Greg Norman on new analyst role: Wants to be ‘fair and balanced’ like Fox

Now you might get some arguments from Democrats about Fox News’ “fair and balanced” motto, but that’s the approach Greg Norman says he will use in his new role as Fox Sports’ lead analyst. Fox will air the U.S. Open and other USGA events, beginning in 2015.

The 59-year-old Norman was the best “get” for Fox. He has the big-name, Hall of Fame pedigree, and never has been shy to voice his opinions. Plus, he’s “The Shark.”

However, while he said he admires Johnny Miller, I wouldn’t expect Norman to that outspoken.

“My objective is not to be criticizing golfers,” Norman said. “My objective is to be fair and balanced. If I see something that I feel is very pertinent to the situation, I will explain that view to the audience, and I want it to be very fan-friendly and informative. Being informative is not sugar-coating the situation and not addressing some serious issues that could arise in the game of golf, which we have seen in the past. It’s incumbent upon myself and Joe and every other member of our team who has a microphone in their hand to have the confidence and the willingness to express themselves.”

Fox Sports president Eric Shanks invoked a lofty comparison when talking about Norman.

“Greg [Norman], just like John [Madden], will really set the philosophy for what we do here,” Shanks said. “There’s probably no person I have met that hasn’t been a part of FOX Sports that seems like he should be part of FOX Sports more than Greg. We feel like there is already a connection between some of his thoughts and what the FOX Sports brand is.”

I had the distinction of asking Norman the mandatory Tiger Woods question. Norman’s answer revealed a glimpse of his broadcast approach. He contends Woods has enough left in the tank to win another major, but not the five required to break Jack Nicklaus’ record.

“The older he gets, the younger the other players are,” Norman said. “He’s getting up into his high 30s. The intimidation factor is not the same there. You have to understand, the older you get, the nerves are not the same. Brain is telling us, yes we can do it, but at the same time our body is reacting just a little bit differently than when we were acting in our heydays.

“So these young kids have no nerves. They are going to go take it at you. They don’t care who you are or what you’re doing. They want to rip the number one off your back whichever way they can. It’s going to be a lot more problematic for him as he goes forward. But that can also be a great stimulant for him . . . But time is not on his side, nor is his physical conditioning, his body, from what I’m understanding.”




Bold talk from Fox: Buck says network will “push” golf coverage

If you thought Fox would tread gingerly into this golf thing, well, you don’t know Fox.

During a teleconference to officially unveil Joe Buck and Greg Norman as its 18th hole announcers, the Fox gang was typically bold in discussing their plans for golf. The network takes over the U.S. Open and other USGA events in 2015.

“I think I’ve been here long enough to know that today is a big day for Fox Sports,” Buck said. “It says a lot about the USGA that they are willing to take this leap with us. Like I told [USGA President] Tom O’Toole, who I’ve known pretty much my whole life, he is going to be blown away, as will the golf world, with the effort and the ability that we’re going to throw at this. We’ll push golf coverage like Fox Sports pushed NFL coverage, MLB coverage and NASCAR coverage. It’s a good partnership both ways.”

Mark Loomis, Fox’s new coordinating producer for golf, also showed he is quick to learn how Fox operates.

“Fox Sports has proven over the years that we can always push technology to the next step, so I think there will be some real interesting opportunities for us to look at before we go on air,” Loomis said. “The other aspect is taking a fresh approach to golf coverage with a fresh group of people. Any time you put together a group that hasn’t been together before, you don’t have a ‘this is how we do it’ mentality; you have a ‘what’s the best way to do it’ mentality. That starts with the booth and goes all the way down to production and engineering, so I’m really excited for the next year to see how it grows. Our philosophy is to cover the event and to find new ways to tell the story.”

The “new ways” are exactly what have golf fans apprehensive about Fox landing the U.S. Open. New doesn’t always equate to better. Golf, in particular, is a sport that doesn’t welcome much deviation from the way it has been traditionally presented on television.

Fox Sports president Eric Shanks did try to assure everyone that the network won’t utilize a glowing golf ball.

“First and foremost, you respect the sport,” Shanks said. “If you remember when we first got the NFL, a lot of people were thinking that we were going to come in and do something completely different. There was talk about having Bart Simpson in the booth calling the games, and we went out and got John Madden and Pat Summerall…First and foremost it’s about the event, and there is no way that FOX Sports’ brand or FOX Sports’ attitude is going to be put above the USGA and the US Open brand.”

