An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:
A prediction on Fox Sports’ coverage of its first U.S. Open:
It won’t matter if Fox produces the best Open ever. Golf fans still will complain about a lack of quality. They always complain.
This isn’t to say that Fox’s debut on major championship golf will be a disaster, although it could be. Rather, it is about the realities of a very finicky golf audience that typically isn’t receptive to change.
“Anytime something is new, some people will like it and some people won’t,” said Mark Loomis, Fox Sports’ producer for golf.
After 20 years of the U.S. Open on NBC, there will be an adjustment period to a new lineup of voices. Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be the focal points as the lead announce team. Other analysts include Tom Weiskopf, Corey Pavin, Brad Faxon and Juli Inkster.
Buck will have to prove he can navigate through a golf tournament like long-time standards Jim Nantz and Dan Hicks. If he can’t capture a cadence and tone that is much different than a baseball and football game, he will feel the wrath of golf viewers. Just ask Chris Berman, who was vilified for being out-of-place with his work for the U.S. Open on ESPN.
“Believe me, with play-by-play here, I’m going with a less-is-more approach,” Buck said.
Norman, meanwhile, will be compared to the blunt Johnny Miller, who sees no sacred cows on the course. Even though Norman often was on the receiving end of a Miller critique, he says he is a fan of the NBC analyst.
“When you are in the seat of lead analyst, you have to give your opinion,” Norman said. “It can’t be sugar-coated. It irks me when I watch TV and every player hits the perfect shot and every player is the greatest short game player in the world and every player is just so good. When you look at it in totality, these players are the best in the world, but when they do do something wrong, it’s got to be pointed out.”