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GolfTube: Sizing up the TV coverage of the Dunhill Links

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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The Alfred Dunhill Links Pro-Am Championship was supposed to be a victory lap for the European Ryder Cup team.

Just days after the champagne stopped flowing, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell were back on the course -- hangover and all -- for one of the European Tour's favorite events

With the PGA Tour season officially on the backburner, the Golf Channel (in association with Sky Sports) took the opportunity spotlight the tour's premier pro-am event. Much like Pebble Beach, the Dunhill event had everything: a star-studded field, and a who's who list of courses that included St. Andrews, Kingsbarn and Carnoustie.

While both events look good on television, you could obviously see less strain in the faces of the Euro's this week. Even Kaymer looked relaxed, rolling in a 5-footer to all but seal the Race to Dubai title.

If anything, Sky Sport's coverage of the Dunhill event proved you don't need to show the celebrities every 15 seconds to make the tournament a success.

After all, we choose to spend our time watching the tour coverage on the weekend to see the real professionals, right? If I wanted to see a guy hack the ball around the course for five hours, I'd just record myself playing a round and watch it on Sunday afternoon.

Kid gloves for McIlroy

Don't expect to see a lot of Rory McIlroy on the PGA Tour next year. At least that's what his agent Andrew ‘Chubby' Chandler implied during an on-course interview with the Golf Channel's Rich Lerner on Saturday afternoon.

As Lerner and Chandler were chatting between holes, Chandler made it clear that not burning out McIlroy early in his career is near the top of his to-do list in 2011.

"I think I'm very aware of blowout with Rory," Chandler said, "and we've had a lot of talks about it. The next couple of years he's going to play where he wants to play, because I think he got worn out this year playing a bit too much in America, and I think he may be [burned] out by the time he's 25 or 26 if we're not careful."

That's probably the last thing Tim Finchem wanted to hear as he prepares to roll out the 2011 schedule.

Back and forth

It obviously made sense for the Golf Channel to leave Rich Lerner in Europe for the tournament coverage after spending last week in Wales for the Ryder Cup. While he added a little something extra to the coverage, the addition of commentator Todd Lewis did nothing but confuse viewers.

Instead of allowing Sky Sports to run the coverage, Golf Channel decided to do a hybrid coverage that had anchor Todd Lewis doing coverage by himself -- presumably from the studios in Florida -- and the Sky crew cutting in and out at various points.

It was the equivalent of NBC and CBS sharing golf coverage during an event ... except both happened to be on the air at the exact same time. Sky's crew of Dougie Donnelly, Ken Brown and Dominik Holyer do a world-class job each week.

Why not let them do the entire telecast? It just seemed odd to hear a single commentator one second, and then a completely different crew the next.

What Ryder Cup hangover?

As Lerner and the Sky Sports crew noted, the hangover factor was almost nil less than a week after the Ryder Cup victory.

"So much for a Ryder Cup hangover for your boys over here," Lerner said to the Sky Sports crew. "They've played brilliantly. The good times and the giggles have given way to some pretty serious business here"

Dougie Connelley agreed: "It's impressive. You would have expected some sort of emotional stress after last week, but most of them have been able to put the victory behind them and concentrate on the task at hand.

"Maybe the [Ryder Cup players] can relax and enjoy themselves after last week. But then you take a look at the points in the Race to Dubai and realize that maybe you want to play well this week, even though you're out there having fun."

Mixing it up

The networks covering the Pebble Beach Pro-Am could learn a thing or two from the way Sky Sports broadcast.

Instead of showing just St. Andrews (the marquee of the three courses), the broadcast bounced between Carnoustie and St. Andrews during the week, thereby allowing viewers the opportunity to see high profile names on both courses.

While nobody's ever going to complain about watching golf from Pebble Beach for four days, there have been some complaints in the past that networks have sacrificed coverage of some of the better players for coverage of the Pebble Beach's views.

If Sky Sports can show live coverage from a pro-am event with three courses, then surely CBS or NBC could do the exact same thing.

Cross-handed confusion

It's very rare that a golfer deviates from his usual setup when he's taking a practice swing, but that's exactly what Simon Dyson did during the second round of the championship.

Sky Sports' Dominik Holyer made the observation while Dyson was on the 16th hole: "That's a strange practice; it looks like he's swinging cross-handed. I'm not sure what he's working on right there."

Sky's Ken Brown and Dougie Donnelly had nothing to say, as Holyer's question went by the wayside. Why not ask him what he's working on after the round?

Notables:

• Golf Channel's Rich Lerner took advantage of his time in St. Andrews, spotlighting a number of famous haunts in the area. One of the more notable stops was at the Dunvegan Hotel's bar, a place that has a seat reserved for caddie James ‘Tip' Anderson, who recently passed on. He and Palmer teamed up to win the Open Championship on two separate occasions.

• Talk of Lee Westwood overtaking Tiger Woods for the number one ranking dominated the Sunday discussions ... until the Englishman hit a stretch of holes that tabled the dethroning talk for another week.

Quotables:

"He's had to relearn that swing with his expanding girth. They don't call him chubby for nothing." -- Sky Sports' Ken Brown, commenting on agent Andrew ‘Chubby' Chandler's swing during the second round.

"I don't think anybody heard of [Louis] Oosthuizen before the Open Championship. Then he showed up and played like Jack Nicklaus that week." -- Golf Channel's Rich Lerner, discussing the number of quality players in the game today.

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