Tirico, Others Talk Golf Ahead Of PGA Open Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN will carry full coverage of golf’s oldest major next week. In anticipation of next week’s coverage (Thursday, July 17th – Sunday, July 20th), ESPN VP of Production Mike McQuade joined host Mike Tirico and ESPN golf analysts Andy North, Curtis Strange, and Paul Azinger for a conference call with members of the media. The group discusses their own memories of past Open Championships, fan devotion to the game and so much more through their conference call. The following is the full transcript of their discussion with the media. More information on ESPN’s coverage of the Open Championship is available online at http://espn.go.com/golf.

MIKE McQUADE:  This is the one event that we produce, first of all, that lasts all day every day, and it is an extraordinary effort for our group.  We are fortunate that we are able to get a great group of people together from all different facets of production to come together for this one week.  I like to call it the all‑star team of not only production but of also on‑air hosts, from Scott Van Pelt to Sean McDonough to Mike Tirico, and then a great group of analysts that we have.

I think it’s an extraordinary accomplishment that each and every year we’re able to put on such a big show for viewers.  As usual, we are excited about doing it.

This year is no different.  Coverage this year will be similar to what you’ve seen in years past with an extra emphasis this year placed on our camera positions and camera locations.  Trying to capture more x‑motion, if you will, slow motion, replays and images, as well as continue our technology with the flight of the ball and the distance of the ball and the distance the balls can roll, something that we’ve dabbled with in the past that we’re continuing to expand on.

Beyond that, I think one of the things we’re trying to do is trying to tell the stories of folks that are not as familiar to the viewers back home, whether it’s the forklift driver who lives a half hour from the golf course who qualified, or it’s Rory McIlroy trying to make his return to form.  I think we’ll have a good deal of stories to go on.

MIKE TIRICO:  This is my 18th year of doing the Open Championship, and it’s the second time that I am coming right off the World Cup and going right over there.  It’s a little bit tighter travel for me this year.  I’ll be staying for the World Cup final and host that on Sunday and then headed with some bizarre connections to get to Liverpool hopefully by Tuesday and get ready for the event Thursday.

It’s a phenomenal event, and I’d echo what Mike said.  We don’t do this together for 20 weeks a year, but we bring the band together for one week, and we kind of know all the songs that we play together.  Having worked individually with everyone in this group in a variety of roles and in a variety of places, it’s a selfless, talented, smart group, and they really help us bring American golf fans.

I think it’s something to look forward to.  I know every time that I travel somewhere and we talk about the Open Championship, fans talk about their ritual, whether they get up in the middle of the night, they stay up late on the West Coast, they play their golf on Sunday morning and then make sure that they’re around their 19th hole to watch the last couple of hours of The Open.  It’s the oldest championship in the sport.  We take great pride in being a part of it, and cannot wait to see who will hold the Claret Jug this year, and maybe it’ll be another guy in his 40s, as it has been the last three years.

CURTIS STRANGE:  Well, first off, I’m going to be happy to get into a little cooler weather.  I don’t know which is hotter, Oklahoma City or Manaus in Brazil.  I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in TV for a while now, since 1997, and I look forward to the Open Championship.  Granted, we look forward to the U.S. Open, there’s no doubt, because it’s our national championship, but the Open Championship is our production, and it’s our tournament.  As Mike said, we take great pride in putting on the show, and we work very hard at it, and I think we do a good job.

It’s something we all look forward to very, very much.  It’s been on our radar screen for a good month now, and as we get into our TV segment, part of the summer, and it’s really, really fun from an analyst’s point of view, and I think my two colleagues would say the same thing, that it’s such a fun tournament to bring back to America because it is different.  We have the elements of weather, conditions, links golf, all of the above, and to bring that back to our viewers back home at such an early hour in the morning, it’s great to lay in bed and watch Open Championship golf, it’s fun to do.  It’s a lot of things to talk about.  It’s different players to talk about, and there’s an incredible amount of story lines every time we do it, and that’s part of our preparation.

But we really enjoy doing it and look forward to doing it.

PAUL AZINGER:  Hi, everyone.  I’m excited.  Curtis hit the nail on the head.  There are a lot of story lines and probably none as appealing or attractive as the Tiger Woods story line coming back to play again for the second time since back surgery.

This is a Ryder Cup year.  There’s been a lot of questions asked of Tom Watson, and by the way, Andy North, who’s on our broadcast team is one of Tom Watson’s assistants.  A lot of speculation circling around whether or not Tiger will be a pick.  Every other year we get this story line.  The British Open will be double value in points.  Mickelson is not on the team yet, either.  There are a lot of story lines.

I was at Hoylake right after the U.S. Open.  I went over there to do an outing, and it was lush and green, a different Hoylake than what we saw in 2006 when Tiger won.

But they told me while I was over there that it was lush and green on the Sunday of the U.S. Open the last time, and it just dried out and baked out, so we’ll see what the golf course has in store.  Often times the golf course is much the story and the conditions, and I think that’s what makes the Open Championship so appealing, and the uniqueness of links golf is another thing that our network has been able to bring to the American viewer.

I love the ‑‑ we get to see for the first time when someone does a read, like when we had Mother Nature several years ago doing the read, don’t make Mother Nature mad or whatever.  We don’t get to see any of that until we come on air, so as analysts we actually look forward to seeing what we’ve come up with next.