Fox has more than a year to determine its exact coverage. And it still has a long way to go. Unlike the other sports, golf requires multiple announcers and analysts. The network still has many, many hires to fill out the rest of team. They will be vitally important if this enterprise is going to be a success.



Joe Buck, Greg Norman reportedly to lead Fox Sports’ coverage of ’15 U.S. Open; Who will join them? Gus Johnson?

John Ourand has the exclusive on Fox’s new golf team:

Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be Fox Sports’ top on-air voices when the network debuts its golf coverage next year, according to several sources. The two will be set up in the 18th green tower at the ’15 U.S. Open, when the event will be held at Chambers Bay outside Seattle. The decision to tap Buck and Norman comes as somewhat of a surprise, as neither has announced golf on television before.

Actually, it really isn’t much of a surprise. Buck is Fox’s lead voice, and reportedly a good golfer. It was a natural that he would be tabbed for the high profile assignment.

While Norman hasn’t formally worked as an analyst, he has appeared in the booth of golf telecasts of many occasions. He hardly is shy about his views, and as a two-time major winner and a many more-time near-miss in the majors, he brings a big-name presence that is essential for Fox’s golf coverage.

However, unlike football or baseball, this isn’t a two-man operation in the booth. Fox still will need to find more play-by-play voices, analysts and on-course reporters to fill out their coverage team. It remains a daunting task for Fox to do this endeavor from scratch. The network has to be good on so many levels beyond the 18th tower.

It will be interesting to see Fox brings Gus Johnson into the mix. If it does, definitely put him on a par 3. I’d love to hear Johnson’s call on a hole-in-one.




Sorting out truth about Tiger’s absence on Masters ratings; Huge Friday, Saturday declines are more telling

As I wrote yesterday, it is too bad Sunday’s final round didn’t produce more drama. The lack of suspense on the back 9 accounted for the sharp decline in the rating as much as Tiger Woods’ absence.

From Sports Media Watch:

Final round coverage of The Masters earned a 7.8 overnight rating on CBS Sunday afternoon, down 24% from last year (10.2), down 4% from 2012 (8.1), and the lowest overnight for final round coverage since 2004 (7.3).

Overall, the 7.8 is the third-lowest for the final round since at least 1991, ahead of only 2004 and 1993 (6.8). Excluding Easter Sunday telecasts, the 7.8 is the lowest over that span.

It was one of the dullest final rounds at the Masters in years, and had to account for at least 10 percent in the ratings decline. If you had a good battle between Bubba Watson and the young Jordan Spieth, the audience would have been much higher. Remember, the previous two Masters went to playoffs, and not one of them involved Woods.

In regards to Woods, for a true apples to apples comparison, you have to look at the Friday and Saturday numbers. The ratings tell the story.

In 2013 with Woods playing late in the second round, ESPN did a record 3.0 rating (4.2 million viewers). This year, the rating dropped 40 percent to 1.8 (3 million viewers).

The Saturday rating also is telling. In 2013, with Woods in contention despite a controversial two-shot penalty, CBS did a 6.3 overnight rating. This year, with no Woods, the rating dropped 30 percent to 4.4.

Really, the third round was quite compelling with Spieth making a surge and Watson struggling. Yet a considerable amount of viewers didn’t tune in because Woods wasn’t in the field.

Declines of 40 and 30 percent on Friday and Saturday make this Volume 258 on Tiger’s impact on the ratings.


Don’t blame Tiger and Phil: Masters can’t all be classics

At one point during the back 9 on Sunday, a friend of mine sent a text saying, “Is OK to admit this is pretty boring?”

Indeed, it seems almost sacrilegious suggest the Masters, the tournament we wait for all year, was rather dull for the final two hours. The top three players combined for all of two birdies on their last nine holes.

Dan Jenkins said it best in this tweet:

Indeed, with the exception of Watson’s crazy drive long drive on 13 and his even crazier shot through the trees on 15, there wasn’t the back 9 suspense we always seem to get at Augusta.

Brian Murphy of Yahoo! Sports thought it was a Tiger and Phil thing. He wrote:

The bigger problem was the cast of characters around Bubba. This Masters lacked fireworks. That whole “roars amid the pines” thing we get every April? Could have fooled me. The reverential say Augusta National is like a church. It was as quiet as one on the back nine Sunday.

