event. If you're doing, say, a Denver Broncos game, you absolutely know the storyline coming in is Peyton Manning. But if you're doing a golf event, you have hundreds of players, and so coming into it you're preparing yourself for hundreds of stories that could unfold over the final days. But that's where our announcers do such a great job. Bringing out the stories in these events, and giving our viewers a reason to care about these athletes.
Golf Digest Stix: Given all those differences, do you think golf's the most difficult to broadcast?
Roy: Other than the Olympics, I think it is the most difficult to cover. And the only reason that the Olympics tops it is the sheer size, and you have a thousand athletes spread out over multiple cities. That's just gets even more massive with everything that you're doing. Auto racing, too, is very difficult when you have to stop and go to commercial. And I've been an executive producer on a Daytona 500, so I know how that works. I definitely think golf is the second most difficult to do.
Golf Digest Stix: NBC has covered the FedEx Cup for a while now. Given the complexities of the points standings and players advancing to the next event, what are some ways you try to make it sensible to the viewer on TV?
Roy: I think graphically, you have to keep explaining it over and over and over again. Every single telecast since this has been in existence, we've been pointing it out in the graphics. We've made green and red good and bad, whether you'll make it to the next week. We literally go back to square one every single telecast just to re-explain to people, to tell people what the graphics are explaining. And then once we get to the Tour Championship, we bring in Steve Sands to further explain it. We were using the Tim Russert white board originally to help the people at home to understand it.
I remember the year that Phil Mickelson won the Tour Championship but Tiger won the FedEx Cup [in 2009], we had explained it ad nausea, in what I thought was an effective way. After we got off the air, I actually talked to my mom and I asked her, "You knew how that whole thing worked, right?" That Phil won the event but Tiger won the Cup, and she said, "Nope. I had no idea." So I realized then that we hadn't done a good enough job. That's when we brought in Steve to do the Tim Russert thing, and I can say that since then, my mom has understood it, so I feel pretty certain that the average viewer gets it now.
Golf Digest Stix: Mom knows best, right?
Roy: Yeah, it's true.
Roy: A regular stroke-play event plays out over four days. But in the Ryder Cup, every single point is just as valuable as every other point. So you have all these mini tournaments that are lasting 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Just a normal day of stroke-play golf on a Thursday or Friday might get tedious on a given week, but in the Ryder Cup, there's finality after the morning session, after the afternoon session, and then golf on Saturday and Sunday.
And there's much more emotion generated at the Ryder Cup than virtually any tour event, and I'd say even greater than most majors. You're sitting in the production truck and you hear a huge roar. If I'm doing a stroke-play event, I can look at the monitor right away and know right away where it came from. But in this, I'm scanning the monitors and I'm not seeing anything. And all that happened was the fans reacting to a scoreboard change from another match and they let out a roar. It's great drama and great energy. And I have to say, the European fans are the ones who really bring the energy. All of that chanting and cheering irritates the American fans, so they try to respond. So it's great stuff.
Golf Digest Stix: When something big is happening at a Ryder Cup and you feel the electricity on the course, how does that play out in the truck?
Roy: Well, you have to stay impartial. We can't be rooting. But I will say that certainly when the energy level on the course is at its highest, our announcers can feel that, so they go up. And consequently, our energy level in the truck goes up too. It's just natural. But at a Ryder Cup on a Sunday, we are rocking in the truck. Because you have all these matches going on, and key shots are happening in multiple matches at the same time, we're bouncing back and forth. The thing is, there's a lot more information for our announcers to spit out. So it's not, "To 17, Tiger for birdie." It's: "Tiger for birdie, his opponent missed his birdie attempt and still has a four-footer for par. And the match is all square." So there's a lot more information you need to get out for the viewer to understand the full situation. What I'm saying in the announcers ears pretty much doubles during the Ryder Cup.
Golf Digest Stix: For the average TV viewer just watching and not appreciating what's going on behind the scenes, what's one thing that maybe they aren't aware of that gos on to have a successful show?
Roy: When you're sitting at home watching a golf telecasts, and the announcers are talking in a low, muted voice, and the fans are hushed, in the truck, it's LOUD. It's semi-chaotic and people are shocked when they come into the truck what's going on. But because there are so many storylines, so many players, so many balls in play spread out all over the place, there's so much communication that's required to get everything on the air.
Golf Digest Stix: Being that you've produced Super Bowls, NBA championships, the Olympics, what have been your favorite broadcasting moments?
Roy: I have a few. I got to produce Michael Jordan's first three championships. That's when the NBA was absolutely electric. In primetime, these games were just incredible. And then, getting to produce the Super Bowl when John Elway finally won it after losing three of them [XXXII]. Getting a chance to do three Super Bowls, you know you have every eyeball in the United States who has any interest in sports at one particular time. That's probably the only time I've felt a little bit of pressure is doing that Super Bowl. I love being on the air and I really never feel any butterflies or anything. But I did for that Super Bowl for that one time.