I’m looking forward to the event.  I can’t wait to get there.  I have butterflies of anticipation waiting to see what Tiger and Phil can do, and again, like Mike said, who will hold the Claret Jug at the end of the week.

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I’d pick up what Paul was saying, that it was a very lush spring.  There’s a lot of that undergrowth and that wispy rough that we always see, but there’s a really good undergrowth in it, so that will be thick, but it has dried up dramatically the last two or three weeks.

Royal Birkdale was really lush two weeks ago, and it’s fast now.  In talking to some R&A folks, they are very happy where the golf course is right now at Hoylake, that it’s firmed up, it’s gotten faster.  I think by the end of next week, we will see a golf course that’s going to be very firm and very fast.  Maybe not what we saw last year at Muirfield where it was almost out of control it was so fast, but it’s a great championship, and we really look forward to it, and we take a lot of pride in bringing a different kind of golf back to America.

As Paul mentioned, there’s so many stories, and we’re going to do our best to get that out in front of the public.

Q.  We’ll get right to the Tiger question.  What do you expect from him coming off his performance at Congressional where he kind of had short game problems and just the whole back surgery issue?  What do you expect from him next week?

PAUL AZINGER:  Yeah, I think Tiger is always going to be compared to Jack, and there’s a big difference in where these two players are at this age, or were, at the age of 38.  I think one of the big differences that’s very rarely articulated is the fact that while Tiger in his dominance always, for whatever reason, was in this quest to get better, I don’t remember Jack ever saying that.  Nicklaus always was ‑‑ I mean, Jack might have made some tweaks and twerks here and there, minor tweaks and twerks, but Tiger has made astronomical changes in a quest to get better, and as a result Tiger has actually gotten a little bit worse.  I think we can all pretty much see that.

I think where Tiger has made his mistake is he’s dabbled with the fingerprints of his golf swing, not necessarily the fundamentals.  Tiger remains fundamentally fairly sound in his lower body, but the changes ‑‑ I think he’s probably the only person that’s ever played well who’s looked radically different throughout his career.  Even the layman golfer can see the difference in Tiger Woods’ golf swing.  So that’s one thing.

And Tiger’s quest to get better, I think he’s actually gotten a little bit worse.  Jack never had the severity of injuries, the career‑threatening injuries that Tigers has had, and now that’s the big question.  To speculate on what do we expect out of Tiger Woods at this point, I think, shoot, we don’t know either.  How fit is he?  How much is he still dabbling with changing what is so obvious to the eye that are just unique to the individual?  I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.

But I think that most golfers have made the same mistakes in some weird way about changing their golf swing, about changing fingerprints, if you will, for fundamentals, and I think Tiger has done that to his detriment, and Jack never made those mistakes.  Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate.  Tiger didn’t need to get better.  He just didn’t need to get worse.  He needed to stay the same and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it’s kind of backfired on him.

CURTIS STRANGE:  Yeah, I kind of tend to agree with everything Paul says.  I’ll go back to the basic question of what do we expect over there.  I think it will be very difficult to expect a lot of him.  A couple things:  One, he’s had back surgery.  He says he’s pain‑free, which it looks like he is, but your body doesn’t recover that quickly, so even though he’s pain‑free, he’s not 100 percent.  Can’t be 100 percent golf‑wise because of conditioning.  He hasn’t played but one tournament.  So when you look at it like that, how do you expect your body to swing and be as accurate and consistent as it is when you’re doing it every day and you’re perfectly healthy?  That’s number one.

Before he had the back surgery, he didn’t play well.  Now, some of that was from the injury, but he really didn’t play very well at all.  I don’t have the stats right in front of me, but he was at the bottom of the list in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putting, the bottom of the Tour.

Again, you have to take that with a grain of salt because he was injured a little bit, but he just didn’t play well.  He hasn’t played well.  We haven’t seen Tiger really, really play well in a while now, so back injury, not playing well, hasn’t played any competitive golf in over three months now, pushing four months, it’s hard to expect anything out of anybody, and I don’t expect him to be ‑‑ I hope he makes the cut.  I hope he hits solid shots.  He hope he progresses.  But I don’t think you could ever expect him to be on the first page of the leaderboard come the weekend.  And that’s just from a player common sense.  That’s talking about the great Tiger Woods.  If it was Paul, Andy or I, normal people, I’m not even sure we would go over there.

ANDY NORTH:  Yeah, I look at this maybe a little bit different than Curtis in the fact that I thought that he went and played in his tournament in Washington, D.C., was very, very important for the Open Championship, because he had to get on the golf course.  He had to put himself under tournament conditions.  Even though he wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to, it was very still very important because he found out where he had to work, what things he had to do over the next couple of weeks to get better, and the most importantly, after coming off of a surgery, which I’ve had a couple of back surgeries, that you trust that it’s going to work.  That’s the hardest thing is mentally to believe that everything is going to be okay and you can make a swing and it’s not going to be a problem.

I thought that in that week where he didn’t play very well, there were still some glimpses of things that probably made him very encouraged when he went home.  He had a stretch of holes where he made some birdies.  He hit some good shots.  That’s really important for a player’s psyche, and I don’t care how good you are, you have to have some of those small steps along the way before you can take big steps again.

