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Jonathan Wall

GolfTube: Sizing up the TV coverage of the Frys.com Open

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While you were watching your favorite NFL team on Sunday afternoon, the Golf Channel was quietly broadcasting one of the greatest PGA Tour finishes in some time.

It's not often that the Golf Channel gets to air an entire tournament on the PGA Tour, with CBS and NBC handling most of the weekend coverage, but with the Fall Finish in full swing, the network assumed coverage of all four rounds of the remaining events left on the tour schedule.

Needless to say, it was a great week to be the lone channel providing golf coverage, as Rocco Mediate, Alex Prugh, Bo Van Pelt and Rickie Fowler turned the Frys.com Open into a shootout that produced a quality winner in Mediate, as well as quite possibly the best back-to-back shots in tour history.

For as much flack as the tour gets for running the golf season into the fall and winter months, this week's event was just another reason why the silly season for golf is still worth watching - so long as the tour does a couple of things they did this week, such as putting the pins in birdie positions and adding a drivable par four late in the round.

Sure, it might not produce finishes like this every week, but if the tour could somehow find a formula that produced the quality that was on display in California, the number of naysayers calling for the Fall Finish's head would almost certainly decrease.

17th heaven

There should be a mandatory rule on the PGA Tour that every tour stop needs to have at least one gimmick hole on the course. While that's almost to implement, the 295-yard 17th at CordeValle proved that short, drivable par 4s definitely add something extra to the telecast.

With water fronting the right side of the green, the hole was the perfect risk-reward for golfers with enough length to get home. As Peter Oosterhuis noted early on in Sunday's telecast, "it's a hole that will certainly produce a lot of eagles and others."

It did just that all week, drawing rave reviews from the players and the network staff. "It's gaining a reputation as a great hole this week," said on-course commentator Billy Ray Brown.

"It makes you want to go out there right now and take a driver at it," said Brandel Chamblee. "It's going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch."

How fun was the hole? Put it this way: Bo Van Pelt, who was tied for the lead at the time, was seen laughing on the 17th tee, wondering what club he should take. The shot forced you to be ballsy and go for the green - even if your brain told you it was a bad idea.

It certainly was a fun hole - especially during Sunday's final round, where Alex Prugh almost holed his tee shot, drawing roars and child-like laughter from the Golf Channel booth. And when everyone figured it couldn't get any better, Mediate holed his shot from the fairway for eagle to take a two-shot lead.

Say all you want about gimmick holes, but this one did its job. It also made for some compelling television on Sunday afternoon.

Now tell me again why these holes are bad for golf?

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Everybody loves Rocco

Rocco Mediate is like a puppy: It doesn't matter how bad he looks during a tournament week, you'll still love him when it's all said and done. Mediate, of course, earned that credibility after the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

While he'd been battling back injuries and other ailments going into the week, he was right there on Sunday, contending for another PGA Tour title. The Golf Channel's Terry Gannon and Brandel Chamblee put Mediate's popularity into perspective during Saturday's third round.

"Rocco Mediate may be the most fun to watch when he's playing well out here. It seems like Torrey Pines and the U.S. Open was a long time ago, and lot has happened to him since then, but here is again finding the magic again this week," said Gannon.

"He's very popular with the fans, but also with his peers. There's just something about him that allows him to connect with so many people," Chamblee said.

Indeed, there is something about Mediate that makes average golf fans pull for him, no matter how he's playing.

All week long, Mediate was the talk of the tournament, getting as much air time as Rickie Fowler, the big name at the event.

Fowler's future

It was clear from the outset of Thursday's first round that Rickie Fowler was the marquee name at the Frys.com Open. Golf Channel made it a point to have him in the opener on Friday, as well as including short interviews with him throughout the four day telecast on subjects ranging from his experience playing in last season's Fall Finish to the Ryder Cup.

But the most intriguing discussion of the week regarding Fowler came on Friday, when Terry Gannon and Brandel Chamblee discussed the 21-year-old's future.

"So you look ahead, project; you don't have a crystal ball, but does he become someone like Davis Love with twenty wins and a major, or Zach Johnson with seven wins and a major?" said Gannon, posing the question to Chamblee.

"You know, he's 5' 9"," Chamblee said. "and for you to play the game at a superstar level these days, with rare exception, you have to play the game with high power, and he has to go all-out. It's clear his golf swing is all-out, all the time. He doesn't have the ability of a Davis Love, Tiger Woods or Freddie Couples to lay back and sneak around a golf course and air it out. But it wouldn't surprise me if he went on to have double-digit victories and major championships."

While it's obvious there are many different opinions when it comes to Fowler's future, I'm not sure anybody out there would debate the fact that he's one of the best young stars in the game today.

Leveling the playing field

Another week, another new golf course for the Fall Finish. Last week it was Sea Island, and this week it was CoderValle in San Martin, Calif., a course that really confused golfers on the putting surface.

But if there's another thing golfers had to keep an eye on, it was the ever-changing lines to various holes on the course throughout the day.

Brandel Chamblee made the interesting note during Thursday's telecast: "There's a lot of elevation change out here that certainly does change the way players go at these holes. You also have a number of cross-bunkers out here where you need to make sure you take the right line. Lines change from the morning to the afternoon; lines change during different times in the day."

Notables:

• What kind of role do vice-captains play at the Ryder Cup? If you believe Paul Goydos - one of Corey Pavin's vice-captain picks at this year's Ryder Cup - they're useless. "I was pretty worthless to the team," Goydos said, jokingly, to the Golf Channel's Scott Walker after Thursday first round.

• The colored numbers next to golfers names during the FedEx Cup? Yeah, they're not going away. The Golf Channel had them in play again this week, using them to inform viewers where players stood in relation to the 125th spot on the money list.

• Once again, the crowds were nonexistent at a Fall Finish event. While Sea Island (last week's venue) and CordeValle are certainly in scenic areas of the country, it's obvious the venues aren't attracting crowds. Sure, they look good on television when you need a quick shot of the ocean or vineyards, but does it make sense financially to broadcast in remote portions of the country?

Quotables:

"The thing that worries players the most this week is losing their job," - Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee on what's at stake over the next couple of weeks for players on the 125 bubble.

"Where you're struggling, it looks workmanlike. But when you're winning, it looks regal." - Golf Channel's Terry Gannon, commenting on Rocco Mediate's one-knee putting stance.

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