Golfers will be mic'd up at Charles Schwab Challenge to liven up bare-bones broadcast

Golf will be returning on Thursday for the first time in 90 days with the Charles Schwab Challenge, but it won’t be like it was before COVID-19. There will be no fans watching players trek from hole to hole at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and commentator Jim Nantz will be all alone in the broadcast booth.

If that sounds like kind of a snooze to you, you’re not alone. CBS, the network broadcasting the tournament, agrees. So on a conference call Monday, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus revealed a few of the things the network is doing to liven up the TV broadcast, and maybe even modernize golf a little bit in the process.

“Confession cam” and mic’d up players

The biggest thing they’re trying is something that’s been done in the NFL, MLB, and even on the recent “The Match” with Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning: attaching microphones to the players’ shirts so their chatter and honest reactions can be heard on the broadcast.

According to the Associated Press, TV networks have been pushing for the players to wear microphones for years, but most have been resistant. But with the sport facing unprecedented circumstances, several have reportedly already committed to wearing them. Their names haven’t been revealed, but the network is “aggressively” pursuing commitments from other players.

The players will also be able to use a “confession cam,” set up in a tent near one of the tees. They’ll enter the small tent and talk into a remote camera, answering a question printed on a card. Those “confession cam” sessions won’t be broadcast live, but will instead be inserted into the broadcast where appropriate.

Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were both mic'd up during TaylorMade Driving Relief back in May. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were both mic'd up during TaylorMade Driving Relief in May. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Onus on players to liven up the broadcast

Nantz, who will be without broadcast partner Nick Faldo, said that he expects this particular tournament to be “one of the great challenges I’ve seen in my 35 years.” And he knows that he won’t be able to make it successful on his own — the players need to do their part.

“I want this to be expressed — ‘Guys, we need your help. We’re not asking for a lot,‘” Nantz said on the conference call, via the AP. “If you had a chance to hear from 30 players in the field, you can’t imagine what a difference that could make to our broadcast. All they have to do is walk over and talk into a confession cam. We need the players’ help.”

While it will be a strange weekend for both him and the players, Nantz feels like this is a real chance for golf to move forward and make itself more appealing at a moment when the nation’s eyes will be on it.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the game ... to go before a sports-starved nation and have a chance to create a wider fan base than it’s ever been before,” Nantz said. “A lot has to be personality driven. We need to hear from the players. It’s something that’s not obtrusive. It’s an opportunity for players to invest in their own game.”

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