What to expect out of him next week?  We all hope he plays well.  We all hope that he’s there.  But if he does have some success next week, I think it’s really huge that it started all a couple of weeks ago when he didn’t play very well, so he actually got out there under the heat of battle a little bit.

PAUL AZINGER:  Let me add real quick, too, the greens at Hoylake are actually very easy.  There’s only a couple greens that are difficult.  Tiger’s strength ‑‑ of course there’s a mountain of things that separate him from everybody else, but not the least of which is the putter, and Tiger has not been the great putter, but he’s not coming to Augusta where he’s got to make these swinging five‑footers and seven‑footers.  These greens are reasonably flat, and I think ‑‑ let’s just face it:  The guy went a year and a half without missing a putt inside three and a half feet.  We haven’t seen that Tiger lately, and he’s going to have to hit those smaller putts like his life depended on it, like he used to hit them.  Whether it’s concentration or technique or whatever, I’m not sure, but at least at Hoylake, the greens are manageable.

CURTIS STRANGE:  One thing I want to add, I didn’t mean Washington was a big step to go out and see if your body actually can hold up, to see if the pain is there at all, to see what the body does swinging the golf club, I agree with all that stuff.  But with that said, he hasn’t played well.  He didn’t play well there, and there might have been some positive things happen to him at Congressional, but when you look at him and can he play well and will he play well at Hoylake, it’s asking a lot of even Tiger Woods to go and really expect him to play well.

Yes, we all want him to play well for obvious reasons, but I just don’t see it as a golfer to come play a different type of golf against the best players in the world.

Q.  Andy, what do you think Tiger needs to show the rest of the season in order to be considered as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup?

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I think this is obviously Captain Watson’s decision, but I think it’s going to be very important that he shows that he’s healthy, and I think it’s going to be important to show that his game is in good form.  What does that mean?  I think there’s a lot of different ways you can look at that, but I think he’s got it looks like three starts probably before the FedExCup starts.  I think that he probably needs to play well those three weeks.

Now, what playing well means is different for everybody, but I think he’s got to go out there and ‑‑ I think it would be important for him to contend one of those three weeks.

Q.  I’m not sure who can answer this, but has ESPN done any studies on this or have the announcers had any feedback about this:  Do people watch the British Open live or do you think they watch it more on the replays because it’s so early in the day?

MIKE McQUADE:  I have not done any ‑‑ I’ve done my own research on it.  I don’t get many comments about it.  We air three majors.  We do re‑airs of them:  The Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British, and the ratings are all fairly comparable.  I would say the Masters we are probably higher, but we are on so long for the Open that by the end of it, people have already ‑‑ there’s no reason to watch the re‑air because you’ve gotten most of what you needed to get by even watching three hours of it.  I feel it’s fairly comparable even if you just watch a different part of it.

MIKE TIRICO:  I can add just a couple of things to that real quick.  On Saturday and Sunday, we end at 2:30 eastern Saturday, 1:30 eastern on Sunday, so it’s not terribly early for people in terms of Saturday and Sunday when their real viewing window comes to the maximum.

Unlike the other majors for that obvious reason, though, three hours in the late afternoon, 3:00 to 6:00, that usual golf window, that airs on ABC, as well, over the years, so people have a chance to see it multiple times in addition to what Mike was just talking about, in primetime, at night.

I think there are more opportunities to see this, but television ratings are considered on live shows.  When you see a rating for a show, it’s not necessarily the people who DVR it and go back and watch it at a later time.  The ratings are the ratings.  It just accumulates differently because there are re‑airs of significant portions of the coverage in the middle of the afternoon and then, as Mike said, same as the other majors, later on in the evening.

Q.  What will that week be like for you doing the World Cup in Brazil, flying up to England and then doing the British Open?  What’s that week like?

MIKE TIRICO:  It’s a thrill.  I have always thrived on the more work, you better you work, and as long as the travel from Rio to Brasilia to Lisbon to Manchester and then the drive to the golf course goes okay, I’ll be absolutely thrilled.

I get to see Jim Nantz every year when we’re over at the Masters, and Jimmy goes from the finals on Monday of the college basketball to the Masters on Sunday.  The difference here is obviously we’re a continent away.  The World Cup final is the most watched sporting event in the world every four years, so to be a part of that as the host and then to be a part of this golf championship just four days later is a pretty cool experience to be honest with you.  I’m pinching myself at the opportunity.  I’m enjoying every second of it.  Airline permitting, it’s going to be one heck of a week for me.

Q.  How do you stay fresh, though, with all the travel?

MIKE TIRICO:  We sit on our butts and talk.  People make a lot of what we do, and I appreciate that, and you want to stay as mentally fresh as you can because you’re talking for several hours a day, but sleep on planes is one of the big things, and I plan on not being awake for much of the flight from Brasilia to Lisbon, hit the golf course running on Tuesday afternoon, and the adrenaline of the Open Championship always gets you going.  You see the yellow scoreboards there, and all you have to do is sit in our spot where Zinger and I get to sit for four days, you turn around, and if you like golf, you would give up a lot to have the seat that we’ve been lucky to have for the last 17 years there looking down the 18th hole at the Open.

