Long drive, no Bones and an all-female crew

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Bryson DeChambeau was in the news again this past week as he competed in the World Long Drive Championship and finished a very respectable 7th. Despite BDC’s glowing tributes to the athletes and sport of Long Drive, and his commitment to compete again, is this sport anything more than a novelty act?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Long driving competitions always conjure up an image of Popeye and Bluto competing over who can smash the deadweight up to the bell first.  (Younger readers may have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about here.)  And as such, I think of these contests as silly side shows.  Good for DeChambeau, but please pass the Sominex.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: DeChambeau is searching for his ‘real’ self. So far, he has played normal TOUR golf, reconfigured that game, changed his physique, had an open-to-the-public spat with another player (seldom ever done), insulted just about everyone available and now seems to have undergone a personality transplant from the lessons he learned playing golf. Most retired athletes take-up golf après career. Bryson might be the first one to use golf as a springboard to the WWF or maybe even the NFL.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I don’t have much interest in the Long Drive competitions, despite how impressive it is.  I’ll admit that I had a bit more interest with BDC in the field, just to see how he stacked up, and again, very impressive.  But I don’t need to see any more Long Drive competitions for a while.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s the WWE of golf, and won’t ever make it out of that remote casino town in the Nevada desert. He tried his best to pimp it, but unless the finals are up against all-star bowling, it won’t to make a blip in the TV ratings, and that’s all that matters. It ain’t going to pay Per View. But his making it to the end of the week was amazing.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s pro golf’s version of the Home Run Derby or the Slam Dunk contest. One and done on Golf Channel is fine; any more segments and it needs to move to the Circus Channel with cage fighting and WWE.

Justin Thomas and long-time caddie Jimmie Johnson have split after six years together, and it has been announced that former Phil Mickelson caddie and current NBC on-course reporter Jim “Bones” Mackay will replace him on the bag. That leaves a hole in NBC’s starting line-up. Who do you think would be a suitable replacement?

Deeks: I thought Bones did a very creditable job as an on-course reporter, and he’ll be missed.  There are hundreds of current and former players who might replace Bones, and who might well be as good or better.  I’m sure there are many former caddies as well, who could have some great anecdotes if given the chance to tell them.  But here’s someone who pops into my mind: Luke Donald.  I see he’s still playing, and struggling, years after his very respectable 56-week stint as No. 1 in the world, a decade ago.  He’s articulate, interesting, and likeable, and might well enjoy the salary and prestige of being on the NBC crew.

Schurman: Phil Mickelson.

Rule: It’s a bit of a shame that Bones isn’t going to be on NBC anymore, he is very good and provided an insider’s view that few can replicate.  Can Jimmie Johnson speak as eloquently?  If so, maybe they can just flip-flop. Otherwise, I would like to see Colt Knost, he’s very good as well.

Quinn: The last guy I really liked on golf TV — before his agent made the gaffe of asking for too much money — was Jim Nelford. He was so solid, concise, insightful, and articulate (well, he’s a Canadian, eh?). Right now, in the throws of the “wrap around” without an event worth watching for months, the idea of ‘less is more’ is attractive. Don’t replace Bones — he was really good at the start, then became more and more repetitive and docile nodding to the ties in the booth — and instead let abused viewers hear the wind rustle the trees and caddies (maybe even Bones) talk about the shot with their player. Ahh faagettaboutitt. In the ego driven TV biz, right decisions and miracles don’t happen.

Mumford: I’m with Quinn on this one; don’t replace him at all. There’s already way too many voices on a broadcast and way too much verbiage, much of it unnecessary. If they must replace Bones, others have suggested Colt Knost. That’s ok. He’s funny and knowledgeable. So too is John Woods, Matt Kuchar’s former caddie. Give him a bigger role. Or bring back Johnny Miller. Still none better.

Coverage of the Shoprite LPGA Classic was handled by an all-female crew on Golf Channel last week featuring Cara Banks, Judy Rankin, Karen Stupples, Paige Mackenzie and Kay Cockerill. What was your reaction to the coverage, and did we learn anything from it that might be applied to regular coverage of the PGA Tour?

Deeks: Until you mentioned it, I didn’t really take notice of the fact it was an all-female crew.  I’ve always been a supporter of female voices, especially on the LPGA telecasts; but I also think Dottie Pepper does a great job on NBC broadcasts of men’s Tour events.  In fact, Kay Cockerill would do a fine job replacing Bones MacKay.  To answer your question, though, I don’t know that there were any “lessons” to be learned from the LPGA telecast — perhaps other than, it was good coverage, and I personally didn’t miss Terry Gannon, Jerry Foltz, or the other guy, at all.

Schurman: I didn’t think there was an appreciable difference. The lady announcers on regular TV coverage are highly respected by their male counterparts and therefore garner significant airtime. In fact, Judy Rankin is one of the most respected announcers male or female.

Rule: I’ll be honest, I was at the Rogers Centre cheering on my beloved Blue Jays and then home to watch the Red Sox break my heart, so I didn’t see any of the LPGA on Sunday.  However, I do like each of those ladies, they all bring something different to the telecast.  I like the idea of the all-female crew and I hope they give it a fair shot.  As far as the PGA Tour learning something from it, I’ll have to watch a bit more to have an opinion on that.

Quinn: Any broadcast without Gary Koch (Mr. Serial Interruptus) and Paul Azinger (Mr. It’s Nerves) is a win for all golf fans without mute buttons. Still, they were wise to get two accents — one Brit, one Scot — to conjure gravitas and temper the Americanisms. Rankin is always a pleasure. But it did beg the question — why are all other LPGA Tour events handled (sic) by a majority of male talking heads? It makes no sense and does not make for easy listening. This phoney stunt had all the seriousness and import of Condi Rice being named a member of Augusta National. That it was trumpeted as breakthrough was embarrassing to thinking women, and men, everywhere.

Mumford: Cara Banks did a fantastic job of hosting, and the on-course crew were informative and succinct. Their male counterparts should pay attention to the succinct part. Also, Judy Rankin is in a class by herself. As lead analyst or colour commentator or whatever they call her role, she’s brilliant. Her professionalism and objectivity demonstrate how that role can contribute in a significant way when done right. NBC and CBS should be looking to upgrade their lead analyst roles immediately.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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