Credit to Links Magazine for breaking the story via Twitter; Golf.com, Golf Digest and Golfweek quickly followed confirming the story.
I’ve been critical of Fox from the word go, and their 2015 US Open coverage was terrible (the other events they covered were equally poor- their effort with the US Women’s Open was laughably poor). As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, golf is different from the other sports to cover, and no sport would hire a complete outsider with no prior experience and think that they’d do well the first time out (which unfortunately was this country’s national championship), but that speaks mostly to the incompetence and hubris on display at the USGA (who I argued needs to be eliminated entirely).
While Fox is making cuts, I’d offer that letting Joe Buck do baseball full time over the summer would be a good idea as well. He seemed completely out of place hosting their golf coverage and seemed to lack what better hosts do- know how to rely on their analysts. Don’t defend the USGA blindly. Acknowledge what they got right, be critical of what they didn’t, and provide facts and analysis to support this. Buck still doesn’t know how to use his analysts, and has a bad habit of not knowing when to talk and when to let the action speak for itself (I have no idea what he’s like as a person- this isn’t a personal attack on him – I just wish he’d be better in the main role); as I’ve said repeatedly, it was bound to be a failure…and it was.
If I were rebuilding the Fox team, I’d find another host, or use the Golf Channel/NBC team and production (Steve Sands- who’s actually good at this can host if NBC won’t let Dan Hicks host for Fox). Jamie Diaz of Golf Digest has 5 candidates to replace Norman. Read his piece, but I’ll say this: Azinger makes sense, the other four are not going to happen (Chamblee is under contract with Golf Channel/NBC, Woods would be worse than his press conferences (I don’t see him as being someone who’d be quick to be critical of a player- even where appropriate), Nicklaus (who I love) is not suited for that role, and Irwin has never done TV).
If Fox could land Tirico (who’s a decent host/anchor) you could go with someone new in the analyst role, but whoever you pick needs to be able to be critical and be able to actually tell the viewer what they don’t know. I’d shake the trees on Lee Trevino. Trevino might have gone to seed, but he has a sense of humor (good) and I do think the fact that he’s won the damn thing (a US Open) important.
Tirico and Brad Faxon (the best of a decidedly not very good cadre of talking heads) would be interesting.
A Tirico/Azinger pairing would be “getting the band back together” and it’s not a bad idea, but Fox has to pare down the bodies. Having 4 people in a booth at a major is too many. It doesn’t work.
I wouldn’t mind giving Faxon and Azinger a run but with a more experienced hand at the tiller (I mention Tirico because he’s the only ESPN person you see or hear from during their early-round Masters coverage, which otherwise is handled entirely by CBS personnel). So my host preference would be 1) Steve Sands 2) Mike Tirico 3) Someone else not named Joe Buck.
As I said before, they have to be unafraid, where appropriate, to be critical of the USGA. It’s not being petty and spiteful, but if players are complaining about the course, then it merits coverage. Their on-course reporters could have and should have done some work showing specifics. This is not that hard.
The other big change will be at the Open Championship, where thankfully ESPN will no longer be handling things. NBC/Golf Channel will take over (this wasn’t supposed to take place until 2017, but for once ESPN did the right thing and walked away). NBC has already started promoting their coverage (while watching my beloved Liverpool lose yesterday morning to Manchester United (who I detest with every fibre of my body) they had ads in-game promoting that they’d have the Open Championship in July). Good for Golf Channel as they’ve proven they’ll treat the event accordingly (if early rounds are on Golf Channel then good for golf fans). Having said that, I’d really like to see them go to a “Live at” remote studio for at least the US Women’s Open and the ANA Inspiration (the old Dinah Shore)) and bring in some of their big names.
ESPN has long kicked golf to the bin in terms of the coverage that it gives the sport on Sportscenter and other on-air platforms (Jason Sobel does a decent job heading up their online coverage). It feels decidedly similar to how they kicked the NHL to the curb when the NHL went with NBC/OLN after the 2004-05 lockout (they ignore the PGA and LPGA Tours unless Tiger Woods does something, and they ignore the NHL the same way). It’s unfortunate because Pierre Lebrun is a good writer, and Grantland casualty Sean McIdoe is a fellow Leafs fan and a damn fine writer (follow him on Twitter and buy his hilarious book).
Look- making fun of what a complete shit show ESPN has become is low-hanging fruit, but frankly it does call into question their overall lack of judgement. They treat the NFL with kid-gloves rather than be critical of issues like domestic violence, CTE, and other issues that deserve critical coverage, and ignore golf, NASCAR (lost the rights to NBC/FOX so they can screw off), and the NHL (NBC/NBCSN have been somewhat critical of the NHL and should continue to do so). My advice? Stop watching their garbage (their various “have two guys yell at each other” shows are hot takery excrement). You’ll be smarter.
Because of the Olympics the USPGA Championship moves to July, so by the time we get to August all four majors will be handed out, and three of them handed out over a six-week period in June and July. August will have the Olympic tournament in Rio, the FedEx Cup Playoffs start during their normal period, and the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup fall on consecutive weekends, because why not?
The other news is that David Feherty has moved from CBS to Golf Channel/NBC. No word on what his role will look like. As they say, stay tuned. I’m surprised he wasn’t in use during the Hawaii swing on the PGA Tour, and I’ve not read anything indicating he’ll be on Golf Channel during this week’s event in Palm Springs. I’d have to think he ends up being part of their Olympics team in Rio, but we shall see.
Not exactly golf weather in the DMV, but we’ll be there soon enough. I hope.
It’s been a rough week for musicians and actors, but I guess the one that hit home the hardest was David Bowie. He made it okay to be different. Without him, you don’t get the New York Dolls, and (for better or worse) you don’t get KISS (they should send him residuals), and you probably don’t get the punk and post-punk music I still identify with.
Normally I hate remakes, but here’s a video of Bauhaus covering Ziggy Stardust. Enjoy.