Sizing up the TV coverage from the U.S. Open ... and away we go.
Time wasting is something every major network is notorious for doing in the middle of a televised golf tournament. It doesn't matter if we're talking about NBC, CBS, ABC or the Golf Channel -- all feel it necessary to show special interest pieces in the middle of live coverage.
While one or two is fine, NBC took things past the point of being absurd during Saturday's third round. We had the typical Miller-Hicks third round primer, sprinkled in with a short interviews with Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar; they were all necessary for the opening 30 minutes of the telecast.
What wasn't needed, however, was the special interest piece on the golfing presidents, and the one of the USGA, and the talk about the Obama-Boehner golf match. All in all, golf fans got about 15 minutes of live golf coverage in the first 90 minutes of the third round telecast, a pathetic number when you look at the amount of live golf that we usually see at the Masters and British Open.
I'm not sure if this had to do with the tournament being played in our nation's capital -- you have a lot of historical storylines -- but you cannot expect golf fans to sit on their couch and watch everything but live golf coverage. The special interest pieces are fine ... when they're done in moderation.
But doing so many at a major, on the weekend no less, is just plain wrong. And it goes against everything you come to expect when watching a major. Show me as many male-enhancement commercials and puff pieces as you want during a regular Tour telecast, but when the majors roll around, there's only one thing golf fans want to see, and that's the play on the course.
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Questioning Chris Berman
There's a reason why the Masters is the smartest major championship of them all. When the tournament decided to partner with ESPN for live coverage of Thursday and Friday's rounds, the network made sure ESPN blowhard Chris Berman wasn't in the booth.
It was one of the smartest decisions ever made by the green coats. Because after listening to Berman during the opening two rounds on ESPN, you got a sense of why Augusta wanted nothing to do with the "Berman-isms" and the crummy one-liners.
Some of his best lines for the week: "And that's why it's called the U.S. Open, not closed." And after Hiroyuki Fujita rolled a putt well past the hole in the second round: "That would be a sizzling Fujita."
I know he has a clause in his ESPN contract that says he gets to work the U.S. Open, but the only person who actually gets pleasure out of hearing Berman talk about golf is Berman himself.
Simply put, he brings nothing to a major championship telecast.
McIlroy the best ever ... at putting with a firm left wrist
Johnny Miller had high praise for a particular part of Rory McIlroy's putting stroke, and it was the firm left wrist through impact.
"Look at that flat left wrist right there, Johnny," Roger Maltbie said, as the cameras showed a slo-mo shot of McIlroy's wrist through the impact zone.
"It's as good as I've ever seen it," said Miller. "And that's ever. Tiger said you should have a slight hinge through impact, but that right there is the best looking stroke I've ever seen."
Miller rips McDowell
NBC's Johnny Miller is the most outspoken commentator in golf, and there's a reason he holds that title; it's because he has no problem tearing a golfer's game apart. During the second round, he took a direct shot at U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell's swing.
"You know, he does not have a good swing, folks," Miller said bluntly. "I just want you to know that. If you were to pick that swing apart, there's about five things he does that are not wonderful. But it is his swing."
"But it's the swing of a major champion," Dan Hicks quickly said, trying to defuse the situation.
Miller, still stuck in his own world, still wouldn't let the issue die. "It is. But if you look at it, his clubface is shut at the top, it's laid off, you know ... it's the exact opposite from a swing like Adam Scott's."
With Tiger Woods missing his first U.S. Open since 1994, you knew NBC wouldn't be able to stay away from the Tiger talk for very long. During Thursday afternoon's round, they showed a clip of Woods winning the 2009 AT&T National at Congressional and noted his three-year drought between major wins.
"There's of course the obvious discussion of if he's ever going to pass Jack at this point. But it does feel strange not having him here at the U.S. Open," Dan Hicks said.
Of course, Johnny Miller, always needing the last word, tried to give his take on Woods' future: "We wish him the best and I hope he gets better," Miller said. "If he snaps that left knee... he puts a lot of wear and tear on it, sort of like a set of tires. He puts so many miles on it when he hits it that hard. Hopefully this new swing by Foley will work out for him, but he's gone 525 days since his last victory anywhere, which was in 2009 at the Australian Masters, and that's the longest victory drought since he's been out of Pampers."
Who else but Johnny Miller would have the most absurd comment of the tournament, after Rory McIlroy hooked a drive: "We're talking about thousands of inches on the bottom there. One-thousandth of an inch on a driver is 20 yards of hook." Really, Johnny? If that's the case, please, tell us the exact time, to the second, the world will end. ... Twitter and social media is a powerful tool. After NBC omitted "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance opener at the start of the fourth round telecast, NBC's Dan Hicks came on during the coverage and apologized, on behalf of the network, for the omission: "It was not done to upset anyone," Hicks said. "And we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it." This never would have happened prior to social media ... NBC's announcers called Rory McIlroy, "Rory McDowell" in the final round. I'm pretty sure they'll get his name right after his performance at Congressional.