Mic'd up players, quick stops in front of camera: Golf set to reinvent broadcasting in COVID-19 times
While the players will still try to play each hole in the least number of strokes like they have since we have known golf, all else around them will be different, as the action returns to the Colonial for the Charles Schwab Challenge this week.
This may be a defining moment in golf. This could be ‘new age’ golf played with ‘traditional’ rules. While the players will still try to play each hole in the least number of strokes like they have since we have known golf, everything else around them will be different, as the action returns to the Colonial for the Charles Schwab Challenge this week.
For one there will be no spectators; no marquees laden with rich guests brought in by sponsors; no handshakes, no high-fives and so on. The latest golf lexicon instead has new entries as a result of the pandemic.
Even broadcasting, the soul of the sport in a manner of speaking for it brings in not just the money but also the fans, will change dramatically.
Jim Nantz, the voice of golf on TV telecasts, will be at Fort Worth, the venue of the event, while analyst Nick Faldo will be “miles away” in Orlando and giving his views. In short, the two will not be seated next to each other as they always have.
“This is one of the great challenges I’ve seen ever in my 30 or 35 years of broadcasting the sport,” Nantz said during a conference call with reporters. “I will be there alone,” he said.
As the broadcasters try to reduce the staff on-site to about half, Nantz will not be face-to-face with his crew and producers, as a whole lot of new changes kick in during the coverage as golf returns after three months. The last time a PGA Tour competitive round took place was the first day of The Players before the event was cancelled after the first round.
As for the new plans for coverage, CBS network has requested many players to wear mikes, so that viewers can hear what they say while on course. But it will be totally up to the players to accept or turn down that request.
They have also been requested to make quick stops in front of an unmanned camera and give a few thoughts about the game in progress. Those clips will likely be used as short clips later in the broadcast. However, golfers can turn down either or both requests.
The crew and backroom staff have been working on various possibilities for almost two months preparing for the return and it is time now.
As part of a massive logistical exercise, staff handling graphics, editing, replays and more will be stationed in Golf Channel studios in Orlando, Los Angeles, New York, Stamford, Conn., and as far as New Zealand. CBS Sports will add more mobile units and reconfigure its trucks to provide more space for personnel on-site.
Clearly golf wants to use the advantage it enjoys over other sports in that it can be played with players maintaining a fair distance between each other, unlike sports like football, basketball and more, which require contact.
The PGA Tour also plans multicast Twitter coverage with various commentators, ranging from legendary golfers to athlete celebrities and showbiz celebs, too.
At the recent charity matches, including one which pitted Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady, the players had mikes and cameras on their carts. But with the Tour events being the ‘real deal’, that will not happen as a matter of fact, but only if the players are willing. Generally, pros are in their own “bubble’ with their own thoughts and exchanges with their caddies, and do not like being disturbed, especially by the fans while they are hitting shots. But they do like the adulation for a great shot.
Crowd reactions are part of the charm of golf, but now there will be no crowds. So, will the golfers be able to cope with the deafening silence? Let’s wait and watch this week, as golf resumes its journey on the PGA Tour.