Even Bubba himself shot a mostly ho-hum even-par 36 on the back nine. When he said in Butler Cabin on CBS, “I was telling my caddie, ‘I don’t even remember the last few holes,’ ” the rest of us were saying: Neither do we.

Murph added:

Say what you want about Tiger Woods – and believe me, if you read the “Comments” on Yahoo Sports, many of you say what you want – he’s become as much a part of the Augusta National landscape as the azaleas, as much a part of the landscape as Rae’s Creek, as much a part of the landscape as CBS’ Nick Faldo referencing his three Masters wins every five minutes, as if on an egg timer.

And even if he hasn’t won a green jacket since 2005(!), he is there on Sunday on the back nine, and he is close to the lead, and he is applying pressure. And you care about him. And even though I was with everyone who said the Masters is bigger than Tiger, that his back surgery and ensuing absence did not mean we would not get a great show, it turned out the show wasn’t as good.

Same goes with Phil, who disintegrated into triple-bogey hell on Thursday and Friday and missed the cut. When Phil is around, pressure is applied. Heart rates quicken. Cheers are louder.

Sure the tournament is better with Woods and Mickelson in the field. But there have been plenty of memorable finishes by other players in recent Masters.

2011: In charge worthy of Palmer and Nicklaus, Charl Schwarzel birdies the last four holes to overtake Jason Day and Adam Scott.

2012: Louie Oosthuizen makes a double eagle on 2. Watson then hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history to win the playoff on 10.

2013: Angel Cabrera cans a birdie on 18 to force a playoff. Scott then makes a dramatic putt on 10 to win the Green Jacket.

If we had some of the theatrics on Sunday, we all would be buzzing today about the Masters. For once, it didn’t happen at Augusta National.

Then again, there’s always next year. Let the countdown begin.

More on the ratings later.



Arnold Palmer: Golf Channel 3-part documentary befitting ‘The King’

Golf doesn’t end with the final round of the Masters on Sunday evening

If you love the game, or specifically one player, be sure to set aside time to watch Arnie, the first of a three-part documentary on the Golf Channel (10 p.m. ET; parts 2 and 3 air Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET).

Here is a preview.

The films are billed as the Golf Channel’s most ambitious project. Rightfully so, since Palmer was one of the founders of the network.

Obviously, Palmer’s life and enduring legacy make him more than worthy of such an endeavor. Part 1 gets the core of the man: the incredible connection he had and still has with fans.

More than anything else, Palmer is the quintessential people person. That trait makes him arguably the most beloved sports figure of his time, if not all time.

Golf Channel ties it all together with more than 100 interviews and reflections from Palmer himself. Tom Selleck narrates the films.

Definitely worth your time.

Excerpts from the teleconference on Arnie:

Palmer: I had to get the Kleenex out when I was watching it. It brought me back to my world of so many years ago. I really can’t even think about it. It made me think and get pretty emotional.

Golf Channel President Mike McCarley: It is the most ambitious original film in the 20-year history of Golf Channel. Many of you probably know that Mr.Palmer was one of the two founders of Golf Channel nearly 20 years ago, and it’s a very special project for that reason because he is so near and dear to all of our hearts, also because his influence on the game and the impact that he’s made on sports and popular culture.

What we set out to do was really tell the definitive story on the life and legacy of Mr.Palmer.  I think the best way to describe the overall idea of the project is that there is an idea of all of the fans who he has touched over a very long and very interesting career, how can all of those fans say thank you to him, and how then can he say thank you to all of them. And that’s really what we’ve set out to do.

Another Masters tradition: Complaining about lack of TV coverage; Give us more, Billy

As I write this, it is 9:30 a.m. in Chicago. The second round of the Masters is well under way. Leaders Bubba Watson and Louie Oosthuizen are on the course.

I really would like to watch them and the others play. But I won’t be able to for another 4 1/2 hours. ESPN’s coverage doesn’t come on until 3 p.m. ET (2 Central). That means if Watson or any of other morning players go crazy low, we won’t be able to see one shot of their round.

Thus, my annual plea to Augusta National to please, please, PLEASE expand the live coverage of the Masters. Get with the program. All of the other majors feature Thursday and Friday action from sunrise to sundown on the various networks.

Yet the Masters continues to stick to its policy of limiting coverage of its event. Sure, the club has expanded TV exposure in recent years, but it still doesn’t compare.

