My favourite piece of TV golf commentary was spoken nearly ten years before I was born – Doug Sanders settles over a two-foot putt on the 72nd green at St Andrews, if he holes it he’s Open champion for 1970. Absolute silence pervades. Sanders waits for what seems an eternity before pushing the putt agonisingly past the cup. Henry Longhurst in the BBC commentary box simply says, “Oh dear.” I’ve only seen replays of the coverage but Longhurst’s concise reaction perfectly sums up the sheer awkwardness of the situation.
Longhurst was from a school of commentary that believed less is more. Another clip I remember, or think I remember, seeing came from another Open Championship of the early 70s. The camera is focused on a gallery watching golfers putting out. There is no sound save the wind rustling the microphone and the odd murmur from the crowd. The camera then pans right to a long-range shot of a player driving off, (still no commentary,) the player hits, the click of wood on surlyn is heard and the camera follows the ball. It flies straight into a gorse bush. Finally, Henry Longhurst speaks but only to say, “Ah.”
The reason I’m saying this is because, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to watch PGA Tour coverage again and I’d forgotten how incessant the US commentary is. With Setanta going belly-up, Eurosport has stepped into the breach and are showing the PGA Tour for the remainder of 2009 – great news for all golf fans. But, it didn’t take long while watching the Golf Channel’s first round coverage of the Travelers Championship for me to turn the sound down.
The analysts (the likes of Brandel Chamblee and Mark Lye) know exactly what they’re talking about and many of their thoughts are relevant and interesting. But the commentary just never stops. I’d like to watch a minute of coverage without hearing – “And here’s Dustin Johnson, the former All-American at Coastal Carolina, he’s ranked 23rd in putting this season and he’s got 16 foot 6 inches to the cup, he’s holed 28% of putts this length so far in his career. He’s taking the putter back, he’s moving the putter through, the ball is rolling, it looks like it’s on line, it’s drifting right, it’s narrowly missed, it’s gone two feet by. He doesn’t look happy.” All right, all right. I can see that. Would you please just be quiet.
Next week the Open starts at Turnberry. I will expect the BBC’s team of golfing experts to give regular insights into playing conditions and keep us right up to date with any and all tournament developments. But, I’ll also hope for segments of on-course footage when all we hear is the sea crashing against the rocky Ayrshire coastline and the odd gull calling as we watch players belting drives off the 9th tee with the iconic lighthouse in the distance.
Open news: Saltman brothers earn Open Championship places at Turnberry
Equipment review: Scotty Cameron Studio Select Kombi putter review
Amateur news: St Josephs and Castle Court win at The Shire
Competitions: Some great new prizes to be won