Jonathan Wall

GolfTube: Sizing up TV coverage of the Tour Championship

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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If a tour player wins $10 million and a shiny FedEx Cup trophy but nobody's around to see it happen, does it still count? That's the question that should've been posed to Jim Furyk, who walked away with the tour's biggest prize seemingly without anybody noticing.

While fans showed up to watch the top 30 players at East Lake, viewers at home spent their time watching other sporting events. With college football and the NFL hogging weekend ratings, the tour could only hope for a five-way playoff or a Mickelson victory to salvage golf's biggest prize.

Neither happened. While the tour won't admit it, this year's event was a complete dud, capped off by a dreary Sunday round that summed up exactly what this event has become: a tournament format that most fans can live without.

If you can't get fans and the general public excited about the tour's final event of the season, then maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board to find a season-ending format that actually interests the masses.

The FedEx Cup's coup de grâce

There's no way to sugarcoat NBC's decision to tape delay the final round of the tournament; it was one of the worst decisions they could have made with television ratings on the line.

I don't care if there was bad weather in the area, you don't tape delay the final round of the biggest tour event of the year (assuming you consider the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup to be just that).

Tim Finchem can say all he wants about how well the PGA Tour has weathered the financial storm. But when you tape delay the final round of your premier event, and have three or four tournaments on the schedule without sponsors for next year, you're sending out a clear message to the television networks.

Would they have pulled this kind of stuff if Tiger Woods was in contention? I don't think so.

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Busted coverage

NBC had four and a half hours of tour coverage set aside for Sunday's final round, so you expected them to use as much of the time as they could to cover the event.

The only problem was the tournament ended 70 minutes prior to the allotted time, forcing NBC to draw out the closing trophy presentation and final thoughts.

When it was all said and done, they still had 30-plus minutes left to blow ... so they closed the telecast and went to the local news.

I'm pretty sure they could've run the event live with that much time left on the back end of the event.

Trying to complicate the FedEx Cup

The Golf Channel's Steve Sands was called in for the weekend coverage on NBC to play the role of the mathematician in the hopes of simplifying the points system for the viewers at home, while also giving everyone the scenarios that could play out if a certain player went on to win the Tour Championship.

Sands looked more like a reporter crunching post-election numbers, trying his best to give the viewers a sense of what the play on the course meant to the FedEx Cup standings.

While Sands did an admirable job breaking things down, the numerous scenarios started to complicate things on Sunday. It turned an already confusing points system into a jumbled mess of numbers that most people didn't understand.

Split-screen success

Late in Friday's second round telecast, the Golf Channel decided to do a split screen of Jim Furyk putting on the 17th hole and Luke Donald hitting his tee shot on the 18th.

It was obvious in those couple of seconds that the Golf Channel should strongly consider adding split screen coverage next year. It ended up giving viewers live coverage of two players hitting critical shots at the same time, something you don't see during a live broadcast.

Golf's television success hinges on giving fans exactly what they want. One would think they'd enjoy getting to see a split screen of their two favorite golfers on television.

Casey's crew

It was a bad year to be a successful European golfer ... especially if your name was Paul Casey or Justin Rose.

Casey, ranked seventh in the world rankings, was left off Colin Montgomerie's European Ryder Cup team, setting off a media firestorm that was still going strong at the Tour Championship.

The Golf Channel's Frank Nobilo and Dottie Pepper were both visibly frustrated by Monty's decision to leave Casey off the team, mentioning the poor decision on numerous occasions.

"[Casey's] ranked number seven in the world and there are twenty-four players playing [in the Ryder Cup] next week - and there's not a spot for him," Nobilo said during Thursday's telecast.

Dottie Pepper chimed in to agree with Nobilo: "It tells me that there may be a relook at how the European team is selected."

Notables:

• The Golf Channel did a great job setting the scene for the dire straits the area surrounding East Lake was in last year. You could tell from the piece that developer Tom Cousins not only helped the course out, but the city of Atlanta as well.

• Jim Furyk's $39 putter was the talk of the tournament, especially when he was closing in on the FedEx Cup. NBC's Peter Jacobsen was right when he said you don't always need a high-end putter to win golf tournaments.

• Thursday and Friday's rounds on the Golf Channel were bumped up from their usual three hours to five for the Tour Championship. What about adding extra coverage to various events next season? It's not like Golf Central couldn't be bumped back a couple hours for additional live coverage.

• While the Pro Tracer technology is a wonderful gimmick to have during a telecast, the Aim Point technology is something that definitely needs to be added to the Golf Channel on a consistent basis next year. Not only does it allow you to see the putting line, it also gives you the chance to track the putts as they go towards the hole.

• Interesting note by the Golf Channel regarding the amount of time it takes Matt Kuchar to implement new swing thoughts into his game. They mentioned it can sometimes take 24 to 36 hours before he's comfortable with the changes.

Quotables:

"I guess he liked the putter because it had a little bit of [Pittsburgh] Steeler gold in the grip. I'd say it's the best thirty-nine dollars he's spent in a long time," NBC's Gary Koch, commenting on Jim Furyk's store-bought putter that helped him win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.

"He always seems to have that deer in the headlights look when on his face when he's on the course," NBC's Johnny Miller, commenting on Nick Warney's game face.

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