We’ll make it through just fine.  I really truly mean that when I say it.  I am energized and get great adrenaline out of the opportunity to be a part of a difficult set of logistics to be on the air for things like this.  It makes it fun, it really does.

Q.  Question for Mike McQuade on the production side.  You talked about how the Open is really strictly an ESPN show, at least for the U.S. rights, and then I also know that you guys work mostly out of cabins rather than trucks in terms of the actual operations.  Can you kind of talk about what makes this show unique from the other majors and how you try to add a different kind of spin on it?

MIKE McQUADE:  Well, besides just the sheer volume of coverage, from a production standpoint, really the most unique thing is what we’ve been talking about since the outset, is that we’re never together.  Maybe that’s why we get along so well.  All the production people, they come from ‑‑ a lot are coming from Wimbledon, working at Wimbledon, a lot of them are coming off their vacation because they’re getting ready for college football.  So I would say the greatest behind‑the‑scenes challenge and the difference is that we don’t do golf.  We love golf, but we don’t produce golf every week.

As far as when we’re over here and what we’re doing, after the first hour, you could be in a truck, you could be in a cabin, you could be on the moon.  It doesn’t matter, it’s still television, and the level of execution and the expectation is still the same.

It does help to be in cabins, we believe, when we’re doing it for 11 or 12 hours a day and you have actual room to move around as opposed to being confined to the truck.  The cabins also allow us just the sheer space and/or monitor walls; it allows hole monitors, if you will, to be bigger and not limited to the space within a truck.

Q.  And just a quick follow‑up, the virtual aerial technology has been around for a couple years now, and obviously with these kind of courses, it’s integral to the coverage with the winds and everything.  How has that kind of evolved, and how is how you guys use it within the show evolved over the last couple years?

MIKE McQUADE:  Well, I mean, the evolution for us had always been that it needed to be a live function.  We did not want to take the time for it to be something we would put on tape and play back after the shot, so once we figured out how to make it a live function, then the possibilities became really much more open to us, so we were able then to take it out to the fairway as opposed to just on the tee, and now we have it positioned so it can track the distance once a ball lands and the run‑out from that.

I think really the next step, I think it would be great to have the ability to do it really on every single hole for every single shot.  Not necessarily saying that we would do it, but just knowing that you have the ability to do it if you wanted to, and then on top of that, having the data to be able to show the trajectory of 156 tee shots on a particular day (inaudible) how the hole is played.  Unlike some other majors, the variance in shots from the time of day to the player is really different, and I think that would be fascinating for people to see.

Q.  Your comments regarding Tiger’s swing changes, fingerprints versus fundamentals, could you elaborate on that and how maybe that’s been detrimental?

PAUL AZINGER:  Yeah, I think that every golfer that’s played golf for any great length of time has tried to make some kind of swing improvements or changes to get better, and in the last six or ten months or so, I’ve looked at a million pictures and I believe there’s only three things that everybody in the Hall of Fame does, and two of them relate to the lower body and the other is shaft lean or I guess face and path awareness.  I think Tiger is playing more golf swing and he’s not quite as face and path aware as he used to be.  For example, if I handed you a long‑handled ax randomly and said hit that tree, I don’t believe the flat side of the ax would ever hit that tree.  I think you’d hit it with the sharp edge of the ax.

I just get the feelings that golfers when they try to change their fingerprints, I think some of them do it under the guise that it’s fundamentals.  I’ve always been taught that the fundamentals were grip, stance and position at the top, and the variance in positions at the top that are in the Hall of Fame are as unique as the fingerprints on your hand, as are swing plane, as are stance.  Bubba Watson shatters the mold.  He’s won two majors.  You wouldn’t teach putting it at the top of that backswing, across the line, past parallel, and his feet are flying all over the place, yet he’s a major champion two times over.

Everybody looks different.  Everybody in the world looks different.  I believe fundamentals are really lost in today’s instruction to the point where ‑‑ I’m not saying it’s a crisis, but it’s pretty bad.  I think a lot of instructors are treating their students like a chiropractor would treat a patient.  You need to come back for six straight ‑‑ if somebody tells Tiger Woods it’s going to take six weeks or six months, it would shock me.  I think if you don’t have Tiger hitting it better in the first 10 or 15 minutes, then you’re probably giving him bad information.  If you told Curtis Strange that he is, and he didn’t hit it better in the first five or ten minutes, I’m guessing you’re telling him wrong, and that’s the position I’m coming from.

I’m looking at Tiger Woods as somebody who in his quest to improve and get better, I think he’s mistaken, just like I did and hundreds of guys that have played the Tour at a high level, mistaking the uniqueness or the fingerprint, if you will, as a fundamental.  I don’t believe Jack ever made that mistake.  I just don’t.

Q.  If Tiger doesn’t get to 18 and you look back, would you say the swing was the larger factor than the injuries, or how would you view why he didn’t get there?

PAUL AZINGER:  Like I say, I think he’s the only guy who has dramatically changed the way his swing looks and has still been able to play at an extremely high level.  I mean, when he went from Butch to Hank, even a lay golfer could tell that Tiger’s swing had changed, and he won five or six majors doing that.  Nobody else ‑‑ you could argue maybe Hogan changed the uniqueness of his look or maybe Faldo or today maybe Matt Kuchar, but nothing like what Tiger did.  Matt Kuchar has gone back to what he used to do.  I guess Faldo shortened his swing a little bit, and Hogan, I don’t know.  I don’t know of anybody who’s changed the way they look more than Tiger Woods with respect to his golf swing and still played great.  Most people just go away.  They disappear trying to do what he’s done.

