Sizing up the TV coverage from the British Open ... and away we go. (Side note: Here's the TV recap from the first round.)
One hole. That's what four days of golf at Royal Lytham and St Annes came down to on Sunday afternoon. If you're the network in charge of coverage for the week, that's what you dream about on Monday morning when the trucks pull in and the crews set up for the week.
Every major is important, but what happened on Sunday at the British Open was historic -- the kind of tournament people will likely tell their kids about years from now. Whether they remember it for Ernie's birdie or Adam Scott's collapse is up to them, but if you're the network of record that week, the pressure is on for you to not only get it right, but make an indelible mark on the viewing audience.
Whether you agree or not, ESPN did a bang-up job handling the Ernie Els' call on 18, setting the stage for a 15-footer that had the potential to be the putt of the tournament. ESPN analyst Curtis Strange led off with a stat regarding past British Open winners, as Els eyed the putt
"Ernie Els is leading the field in greens in regulation, not so much on the greens," Strange said. "None of the last 11 winners of this tournament have finished outside of the top 20 in total putts. Ernie ranks 75th currently in putts."
It was a stat that let you know what Els was doing was a one-off; but Mike Tirico wanted viewers at home to know that stat didn't matter. The only thing that did matter at that very moment was the birdie putt.
"All of those numbers have significance, tell the story," Tirico said, "but they don't matter a bit right now."
As the putt tracked towards the hole and disappeared for birdie, Tirico let out a "Yes!" and then let the roar from the crowd and Els' celebration tell the rest of the story.
There are moments where it's better to be silent and forgo making some over-the-top comment that may or may not make the British Open highlight reel, and this was one of them.
Give Tirico and Strange a lot of credit. They set the scene perfectly and pulled it off like pros.
While Strange did an admirable job during the week, his remark following Ernie Els' birdie putt was, shall we say, a little odd.
"It's the mark of a champion," Strange said, as Els disappeared into the clubhouse to sign his scorecard. "It's years of hard work, and hours and hours of practice. This is why you're here and why I'm here. This is what you've worked for all these hours. You had to make that putt, and he does it."
You're here and I'm here? It was one of those confusing lines that left you scratching your head. Els deserved all the credit in the world for making birdie on the last, but why did Strange have to bring himself into the moment when he had nothing to do with the putt? It doesn't make any sense.
ESPN buries Adam Scott before he reaches the green
It's a good thing (if you can really call it that) Adam Scott missed his putt on 18, because ESPN would've looked incredibly silly after they all but buried the Aussie when his ball landed in a fairway pot bunker on the last.
"I tell you what, I'm feeling the pain of Adam Scott," Curtis Strange said as Scott walked up the fairway. "He has no chance to reach the green in regulation. He's going to have to play the shot of his life to save par."
After knocking it out to within 10 feet for par, Tirico touched on some of the worst major collapses in history, while also pointing out that Scott lost the 2011 Masters to a guy who made four straight birdies. Now he was about to potentially lose a major by making four straight bogeys.
"Four [bogeys] in a row to close a major doesn't happen very often," Tirico said. "Think back to the Masters two years ago, Adam Scott knocks it stiff on 16, made birdie and was leading the Masters. And then Charl Schwartzel made four consecutive birdies behind him to take it away from him. If you go back four holes ago, it felt like Adam Scott had one hand on the jug. ... He could now be looking at making four bogeys and losing a major championship."
The four birdies, four bogeys was a bit of a stretch, but I understand the point he was trying to make. Regardless, Tirico and Strange set the stage for Scott to miss, never once considering the idea that he could potentially make the putt and force a playoff.
"This is not anything you want to see anybody do, and Adam Scott is a popular player. Everybody likes Adam," Strange said, throwing in a bizarre comment that, honestly, had no place in the broadcast. Who cares if he's a popular player? I'm think Ernie Els is popular with the players and the masses, too.
"It is just shocking," Tirico said as Scott's putt slid by. It was a shocking end to a major, no doubt about it. But what was even more shocking was that ESPN all but assumed Scott was going to miss.
I understand the trying to latch on to the bigger storyline, but at least give viewers at home a sense of what a potential make would mean for not only Scott, but Els' mindset as well.
Shot Tracker captures Graeme McDowell's hosel rocket
ESPN used Flight Track all week, but the decision to pull it out for Grame McDowell's hosel rocket on the par-5 11th, on Sunday, proved once again that the innovative graphic has a place in professional golf.
ESPN showed replays of the ball going deep into the woods, but it wasn't until they actually tracked the ball with the blue line that the casual golf fan understood just how bad the shot really was.
"That's probably the worst shot he's hit in 20 years," Curtis Strange said.
Strange and Azinger discuss Tiger's lack of driver love
Tiger Woods' "game plan" all week had him hitting iron off the tee on a majority of the holes at Royal Lytham and St Annes, but for some reason Paul Azinger believed the decision to pull iron wasn't done on purpose. Rather it was done because Woods wasn't in attack mode.
"I look at Tiger, Adam Scott's playing the way Tiger used to play -- attack, attack attack," Azinger said. "If he was swinging as great as everybody thinks he's swinging he'd probably hit more drivers and 3-woods off the tee."
Curtis Strange reiterated Azinger's comment later in the round after Tiger took another iron off the short par-4 16th.
"That just goes to show you that he's not very comfortable at all with the driver," Curtis Strange said. "He's just not the same man we knew some years ago, not the same player."