If this year's Fall Finish has taught us anything, it's that a sense of urgency goes a long way to creating must-see drama on television. As the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman noted during the final round of the Justin Timberlake, "this year's Fall Series has produced some amazing finishes."
After questioning if a tournament finish could get any better than last week's finish at the Frys.com, Vegas produced another gem for the second straight week with a walk-off hole-in-one from Jonathan Byrd. While the dramatic finish was the signature moment of the event, it's hard to overlook the crowded leader board that kept viewers interested until the last shot.
Cameron Percy was the perfect example of a player who was playing with a sense of urgency. Sitting well outside the top 125, Percy told the Golf Channel that he was "playing like there was no tomorrow." Quite honestly, there might not be a tomorrow. His second place finish still left him on the outside looking in.
The big question after these two whirlwind weeks is, how do you recreate the buzz or sense of urgency on a weekly basis during the middle of the season? That's a question the Tour needs to answer. While the Fall Finish doesn't produce the world-beater fields, it has produced enough television drama to keep the masses interested.
Figuring out how to bottle up that interest for next year should be the Tour's top goal going into the winter.
Slam dunk at dusk
With the sun just barely peeking over the mountains in the background on the 17th hole, Jonathan Byrd, Laird and Percy raced to the fourth playoff hole with the tournament still in the balance.
"They really look like they want to get this in and take a Monday finish out of the equation," Tilghman noted as Byrd was lining up his tee shot to the par 3 as dusk continued to creep in. Instead of keeping everyone waiting, the four-time tour winner Byrd aced the hole, causing Tilghman to scream, "It's over," before she corrected herself and said, "Unless someone can match that shot."
With most of the crowd having already left the course, it seemed fitting that Byrd's reaction was subdued. But his reaction was priceless, as Byrd strained to see in the dark, before asking his caddie, "Did that go in?" That question was followed by a look of total disbelief on Byrd's face. Even after he received confirmation from his caddie and his playing partners, he still seemed to think it was all a big joke, as he sat and stared at the hole for a couple of extra seconds.
"The magic from last week continues," Nobilo noted. "I still can't believe he knocked that shot in the hole at this point in the day."
The Fall Finish seems to be the perfect time to roll out new ideas for the 2011 season. This week is was the addition of a mic'd up Kevin Na, who provided some interesting commentary during the week.
As Frank Nobilo noted early on in Thursday broadcast, "too often than not, we mic-up a senior players, but Kevin is a twenty-something who should give the younger viewers a different perspective."
While Na didn't offer any earth-shattering revelations to the broadcast, his discussions with his caddie, Kenny Harms, did offer a more intimate look into the player-caddie relationship and discussions that go on during a round.
The best moment of the mic'd up broadcast came when Na was discussing his food intake over the past couple of week: "I'm getting fat," Na told his Harms as they walked up the fairway. "My mom's been cooking for me, plus I've been eating a lot of sugar recently, so that's never good."
Even if Na were to put on 10 pounds, he probably still wouldn't weigh 150 soaking wet.
Even though it was nice to have a new wrinkle added to the weekly broadcast, the Golf Channel decided to only mic Na during the start of the tournament, choosing to forego the idea on the weekend.
At this point in the season, what's the harm with putting a mic on Na or another player for the weekend? It could have only added another layer to the four-day coverage.
Parkin and quiet
Phil Parkin showed up in our living rooms on Thursday without much fanfare. The Golf Channel analyst, who covers the Nationwide and LPGA for the network, got a shot to cover the big leagues this week.
He was almost nonexistent on Thursday and Friday, barely lending any commentary to the broadcast. By Saturday and Sunday he seemed to be in his wheelhouse, offering some great anecdotes and information.
It's hard not to like Parkin's style. Compared to Kostis, McCord and the rest of the on-course lot, Parkin's a breath of fresh air, letting the tournament coverage lead the way before interjecting with his own thoughts.
While he tends to be soft-spoken, that shouldn't detract from the fact that he's a damn good analyst. Whether it was it was done on purpose or was sheer blind luck, Parkin made the most of his week covering the PGA Tour.
Hopefully the Golf Channel considers adding him to a couple events next season.
Great note from the Golf Channel crew on the changes that were made between Friday and Saturday to the par 3 eight hole.
As Nobilo noted early on in Saturday's broadcast, "It's gone from a beast yesterday at 256 yards, which was just trying to somehow get a three and quickly jump to the ninth tee at the par 5. Now it's just how greedy you can be. The markers are considerably shorter."
The hole shrunk more than 80 yards, making it a more manageable par 3 to go after. But the changes, while noticeable to those watching the tournament, wouldn't have been as noticeable to the viewers catching weekend coverage for the first time.
"It's a totally different ballgame today," Mark Lye said. "That's why I really like courses like this that don't give you the same look every day. 85 yards difference is a big difference between two days."
• Ready for the 2011 season? The Golf Channel certainly is. That was apparent by the numerous commercials and plugs that appeared throughout the broadcast. While this is definitely the time to mention next year's schedule, it'd be crazy to short the Fall Finish and the amazing finishes that have been going on recently. Leave the plugs for next year until Disney.
• Anthony Kim's DQ from this week's event due to an apparent aggravation of his thumb injury should have thrown up red flags from the start - especially after the Las Vegas Journal reported on AK's late night escapades. Yet the Golf Channel never made any mention of his absence. While it's there's a time and place to report a rumored back story, it would have been nice to see Tilghman or Nobilo mention why he M.I.A from the event.
• Mark Lye gave viewers a perfect view of Jonathan Byrd's second shot on the first playoff hole. After hitting his tee shot on the cart patch, Lye walked up on Byrd's lie and gave his opinion on where he'd take his nearest point of relief, as well as looking at the upcoming shot. He did it again when the players came back to the par 4 18th. It not a bad way to give a perspective of players' upcoming shots.
• The Golf Channel's end of the year report cards have added something extra to the broadcasts over the past couple of weeks. Instead of having the broadcast teams give the grades, the network decided to have the player's grade themselves. As expected, the grades were all over the map at the Vegas event. Cameron Percy gave himself an "F" for putting this season, while Webb Simpson gave himself an "A" for his sort game.
"Did that go in?" - Jonathan Byrd, asking his caddie, Adam Hayes, if his ball went in the hole on the par 3 17th.