NBC began its coverage of the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday with a patriotic piece befitting a U.S. Open played in the shadow of the nation's capital that contained one glaring omission: The words "under God" from a kids' recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Did it think no one would notice? Many apparently were paying attention, prompting a mid-show apology from anchor Dan Hicks.
"We began our coverage of this final round about three hours ago," Hicks said, "and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation's capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone. And we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it."
In fact, it omitted the words twice in separate recitations of the Pledge in the opening piece, suggesting it was done, if not with malice, at least intentionally. And however one feels about the Pledge, common sense ought to have informed its decision. Omitting the words guaranteed a backlash.
-- Give NBC credit for getting Jack Nicklaus on the phone to talk about McIlroy, when he was playing the 14th hole, victory imminent. Earlier this year, over lunch, Nicklaus counseled McIlroy on how to close out tournaments.
"Rory's a very, very talented young man," Nicklaus said. "He obviously plays very well, obviously had a couple of disappointments in the Masters and the British Open. I didn't think it would happen again and it didn't."
"He's got a great golf swing. His rhythm is so beautiful. It just stays the same all the time. He doesn't try to kill it...He obviously has a great short game."
When Hicks informed Nicklaus that McIlroy won his first major at a younger age (by months) than Nicklaus had been when he won the Open at 22, Nicklaus replied, "He's ahead of my major pace and his score is way ahead of my pace."
-- Several minutes later, Greg Norman weighed in with a text to Jimmy Roberts.
"He says, 'Europe lost a genius this year,' referring to Seve Ballesteros," Roberts said, "'but has found his replacement. Pure genius and display of the most natural golf ability we've seen in a very, very long time.'"
-- Finally, Tiger Woods was heard from, via a statement read by Hicks: "Heck of a performance. Looks pretty comfortable that Rory will raise the U.S. Open trophy. Congrats and well done. Enjoy it. This was an impressive performance."
-- The dreaded C word came out early in McIlroy's round Sunday, after Dan Hicks noted that McIlroy had slept on the lead six nights in his last seven major championship rounds.
"Lot of pressure he's put on himself," Johnny Miller said in response. "Maybe that's prepared him. But I'll tell you, I'm going to be watching him like a hawk to see how he handles the pressure. I feel like I could teach choke-ology 101 at Harvard."
-- Gary Koch: "It's so rare to see a player with every aspect of his game near the absolute best of what they do. We're seeing it with him."
-- Let the Tiger-McIlroy comparisons begin.
"His dad is always very positive, supportive," Hicks said, speaking of McIlroy's parents. "His mother is the tough one, we understand."
"Like Tiger's mother, huh?" Miller replied.
-- "Roger, you coined the phrase," Miller said, presumably referring to Maltbie's call during Tiger's waltz in the 2000 U.S. Open that "this is just not a fair fight."
"It's a little goose-bumpy," Roger Maltbie replied. "Every shot you assume birdie. It's very impressive. Here's a young man playing absolutely as good of golf as can be played right now."
-- Miller broke down McIlroy's swing and concluded with this: "That's too good to talk about. Man that looks good."
-- Long telecasts of a one-man show apparently causes a shortage of superlatives to describe McIlroy.
"You are seeing a potential super, super, super, superstar in the making," Hicks said after McIlroy hit it to inches at the par-3 10th.
-- John Strege