It just is a real example of what a great player he has been.  Now that he doesn’t putt as well, it’s hard to be as great as you once were if you don’t make putts, and I just think unnecessarily, Tiger has, for whatever reason, whether it was an effort ‑‑ sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and it gets you out the door.  Maybe that’s why Tiger made the changes.  Maybe he was bored.  Maybe he did it because his left knee was snapping and that’s something he tried to fix.  But the reality is the left leg should straighten through the hit a little bit as one of the things I feel are the three fundamentals.

I don’t know, I mean, he may look back and have regrets.  I know that he’s only worked with one guy that’s played golf at a really high level, and that’s Butch Harmon, and for him to just turn it all over to two guys that have never played on a high level is a bit of a mystery considering how great Tiger was when he did it.  I’m not trying to be harsh, I’m just trying to be ‑‑ I guess it’s more blunt than harsh.

I hope he plays great.  I mean, I hope he’s recovered from injury.  Sometimes you make these changes and it creates injury, as well.

Q. Martin Kaymer’s rise, did any of you see this building, and what was the final piece that put him back among the elite?

CURTIS STRANGE:  Well, you saw him playing better, but you certainly didn’t see what he did, how well he played at Pinehurst.  But I go back to where when he got to No. 1 in the world when he won the PGA Championship and was going to be really kind of one of the next future superstars, true superstars, and he went down the toilet just a bit for the same reason Paul just talked about.  He went to change his swing a little bit, and you go away from your natural ability to swing a stick in the golf club.

I question why did he do that.  He was trying to get better.  Trying to get better and better and better and compete with Tiger at the time.  I marvel at his golf swing.  I think his golf swing is unbelievable.  He swings the club in an aggressive fashion but under control.  He hits down and through the ball as well as anybody out there in the game today, and I marvel at the ability to ‑‑ the speed that he has and as well as he played at Pinehurst.

Pinehurst was not near as easy as he made it look the first two days, and that’s what happens, I guess, when some of the best players in the world get on top of their game.

I expect nothing but great things out of him in the future.  Can he hold it together?  Can he stay focused?  Can he stay driven?  We’ll wait and see.  But I think he’s fantastic.  You know what; if I was a young kid now, I’d want to emulate Martin Kaymer’s swing, I know that.

PAUL AZINGER:  One of the things that stands out to me about Kaymer was at the U.S. Open he made the comment that he had cleared his mind.  I’ve said this repeatedly, a golf swing only takes about a second and a half, and any one of us on this phone right now that have played this game know a lot can jump it your head in that second and a half, and when he said he cleared his mind, I was thinking, watch out, and he we did the Thursday‑Friday telecast there, and I loved it when he said that and continued to hit on that fact, and when a golfer at that level can play with a clear head, hang on, buddy, because he’s got something going on.

The very thing that may be clouding Tiger, all the conscious thought, all the thoughts and swing keys that sabotaged Martin Kaymer after he won the PGA, he got rid of them, and I think a lot of times that swing thoughts will sabotage good players.  You’ve got to have a key here and there.  You have to be able to eliminate one side the golf course.  That’s probably the greatest key to every great player’s success, but when you can get swing thoughts out of your head, that’s a major step.

CURTIS STRANGE:  But when he said that, Paul, that shows me he’s swinging well and his long game is confident, because when you’re swinging well and you know you’re going to hit the ball pretty solidly and straight day‑to‑day, then your mind does clear.  I actually think that comes before ‑‑ you can’t clear your head if you’re hitting skankers out there every day.  That comes from I’m not scoring real well but I know I’m swinging well.  I know my ball is in the middle of the club face, and I know it’s starting out on the trajectory I want it, and I’ve been doing it for a month.  It’s going to come around when I start making a few putts.  That’s the way I look at it.

Sports psychologists say you’ve got to go out there with a positive attitude every day, and I agree with that.  But that positive attitude is tough to stick in there with when you start skanking it on the second tee, and you say, son of a (expletive), I’m doing this again.

You know, what comes first, the chicken or the egg.  It’s as simple as that.  But when you see a player like Kaymer who says my mind is clear, that shows me he feels pretty damned good about his golf game.

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I think it’s always fun to be the last in this group.  Martin Kaymer got messed up.  He’s a guy who naturally cut the ball his entire life, and he tried to learn to hook the ball better to play Augusta National, and you’ve heard that story a million times.  When you’ve been a player who’s cut the ball and now you’re trying to draw it, it’s not just the technical stuff, it’s the look that you have, too, is that you start having to see things totally different.

This is usually the other direction, and it’s so easy to lose your confidence when you’re trying to make that kind of change.  And for him to fight his way back and go back to the putt he made at the Ryder Cup, that was a monster putt that helped his confidence a lot.  They sat him out most of that Ryder Cup because he was playing poorly, then to put him under pressure and have him perform under pressure, that can change an awful lot about how a player looks at himself and feels about what he’s doing, and I think that was the start of him coming back.

