I am a bit of a golfer (but there will be no conversation about exactly what bit I might be, thank you very much!) and do enjoy watching the fantastic play that the various pro tours put on display week after week. These golfers perform at a way different level and in a different world from we recreational golfers and their skill levels are only to be marveled at.
Yes, the conditions they play under are as near to perfect as they can be, yes, they have the best equipment available and yes, they have have a caddy (often a very accomplished golfer in their own right) to ease their burden and to provide them with the very best data and advice to aid in decisions about any particular shot, BUT to maintain the standards they do day after day and week after week is real testament to their commitment, ability and athleticism. They are GREAT!
Watching the ‘Humana Challenge’ (I think used to be the ‘Bob Hope Classic‘) from LaQuinta in California on TV this morning I was struck by the dis-service the coverage of golf in the US does to these great golfers. You might think my use of ‘dis-service’ to be unreasonable but perhaps this will help me justify that. I decided to take note of how much live golf is actually shown so I kept a tally sheet for exactly 15 minutes. This is what I discovered-
IN THAT 15 MINUTE PERIOD I SAW 6 LIVE STROKES – (Tee-shots, fairway shots, shots from rough or hazard)
IN THAT 15 MINUTE PERIOD I SAW 8 LIVE PUTTS
Some might think that 14 separate bits of live action isn’t all that bad, but if you consider that the average time spent showing a stroke ranges from 5 to 8 seconds (less for a putt, perhaps more for a stroke down the fairway) that gives a total live coverage of just 1min20secs or so! LESS THAN 10%!! That’s a joke!
The remainder of the time is not taken up with adverts, as you might imagine, rather it was to do with descriptions of the courses being played (we can probably work that out watching the play), leader-boards (but seldom showing more than the top 20!), trumpet-blowing of sponsors or administrators, history (flash-backs) and unrelated ‘journalism’ (what a notable did on their holidays, what this personality or that thinks of this or that), and so-on. Oh! and that interminable Fedex Cup stuff.
As this morning’s coverage unfolded they also showed segment’s of an interview with ex-president Bill Clinton, repeated vignettes of a notable in the field- for this tournament it seems to be Phil Mickleson (it doesn’t matter that the chosen notable isn’t one of the leading performers, you get to see stats, profiles and ‘oh what a good boy am I’ quotes, etc..)
What a breath of fresh-air the European Tour events are to watch. Admittedly the USPGA tour is the richest and no small amount of this is due to the level of sponsorship, but you don’t get to be a euro-millionaire playing for peanuts. The European tour events still carry (increasingly) good purses yet they are able to be presented on television as largely non-stop live golf (still of a quality just as good as the USPGA). If I had a choice I would be watching the McIlroys, Donalds, Poulters, Himinezes, Garcias and their European buddies rather than the Woodses, Micklesons, Furicks, Villegases, Watsons and theirs. Pity the opportunity doesn’t exist until the odd WGC event or The Open Championship– maybe Sky could do me a favour and broadcast more live European golf and I can utilise the dinky wee black box with the sexy blue eye!!
Oh! Did I mention the blardy awful background music they use when away from live coverage (and as they are away from live coverage on a regular basis it isn’t something you can really ignore!)
A wee post-script. I am NOT one of those golf-geeks who sidle into shot behind an on-air interview with a player, stand around looking like an absolute dork and (I bet) in their own mind by association project themselves into the pro’s world. I think the TV company should choose ‘sets’ to do post-round interviews that don’t include such gormless looking wannabes.
A wee post-post script. I said “this morning” but the sad thing is that this is going to apply tomorrow morning, the next morning, and every other morning USPGA coverage is on! Annoy-making.
A final post-post-post script. To check the accuracy of my data I did the same exercise this morning. Over another timed 15min period I saw 8 live shots down the fairway and 8 live putts.