I know the Masters is streaming live coverage via its website. But it hardly is a conventional golf telecast. Also, the beauty of Augusta National isn’t the same on your computer as it is on your big screen TV.

I’m really surprised Augusta National chairman Billy Payne hasn’t done more to expand the TV window. I always viewed him as being more progressive when it came to TV. I thought he would do away with the archaic policies regarding live coverage.

Please, Billy, hear the plea from me and countless other golf fans. We would tune in to coverage from Augusta National if only to watch the grass grow. Next year, grant our wish and let us be able to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner while watching the Masters.






Profile of Jim Nantz: On the journey to 50 Masters; or will it be 51?

O.B. Keeler was a sportswriter forever linked to Bobby Jones. He covered every stroke the legend ever took in a tournament.

In the last couple of years, I have written so much about Jim Nantz, I joke I am his O.B. Keeler. I even sign my emails to him as “O.B.”

My latest piece is a profile of Nantz for the spring issue of Links Magazine. Naturally, the focus is the Masters.

Some excerpts:


In his mind, the script already has been written. Jim Nantz’s broadcast career will be bracketed by the Masters.

Part One is already in the books. In 1986, at age 26, Nantz—just a few years removed from being a dreamy-eyed college kid at Houston—was tabbed by legendary television director Frank Chirkinian to work his first Masters.

Now jump forward a few years and the grand finale also takes place at Augusta. In 2035, Nantz plans on being on the call for his 50th Masters, at the age of 75.

How important is it to him? Nantz already has consulted a calendar for the exact date.

“I would say goodbye to the career on April 8, 2035,” he says. “That’s the second Sunday in April of 2035.”

In between that first and last Masters, if all goes as planned, Nantz will have worked as the play-by-play man for several Super Bowls and even more NCAA Final Fours. His resume will make him one of the supreme sports voices of his generation.

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus sums up Nantz’s budding legacy: “If you turn on the TV and hear his voice, you know it is a big event.”

Nantz, 54, maintains a whirlwind schedule that includes myriad endorsements and speaking commitments that barely leave him time at his home that peers out over Pebble Beach. Besides his work at CBS, his main passions are growing a new wine brand and raising funds for the Nantz National Alzheimer Center in Houston, dedicated to his father. Coming along for the journey is his wife of two years, Courtney. She is intricately involved in his endeavors. Nantz says, “It is a team effort.”

Yet through it all, it always comes back to the Masters.

“It’s the one event which people relate with me the most,” Nantz says. “I might be talking to a football coach in August, and he’ll ask me, ‘What about Augusta?’ Fans at games ask me, ‘Who’s going to win the Masters this year?’ It’s the one event I think about all year long. The Masters is in my heart.”


Yet if Nantz does indeed do 50 tournaments, it will never get more personal than Fred
Couples’s victory in 1992. In a story straight out of Hollywood, he and Couples, along with Blaine McCallister, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, were roommates at the University
of Houston.

Nantz, working as a cub reporter for a Houston TV station, would bring the equipment back to their dorm room, where he’d do a mock broadcast of the green jacket ceremony with Couples.

“It happened,” Nantz insists. “We were just kids having fun.”

In 1992, their college fantasy actually took place in Butler Cabin, Nantz presiding over the ceremony on TV in which Couples is being presented his green jacket. Initially, Nantz wasn’t going to make it personal, but ultimately, he had to bring his old roommate back to that dorm room in Houston.

“In the end I said, ‘You know, Fred. I think about our days at the University of Houston and Taub Hall.’

“He turned his head, covered his eyes, and looked off to the side. My voice is quivering. I said, ‘All of us said, One day you’re going to look great in a green jacket.’”


This year’s tournament will be number 29 on his way to 50. Yet he allows that maybe he won’t do his final signoff on April 8, 2035. There could be a change to the script.

Last year, Nantz made a speech in which he spoke about his grand plan. In the audience was one of his heroes, Jack Whitaker, who covered a few Masters of his own.

“We were having a drink after the event,” Nantz recalls, “and he said, out of the blue, ‘You know, I think you might want to amend your way of thinking about 50 Masters and do 51.’ I said, ‘Why is that, Mr. Whitaker?’ He said, ‘Because if you look it up, your 51st Masters would be the 100th Masters played. You need to be there for that one.’ So maybe it’s 50 plus 1.”

The second Sunday of April 2036 is the 13th. You can bet Jim Nantz already knows that.