You have to play well.  Byron Nelson told me a long, long time ago, that to be a great player at this game you have to be brilliant or stupid, and if you’re in the middle, you’ve got no chance.  And I think that’s a lot of clearing your mind.  There’s some people that are not the sharpest knives in the drawer that have done great playing this game because they don’t think about anything.  That’s a beautiful thing.  If you could figure out a way not to think about anything for four hours, you’d be great.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Releases Full Season Monday Night Football Schedule

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released its broadcast schedule for the 2014 NFL season.

ESPN opened the 2013 season with a double header and will do so again for the 2014 season. ESPN will open its Monday Night Football regular season broadcast schedule with a double header on September 8th. The first game on the night will see the New York Giants on the road against the Detroit Lions. The game will be the first MNF game to be broadcast from Detroit since September 1971. Mike Tirico will anchor the broadcast and will have play-by-play duties. He will be joined by analyst Jon Gruden in the booth and Lisa Salters on the sidelines. The trio will also handle all MNF games, which will begin at 8:15pm ET. Kickoff for all of ESPN’s MNF games is scheduled for 8:30pm ET.

The second game on ESPN’s double header slate for Monday, September 8th will see the Arizona Cardinals hosting the San Diego Chargers at 10:15pm ET. It will come live from the University of Phoenix Stadium, which will also play host to the 2015 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIX. The 2015 Pro Bowl will be broadcast on ESPN.

Now in its 45th season, Monday Night Football’s 2014 season will feature all twelve teams from the 2013 NFL Playoffs. This includes the 2013 NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks and AFC Champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks will take on the Washington Redskins on ESPN’s MNF broadcast October 6th while the Broncos will face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati on December 22nd.

Eight NFL organizations will each have two games broadcast nationally on ESPN’s MNF. Those teams are the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Redskins. Speaking of the Redskins, Washington will renew its long held rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys once again in the 2014 NFL regular season. Washington and Dallas will meet on October 27th at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The meeting will be the 16th between the two teams; second only to the rivalry between the Raiders and Broncos, who have met seventeen times.

All of ESPN’s MNF games can be seen both on television on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and online via WatchESPN. Additional MNF “game around the game” content will be available daily across ESPN’s various platforms including Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter before and after each game. ESPN’s complete Monday Night Football broadcast schedule is listed below.

ESPN’s 2014 Monday Night Football Schedule

Preseason
Date Time (ET) Teams
Aug. 14 8 p.m. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Chicago Bears
Aug. 18 8 p.m. Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins
Regular Season
Sept. 8 7 p.m. New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions
10:15 p.m. San Diego Chargers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Sept. 15 8:15 p.m. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts
Sept. 22 8:15 p.m. Chicago Bears vs. New York Jets
Sept. 29 8:15 p.m. New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Oct. 6 8:15 p.m. Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins
Oct. 13 8:15 p.m. San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
Oct. 20 8:15 p.m. Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Oct. 27 8:15 p.m. Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
Nov. 3 8:15 p.m. Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Giants
Nov. 10 8:15 p.m. Carolina Panthers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Nov. 17 8:15 p.m. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans
Nov. 24 8:15 p.m. Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints
Dec. 1 8:15 p.m. Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
Dec. 8 8:15 p.m. Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers
Dec. 15 8:15 p.m. New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears
Dec. 22 8:15 p.m. Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals
TBD TBD NFL Wild Card Game
Jan. 25, 2015 8 p.m. NFL Pro Bowl (Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of the 2014 NFL season is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Releases 2014 Preseason NFL Coverage Schedule

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN announced this week that it will broadcast two NFL preseason games as part of the network’s 2014 Monday Night Football schedule. The first of the two games will see the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. That game is scheduled to take place Thursday, August 14th, 2014. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 8pm ET. The Browns will be on the road the following Monday, August 18th, visiting RG3 and the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Despite being a preseason game, it will be a pivotal matchup as it will be a battle of first-year head coaches. Jay Gruden, who left Cincinnati to take the helm in Washington, will lead the Redskins against Mike Pettine in his first ever game as a head coach in this game.

Mike Tirico and Gruden’s brother Jon will have the call for both games. They will be joined by reporter Lisa Salters. Both games will be preceded by a one-hour edition of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown pregame show.

ESPN Deportes will carry both preseason games as well as regular season games. All games broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes will also be available online via tablets and computers via WatchESPN.

More information on ESPN’s NFL coverage is available online at http://espn.go.com/nfl. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news reviews, go online to htt://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Bears, ‘Boys Face Off Monday Night In Pivotal NFC East Battle

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This week’s broadcast of Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to be another big one as the regular season nears its end.  This week, the Bears and the ‘Boys will face off for control of the NFC East.  Both teams come into Monday Night’s game on their own MNF winning streaks.  The Cowboys’ own a five-game MNF win streak and are second all-time in MNF appearances (74) and wins (43) coming into Monday’s game.  The Bears won their last four home games that aired on Monday Night Football.  Making the night even more special for the Bears is that they will honor Bears legend and current NFL analyst Mike Ditka by retiring his number during the games halftime festivities.

