Analyzing Golf’s Analysts

Love them or hate them golf’s analysts are always a part of the telecast, I take a look at the current crop of analysts and give my thoughts.

Thrash TalkAsk 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 and Nick Faldo

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.

12 thoughts on “Analyzing Golf’s Analysts”

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more.
    I saw Azinger on Feherty and from that, I hope he gets a shot on NBC. We need an analyst who speaks their mind, not playing it safe.

  2. What about Frank Nobilo, for golf channel? Honestly, he may be my favorite. As you said, he kind of just let’s the action happen. He’s very even tempered and provides good insight throughout the broadcast. He’s not controversial, but not boring either. I like when the announcers don’t really affect the action, or make themselves the focal point (Hello Miller, Faldo?). Nobilo might be number one in my book.

  3. I like Frank Nobilo. He talks the right amount and understands the ball flight laws. He’s taken the time to study the latest technology to analyse the golf swing/ball flight.

  4. I am very much in agreement with you uttexas. Nobilo is very good. I am happy to see that NBC has increased his work with tower duty on the telecasts, I hope that continues.

  5. What about the analyists and color guys who we actual hear from regularly…? You mentioned Miller, Faldo, then two guys who are barely relevant (as of right now) in the larger scheme of golf coverage.

    Personally, I think Faldo is the worst ever… he is extremely obnoxious and self-absorbed on-air… begs the question if he might be like that in real life ( 😉 )

    He is entirely incapable of being the least bit self-deprecating… and when you’re covering an event for 5 plus hours, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. Most of his “analysis” is centered around the “right” and the “wrong” of player’s technique, course management (all in comparison to his own Leadbetter theories and coming from a guy who played with the flair and imagination of a calculus teacher).

    I’m sure you guys can recall the many moments of him and Terry Gannon on camera: Gannon asks Faldo a simple question and he goes OFF on a confusing, repetitive tangent– often saying the same answer/phrase three or more times… with Gannon trying awkwardly to move it along, staring at his producer with a “what am I supposed to do?” look.

    Aside from Faldo, I like that GC has brought Notah Begay III for full time for on-course reporting. He’s in the same era as Tiger/Els and has great relationships with all the players. Unfortunetly, McCord seems like he’s done with commentating and the bureaucracy of GC– not knowing when to stop rambling. His stuff is usually funny and refreshing, but he is tending to take it overboard lately as if he’s the “irreverant Faldo.” Feherty picks his moments extremely well and is obviously TGC’s shining prince. Curt Byrum is a straightshooter and gives good info usually. Trip “Hawk” Isenhour once killed a hawk after hitting several Titleists in its direction, but is quite likeable as an analyist. I’m happy that Kelly “K-Tilz” Tilghman seems to have taken a lesser role this season (thanks to the fast improving Ryan Burr)… Thankfully Brandel Chamblee has toned his Tiger-taunting rhetoric down (naturally)– and is consistently the most well spoken and thought-provoking of the whole bunch. I wish he’d stop using the words “Triumverate” and “The Great Ben Hogan once said…”

    Lastly, David Marr (the doofy guy who asks the Champions Tour guys “what’s it like..?”) needs to get notched down to “key grip” or “bagel fetcher.” This guy has actually made me feel sorry for Steve Pate.

    Gary Koch has a terrible voice.

  6. Also– Have to agree that Nobilo is the bomb. Like a poster said, he actually understands how clubs work and the physics of ball flight and such… the opposite is Johnny Miller who spews forth his “closed face hooks” and “left the face open slice” nonsense. Callaway needs to introduce him to Joey Trackman.

  7. Johnny Miller is the epitome of a pompous wind-bag. His haughty, elitist views saturate his worthless commentary. To say that Miller is a better analyst than Faldo is an absolute crock. Wait, I guess Johnny Miller does serve some purpose… he actually gives me something to dislike about golf.

    Faldo is a breath of fresh air. I can’t believe some of the overall views and opinions towards him actually. I know you said you liked him, but what a low blow to put him a notch under Miller. That alone should discredit this entire article, and that’s a fair comment. Talks too much, really? As opposed to what… letting Johnny Miller belittle and condescend everyone but the leader?

    Johnny Miller is just a self-righteous old man with nothing to contribute but his high and mighty opinions. He’s reminds me of a cross between David Duchovny and Donald Trump.

  8. I find both Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo to be excellent analysts, neither afraid to make a critical comment. And, no, I don’t think Faldo talks too much. I would also add that I did not think Venturi was very good. I found him inarticulate and boring at times.

    Finally, Mr. Hepp, you need an editor, to wit, you end with “us golfers” when it should read, “we golfers”.

  9. I agree with M. Hepp’s analysis. Miller’s the best, followed by Faldo. Before Johnny Miller, all we ever heard was, “he still has some work to do” or “if it’s the right club!” or “he really misread that putt”. Really!?! How many times have we heard those same tired phrases? (We still hear them too often). He totally changed the way we listen to a golf tournament.

    Also, do these guys really not understand the ball flight laws, or do they just not believe their lyin’ eyes? It’s their business to know how a ball is affected by the club. How can they still ignore what has been proven by high speed digital photography and trackman? I think they are consciously ignoring it or maybe they think it’s too complicated for the average golfing viewer.

  10. johnny miller is an absolute d-bag. Michael, you have your head a mile up your ass if you’re ranking him number one. figure it out man

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