That was the question for ME and all golf fans out there – do we need spectators on the course to make a golf telecast exciting?
The PGA TOUR season saw a restart at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas the week of June 9th. It was the first TOUR event that had been played without spectators on the course in my lifetime – 50+ years. Even made-for-television events like the popular Skins Game, ACE Shootouts and Merrill Lynch Challenges had spectators. The question on everyone’s mind was, “how is it going to look and sound on television?”
Golf Channel (Thursday & Friday) and CBS (Saturday and Sunday) televised the tournament from Colonial Country Club, a tournament steeped in history, with a stellar field that included Rory, JT, Bryson and many others. Was the lack of roars, polite golf claps, and the occasional yet always obnoxious, “you da man!” going to take away from the television watching experience? How about the fact the 18th Tower, which usually features Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, would actually be a one-man show as Faldo set up in the Golf Channel Studios in Orlando and Nantz was solo – how would they add their usual blend of banter, insights and commentary to the broadcast? It set up to be a real dud…but was it?
Right out of the gate the excitement of “live” PGA TOUR golf led me to forget there were no spectators on course, no corporate hospitality tents and no one yelling, “go in the hole!” as Rory teed off on a Par-5. There was live golf on television!! The relative silence was a bit odd and I certainly did miss the crowd reactions but it didn’t necessarily take away from the experience like I thought it would.
Nantz and Faldo, and the rest of the talent (some on site) worked very well together despite being a 1,000 + miles apart – that is the art of technology. What also helped the absence of the crowd roars was the fact that the golf was compelling from the first tee shot to Daniel Berger’s up and down on the first play-off hole to win the tournament. Sure, it would have been great for a huge gallery to acknowledge Berger’s win but in that moment I didn’t feel the lack of a crowd took away from the tournament watching experience. I, like so many countless others, was just happy to once again be watching live sports -especially golf – on television and getting back to some sense of normalcy.
Will the lack of spectators be more noticeable as the season progresses? Perhaps, but for right now I am satisfied watching these great PGA TOUR players compete for championships each and every week.