But, the greatest thing I've had the chance to do was working when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal [at the Beijing Olympics in 2008]. That was one of the things that, maybe someone back in the day had some rare feat, but it wasn't documented. I consider Phelps to be the single greatest sports accomplishment of any individual. Those events were beyond description and how cool it was to be a part of that.
Golf Digest Stix: Wow, as a sports fan, we're on the edge of our seats watching these historic events, but you're the one controlling what we're watching. It's so cool.
Roy: Absolutely. And by the way, Tiger Woods in 2008 U.S. Open is right up there. I remember going off the air on Friday, he had played great and we had a terrific telecast. It was a combination of ESPN and NBC, and we all thought it was great. And then Saturday topped that -- that's when he eagled 13 and 18 and chipped in at 17. That usually doesn't happen with a U.S. Open because the course is set up so hard. But I remember getting off the air on Saturday thinking, 'If only this was the final round, it'd be the greatest thing ever.' But then Sunday topped Saturday, and then the Monday playoff topped it all. It was like four consecutive days of absolutely incredible drama.
Yep, the cable network tackled Babe's story of being a pioneer in women's golf during an episode of the parody show "Drunk History." Here's the hilarious clip that actually teaches viewers a fair amount of Zaharias history, from her prolific winning, to her relationship with fellow golfer Betty Dodd, to helping found the LPGA. "L stands for Ladies. It's pretty genius."
Great job by Emily Deschanel (co-star of "Bones") in the video, although we're pretty sure the real Babe had a better golf swing. . .
PINEHURST, NC -- If you can't make to the Sandhills this week for the U.S. Open, the coverage options are more plentiful than ever, including a more robust satellite-radio presence. In an effort to make your life as easy as possible, here's a simple guide to the week's official broadcasts. And remember, if you are a mobile/tablet user, get those U.S. Open, WatchESPN and NBCSports apps updated and ready to go!
Subscriber only, yes, so if you aren't on board with satellite radio, scroll on by. But for those who are, you know that Sirius/XM is suddenly all-in on golf coverage after years allowing PGA Tour Radio to barely survive.
XM Channel 93/Sirius 208 will carry ESPN Radio coverage all four days: Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET, Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. ET until the conclusion of play.
All of Sirius/XM's new programming will include U.S. Open coverage, anchored by a two-hour preview from Crenshaw on Golf Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Ben Crenshaw and co-host Ed Clements will talk about the course, its restoration and what to expect this week.
Matt Adams and former PGA TOUR pro John Maginnes host a special U.S. Open Preview show Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET, Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET, and Saturday and Sunday from 12-2 p.m. ET leading into the tournament broadcast. U.S. Open Replay, hosted by Taylor Zarzour and Brian Katrek, will air each evening after tournament play-by-play.
ESPN Radio can be accessed online at ESPNRadio.com or via the ESPN Radio app.
After 33 years, the network covers first- and second-round coverage of U.S. Open for the final time Thursday and Friday. As always, the coverage windows are broken up by two hours of NBC coverage, which, if nothing else, allows viewers to take a break from Chris Berman's antics. The times for ESPN's coverage:
Thursday and Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ET and 5-7 pm ET. Edited encore presentations each night at 8 p.m. ET.
SportsCenter at the U.S. Open will air hour-long broadcasts Tuesday and Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN, and Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN News.
For those at work, the ESPN tournament broadcast will be available via the WatchESPN app and online by searching WatchESPN. Cable subscription required.
This is the easiest schedule to remember: NBC airs two-hour blocks on the network Thursday and Friday from 3-5 p.m. ET.
Saturday coverage is from noon-7:30 pm ET. Sunday's final round is from noon until the completion of play. A special send-off for NBC's final U.S. Open broadcast is planned.
Expect Johnny, Dan, Rog, Gary and Rolfing to get a little emotional Sunday when they say sayonara to a championship they so clearly love covering.
The network supplements coverage from NBC and ESPN with pre- and post-round programming. Brandel won't have Tiger to pick on, but you can bet the on-site insights will flow from the usual suspects.
Morning Drive airs Monday through Wednesday starting at 7 a.m. ET, and at 6 a.m. ET Thursday through Sunday.
Live From the U.S. Open originates from a set overlooking the clubhouse at Pinehurst and begins the week with pre-tournament player news conferences and airs throughout the week before and after tournament play.
Monday: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and from 7 to 8:30 pm ET.
Tuesday and Wednesday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. ET.
