Ask most non-golfers and they’ll tell you watching golf on TV is boring. That’s likely because without knowing how difficult it is to hit a four iron to fifteen feet under the pressure of tournament golf, it’s hard to appreciate the achievement. Add to this the announcers doing most of the talking spits out so much golf jargon during the telecast that most non-golfers would either be interested to learn more or totally turned off. Most fall into the latter group.
Still, somebody has to talk during the telecast, and currently golf has some decent personalities doing the talking. Later I will do a story on the lead announcers like Jim Nantz, but for now I want to focus on the analysts. To qualify for a golf analyst you need to have had a moderately successful golf career and it doesn’t hurt if you are slightly controversial and willing to speak your mind.
For CBS golf coverage most of the analyst work is done by Nick Faldo. Faldo is of course a very successful golfer. Six majors and a knighthood means you are going to garner some respect. I think overall Faldo is one of the best CBS has had in recent years. CBS for many years during my youth was done by Ken Venturi. Personally I think he is the best and nobody has matched his ability to call the action. CBS did a stint with Lanny Wadkins, and he was decent but he had some really big shoes to fill replacing Venturi, so I never had the feeling Lanny was doing it right. Wadkins could at times give me the feeling he was uncomfortable in the booth. Faldo has done a nice job of adding color about what is going on inside the player’s mind because he was such a steely competitor.
The knock on Faldo is he can drone on a bit, and it is a fair comment. He tends to talk more than he should but to his defense with the advent of slow motion swing analysis that is 25-30 seconds he has to fill without having much time to prepare the analysis he will be doing. The slow motion stuff is great to watch, but in terms of filling time it means we have to listen to Faldo talk about grains of grass that the putt is going over. Overall, I like Faldo he melds well onto the entire CBS team which in my opinion is the best overall broadcast team.
The most controversial analyst has to be Johnny Miller for NBC. In recent years Miller has toned it down, but he used to say some of the craziest stuff. Ben Hogan throwing up watching Craig Perks swing, calling just about anyone who missed a putt a choker, and a host of other shots at players. Personally I like the old Miller better than the softer version we get today. Today he is less controversial, he still gives better than average analysis but he plays it safer than in the past.
Johnny Miller is of course a major winner so he has more than earned his golfing chops and most people either love him or hate him. I believe NBC and he don’t mind this scenario because the majority of the rest of the NBC team is pretty bland. Roger Maltby is really good, but the rest of the team is not nearly as interesting. Don’t get me started on how bad Dan Hicks is, his call at the 2008 US Open when Tiger’s putt went in of, “expect anything different” quite possibly could be the worst call that I have ever witnessed. But like I said, more on that later.
Curtis Strange does some work for ABC, but the ABC team seems to now be splitting the role between Strange and Paul Azinger. So hard for me to determine who is the lead analyst. Add to that the ABC really only covers the Open Championship and we don’t get to see what either of these guys can really do. I think Paul Azinger has some big potential for the role. He is straight from the hip and seems like a sharp guy. He does have a major and probably would have won more if not for the cancer which occurred right in the middle of his prime. Strange for me is good, but a bit bland. I would not rank Strange as one of the best because he plays it safe and tends to avoid any controversial situations. I am hopeful that Azinger gets a chance with one of the major outlets like CBS or NBC and we can really see what he can do.
If I were to rank them, it would be Miller, Faldo, Azinger, and Strange. If Miller spent some time learning a bit more about the ball flight laws I think he could be even better, still if you are getting your instruction from the telecast you likely are doing more harm than good anyways. I think Faldo would do well to go back and watch many of the Venturi telecasts to see how he let the action play out rather than talking through it. Although in his defense he does more and more of that nowadays. Considering all of this we have some of the best analysts working and us golf fans should enjoy them.
Photo credits: © Associated Press.