Faldo on new documentary: Nantz ‘put me through wringer’ of emotions

Everyone has seen Nick Faldo’s personality transformation ever since he gave up competitive golf to be a TV analyst. The ice-cold player actually has become an engaging, fun-loving guy.

Now viewers will get to see yet another side of Faldo, the emotional side.

Prior to the final round Sunday (1 p.m. ET on CBS), there will a special, Jim Nantz Remembers Nick Faldo at the Masters.

Nantz details Faldo’s three Masters victories and his life on and off the course. The film even includes a trip back to his childhood home in England.

It turns out Faldo needed quite a bit of Kleenex to get through his interviews with Nantz.

“He put me through the wringer of emotions,” Faldo said. “He winds me up pretty good. My kids are going to go, ‘Oh no, here he goes again.'”

Nantz said: “There is a lot of emotion behind this knight in shining armor.”

Here is the official rundown from CBS:


CBS Sports broadcasts a CBS SPORTS SPECTACULAR special JIM NANTZ REMEMBERS AUGUSTA: NICK FALDO AT THE MASTERS® on Sunday, April 13 (1:00-2:00 PM, ET) on the CBS Television Network.   Jim Nantz, this year covering his 29th Masters for CBS Sports, and 27th as host, looks back at the career of one of the tournament’s most dynamic champions and CBS Sports colleague, Sir Nick Faldo, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Faldo winning his first green jacket.

In a tournament that featured wind, rain and the gloom of night, it was Faldo who solidified his reputation as one of golf’s premier major championship performers when he rolled in a birdie putt in the Masters’ fourth ever sudden-death playoff in 1989.  The one-hour special takes a look back at that memorable tournament, as well as Faldo’s victory the following year, again in a sudden-death playoff to become only the second champion in Masters history to win back-to-back championships.  It also revisits his improbable third win in 1996 over the snake-bitten runner-up, Greg Norman.

Along with looking back 25 years at his memorable moments and glorious triumphs at Augusta, the special also includes a side rarely seen of Sir Nick as he, along with Nantz, goes back to his roots in England which includes an afternoon with his Mum and a visit to the house where he was born and raised.

“We focused our story this year on my broadcast partner, Sir Nick Faldo,” said Nantz.  “We flew to Welwyn Garden City in England and visited his original home, the school he attended, and the golf course where he grew up.  It was a real privilege to visit those places and better understand how he made a name for himself.  His journey to the top of the world of golf has never been documented like this.    Fans will have a whole new respect for Faldo the man, and Faldo the champion golfer.”

Master Tweeter: Dan Jenkins tweeting from Augusta; new ‘semi-memoir’ is highly recommended

Here’s another “tradition unlike any other”: Dan Jenkins at the Masters.

Jenkins will be covering his 64th Masters, dating back to Ben Hogan’s hey day. If Moses swung a club, Jenkins probably saw it.

Thanks to Twitter, we don’t have to wait to read what’s on Jenkins’ mind. We get his unique, shall we say, observations instantaneously via his Twitter feed; with the assistance of Golf Digest executive editor Mike O’Malley.

Here are some early tweets, as Jenkins is just loosening up.

Also highly recommended for Jenkins fans is his new book, His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir.

Jenkins details his own incredible life as only he can. At 84, he delivers one-liners that will have you laughing out loud.

The opening paragraph in the book gets to the essence of Jenkins.


It seems to me that in my busiest years of writing for a living, I spent most of my free times in convivial bars. I didn’t seek out the bars so much for the whiskey as I did for the atmosphere. A decent bar was a place where I could sip a cocktail, smoke a cigarette, have engrossing conversations with friends, and if there was music at all it was a jukebox with Sinatra and Judy and others on it with a regard for melody–in contrast to today’s eruptions of Krakatoa. I could sit in comfort and eventually reach for a cheese stick or a deviled egg. Dinner at last.


In a review for Golf World, Bill Fields writes:

If there is a recurring theme in His Ownself, it is that the man behind the humor (“The necessity of injuring a person with a comment or a joke in the pursuit of truth,” is a Jenkins sportswriting tenet) was having the last laugh all along. Just as Arnold Palmer, someone else he wrote a lot about, has never tired of being Arnold Palmer, Dan Jenkins has never tired of being Dan Jenkins.

That explains why he’s at 220 major championships and counting, an astounding attendance record in his lodge that, like Byron Nelson’s 11 consecutive victories in 1945, will never be broken.