Thursday and Friday: 7-9 a.m. ET and 7-9 p.m. ET
Saturday and Sunday: 8-11 a.m. ET and 7:30-9:30 p.m. ETFollow @GeoffShac/a>
Despite what you might have heard, Johnny Miller says he's got a whole lot of broadcasting left in him
By Ed Sherman
Forget the notion of Johnny Miller retiring any time soon.
On Thursday, Miller put to rest any talk that with NBC losing the U.S. Open TV contract, it might cause him to call it a career when his own contract expires next year. The 67-year-old analyst said he would like to extend his deal for three more years, taking him through 2018. He added, “I sure hope it is with NBC.”
“My brain still is working, and I enjoy doing it,” said Miller (above with NBC play-by-play man Dan Hicks).
Like everyone else on the NBC golf team, Miller was jolted when the network lost the U.S. Open to Fox Sports, which takes over coverage in 2015. There had been speculation that Miller, the ’73 Open winner who reveres the championship, might pick this time to sign off from the booth. NBC will broadcast its last Open at Pinehurst in June.
Perhaps an even bigger factor, Miller cited the comfort level he feels in working with the NBC golf team, headed by producer Tommy Roy.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dan Hicks, Gary Koch, Mark Rolfing, Roger Maltbie, everybody,” Miller said. “Everyone really works hard to do a good job. Dan has been so valuable to me. [Golf Channel managing editor and NBC golf associate producer Gil Capps] brings me to a new level. Everything is comfortable in a really good way.”
Photo: Getty Images
By Ron Sirak
For a network that has never televised golf in the United States, Fox Sports is already proving to be one shrewd customer, but I guess we already knew that.
The plan seems to be that when there aren't a lot of big-name events to get, get a big name -- and in Greg Norman it lassoed one of the biggest. Now that relationship has produced its first reward.
Almost a year before it televises its first USGA national championship, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at The Olympic Club May 2-6, 2015, Fox Sports said Wednesday it will air this year's Franklin Templeton Shootout, a 25-year-old unofficial stop hosted by Norman in December at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Fla.
Earlier this month, Fox said Norman would work as its lead analyst along side play-by-play man Joe Buck at four of the 15 USGA championships next year when the 12-year, $1.1 billion contract kicks in. Now it has one of the oldest and most prestigious Challenge Season events on its broadcast roster.
"From my perspective, this is a dynamic move for us," Norman said in making the announcement. "This is the most exciting announcement we have had in the 26 years I have been running this event."
Fox also showed its willingness to innovate, moving the finish of the shootout from Sunday to Saturday, away from its NFL programming.
"They say good things come in bunches," said Fox Sports Co-COO Eric Shanks. "We were able to further out relationship with Greg Norman and will have the Franklin Templeton Shootout on Fox Sports1 and on Fox for three years. It will be Joe and Greg's first tournament together on FOX."
The Shootout, a 54-hole team event, has been around since 1989 with Harris English and Matt Kuchar (above) claiming last year's title. The first round is modified alternate shot; the second 18 holes is better ball and thefinal round is played as a scramble. Over the years, the tournament has been broadcast by CBS, USA Network and, most recently, Golf Channel and NBC.
Getting the Franklin Templeton Shootout is an important step for Fox as it begins to develop its golf coverage. The network's issue as it attempts to gain a foothold in the sport is that there simply aren't going to be that many available golf properties for a while.
The PGA Tour is signed with NBC, CBS and Golf Channel through 2021. CBS has the PGA Championship through 2019, and ESPN has the British Open through 2017. The LPGA signed a 10-year deal with Golf Channel in 2009.
And soon after NBC, which has televised USGA events for 20 years, lost the TV contract to Fox it locked up the Ryder Cup, a lucrative property co-owned by the PGA of America, through 2030.
The interesting prize out there is the big one: the Masters. Augusta National has operated on a series of one-year agreements with CBS since 1956, and likes it that way, leaving money on the table to have yearly leverage on the telecast. The Masters early round coverage with ESPN is also on a one-year basis.
Aside from the Franklin Templeton Shootout, Fox will get its game in shape for the USGA's flagship event, the U.S. Open, by first televising the Four-Ball and then the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes Resort May 9-13.
Then comes the big kahuna. Next year's U.S. Open, the first real test for Fox golf coverage, is June 18-21 at Chambers Bay in Washington.
Still at question is whether the Franklin Templeton event will be the debut tournament for Fox Sports or whether it will try to stage another event sooner, perhaps even at Chambers Bay.
"They will get as much time in rehearsal as we can not for broadcast before and after the shootout," Shanks said. "Will be have all the bells and whistles ready by December? No. But we will be ready next June."
Clearly, though, the pieces to this puzzle are staring to take shape. Fox still needs to hire more golf broadcasters and perhaps get some more events but, if there was ever any doubt, this much is clear: Fox is here as a major player in the game.
And in Norman they have more than a broadcast employee; they have a business partner.
Photo: AP Images