Stuart Scott will anchor Monday night’s pre-game show, Monday Night Countdown.  The broadcast will come live from Soldier Field in Chicago at 6:30pm.  He will be joined by analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and Steve Young.  Contributor Rick Reilly will also be on hand alongside the Monday Night Football team of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, and Lisa Salters.  Chris Berman will head up the studio portion of the show.  He will be joined by ESPN NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, and insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

Monday Night’s game is scheduled for an 8:25pm ET start time on ESPN.  Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will be in the booth to call the game.  Lisa Salters will be on the sidelines for all of the latest in-game reports.  More information on Mondays game and all things Monday Night Football is available online at http://www.facebook.com/MNF, http://espn.go.com/nfl.mnf, and http://espn.go.com/nfl.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Giants Host Vikings October 21st On MNF

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Week seven of the 2013 NFL regular season has officially kicked off.  The Arizona Cardinals will host the Seattle Seahawks tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium.  While the week kicks off tonight, all eyes will be on the week’s closing match Monday night.  This week on ESPN’s Monday Night Football features a matchup of two NFC teams. The currently winless New York Giants (0 – 6) will host the equally struggling Minnesota Vikings (1 – 4).  Both teams currently sit at the bottom of their divisions.

Mike Tirico will have the call Monday night.  He will be joined by analyst Jon Gruden.  Lisa Salters will have all of the game’s latest news from the sidelines.  Monday’s 8:25pm ET kickoff will be preceded by ESPN’s weekly pre-game show, Monday Night Countdown.  Suzy Kolber will host the pre-game broadcast.  She will be joined by analysts and NFL veterans Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and Steve Young.  The Monday Night Football crew will also be on hand along with contributor Rick Reilly.  Chris Berman will join the broadcast live from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut along with analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

More information on Monday’s broadcasts and all things Monday Night Football is available online at http://www.facebook.com/MNF and http://espn.go.com/mnf.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Bengals, Steelers Face Off On ESPN’s MNF Week 2 Broadcast

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

AFC North foes, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers face off this Monday on ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast.  Both teams come into week two looking to get into the “win” column after having a tough opening week.  The Bengals lost in Week 1 to the Chicago Bears 24 – 21.  The Steelers fell to the Tennessee Titans 16 – 9 in a tough fought battle on both sides of the ball.  ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will have the call from the booth when the Bengals and Steelers face off live next Monday, September 16th from Cincinnati.  They will be joined by Lisa Salters on the sidelines.  Broadcast of the game is expected to start at 8pm ET.

Next Monday’s broadcast of Monday Night Football will be preceded by ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown.  Stuart Scott will anchor the pre-game show live from Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.  He will be joined by NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, Steve Young, and contributor Rick Reilly.  Also on hand for the two-hour pre-game show will be ESPN’s Chris Berman, NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, and Tom Jackson and NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.  The latter group will come to audiences live from ESPN’s offices in Bristol, Connecticut.  Gruden will have an interview with former Steeler and current Bengals linebacker James Harrison during the pre-game show.  Rick Reilly will have an interview with Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon.  Audiences will want to tune in for this eye opening interview as McLendon will discuss how he practices ballet to help his agility.

Also expected for this week, Jon Gruden’s brother Jay is will be featured on “Soundtracks” and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will be on First Take with Stephen A. Smith.  And the day after the fierce foes face off, Bengals star AJ Green will be the focus of ESPN’s E: 60.  Audiences will see his highs and lows, from losing people close to him both as a child and a teenager to his more positive moments.  Lisa Salters will host next week’s episode of E: 60.

All of the latest Monday Night Football news from ESPN is available online at http://www.facebook.com/MNF, http://espn.go.com/nfl/mnf, and http://espn.go.com/nfl.

For all of the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Offering Extensive Coverage Of 2013 Open Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

 

ESPN will broadcast all four rounds of the PGA’s annual Open Championship live next weekend, July 18th – 21st.  ESPN and WatchESPN will have eleven hours of live coverage beginning with the first two rounds July 18th and 19th.  The first two rounds will be broadcast from 4am – 3pm each day.  Saturday’s round three coverage begins at 7am EST and runs through 2:30pm EST.  Round Four cover begins at 6am EST and runs through 1:30 pm EST.

Those that can’t catch coverage when it airs live next weekend need not worry.  All four rounds will be broadcast in an encore presentation.  The live broadcast and encore presentation of The Open are just part of the sixty-five total hours that center on The Open.  Also celebrating the 142nd renewal of one of golf’s biggest tournaments is The Best of The Open Championship.  The encore presentation of this feature has been edited for time.  It will be broadcast next Thursday – Sunday, July 18th – 21st.  the program will be broadcast Thursday – Saturday from 7pm – 10pm EST on ESPN.  Sunday’s broadcast will air on ESPN2 from 9pm – 12am EST.  Fans can get highlights of each day’s best moments on The Open Championship Today from 3pm – 6pm EST July 18th and 19th on ESPN and at the same time on ABC July 20th and 21st.  All broadcasts will be simulcast on ESPN Radio affiliates nationwide, online at ESPNRadio.com and on TheOpen.com.  A full rundown of coverage times and networks is available below.

SportsCenter will have its own special Open Championship coverage live from Scotland’s Muirfield Golf Links.  It will broadcast a one-hour special, SportsCenter at the Open Championship.  The special will air Wednesday, July 17th at 2pm.  There will also be a number of live in-depth reports beginning Monday, July 15th.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will anchor coverage of the broadcasts for the 18th consecutive year.  He will be joined by Scott Van Pelt of ESPN’s SVP and Rusillo.  The pair will be joined by legendary BBC golf broadcaster Peter Alliss Thursday and Friday July 18th and 19th.  Van Pelt will also serve as hole announcer along with reporters Curtis Strange, Dottie Pepper, and Sean McDonough.  Paul Azinger, David Duvall and Peter Alliss will all serve as analysts for the four-day tournament at different times.  Andy North, Judy Rankin, Dottie Pepper, and Bill Kratzert will be on-course reporters.

During coverage of the annual Open Championship, ESPN will use two technologies to help viewers follow every shot throughout the hole.  The first of the technologies, “Virutal Aerial”, examines wind condition throughout the course and its impact on each hole.  The tech debuted at the 2012 Open Championship.  The second of the tech used to bring viewers into the Open is known as “Flight Tracker.”  This real-time feature will be used on six of the match’s holes.  It will create a virtual line allowing viewers to follow the ball from tee to hole on each of the six holes chosen to feature this tech.

Along with all of the in-depth coverage provided by ESPN, ESPN Radio, WatchESPN, and ABC, ESPN Classic will have fifty-five hours of special golf programming in a tribute to The Open in the days leading up to the famed tournament.  It all begins next Monday, July 15th at 11am EST with a broadcast of highlights from the 1978 Open Championship.  That year’s tournament was won by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.  The programming will run straight through 4am on Thursday, July 18th, when ESPN’s coverage of The Open Championship begins.  The new edition of ESPN The Magazine hits newsstands tomorrow, July 12th.  It will have a preview of next week’s match.  In the meantime, a complete broadcast schedule of next week’s Open Championship is available below.

The Open Championship – Muirfield Golf Links, Gullane, Scotland

(all times U.S. Eastern)

Day/Date Program Start Network
Wed., July 17 SportsCenter at The Open Championship 2 p.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 First Round 4 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 First Round 7 a.m. ESPN Radio
Thu., July 18 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Second Round 4 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Second Round 7 a.m. ESPN Radio
Fri., July 19 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sat., July 20 Third Round 7 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sat., July 20 Third Round 9 a.m. ESPN Radio
Sat., July 20 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ABC
Sat., July 20 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sun., July 21 Final Round 6 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sun., July 21 Final Round 8 a.m. ESPN Radio
Sun., July 21 The Open Championship Today  3 p.m. ABC
Sun., July 21 Best of The Open Championship 9 p.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Mon., July 22 Best of The Open Championship Noon ESPN2, WatchESPN

There is far more available on The Open On Demand and via other outlets.  For all of that information and more, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/espn and “Like” it or the official ESPN website, http://www.espn.com.

To keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ABC, ESPN Networks Carrying Seven Playoff Games This Weekend

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

NBA fans have plenty of reason to be happy this weekend.  ABC and ESPN have seven games on tap this weekend.  Three of those games will air on ESPN Friday night beginning with a matchup between the Knicks and Celtics.  The Knicks will look to extend their two-game lead over Boston as the teams face off in game three of that series Friday night at 8pm.  It will air on ESPN and ESPN Radio affiliates across the country.  Fans can also catch the game online and via mobile access through WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.  Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Heather Cox will have the call on ESPN.  Marc Kestecher and Dr. Jack Ramsey will call the game for ESPN Radio.  The game is scheduled to start at 8pm EST.      

The second of the night’s triple header sees the Spurs and Lakers face off in the third game of their series, too.  The Spurs are up two games to none in that best-of-seven series.  Injuries have plagued the Lakers, who are looking to get their footing again Friday night.  The game is scheduled to start at 10:30pm EST.  It will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.  Fans can also watch the game online and on mobile devices through WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.  Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, and Chris Broussard will have the call on ESPN.  They will be joined by Alvaro Martin and Carlos Morales for ESPN Deportes.

Also at 10:30, the Warriors will look to break the one-game time with the Nuggets when the teams head back to Oakland.  The Warriors come into Friday’s game with some momentum.  The team as a whole shot nearly sixty-five percent and made 14 of 25 three-point shots.  Four of the team’s players scored twenty points in game two Tuesday night.  The Warriors have also outrebounded the Nuggets 91 to 71 over the course of the series’ first two games.  The Nuggets are looking to regain some footing Friday night when they are hoping to get Kenneth Faried back in the lineup after having lost him in Game 1 to a sprained ankle.  Friday’s matchup will air on ESPN2 and can be viewed online and on mobile devices through WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.  Dave Pasch, Jon Barry, and Holly Rowe will have all the action and news throughout the game.

The weekend showcase closes out with a Sunday doubleheader pitting the Knicks and Celtics against each other again for Game Four in the teams’ best-of-seven series first.  The game will air at 1pm on ABC and on ESPN Radio affiliates across the nation.  Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Heather Cox will be back to call the action again for the game, while Marc Kestecher and Dr. Jack Ramsay will have the call for ESPN Radio. 

The day’s second game tips off at 3:30pm EST.  The Bucks are hoping to dig out of a two game hole right now with game three tonight at 7pm.  Game four will be Sunday afternoon on ABC and ESPN Deportes.  Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, and Chris Broussard will be on hand for ESPN.  Alvaro Martin and Carlos Morales will call all the action for ESPN Deportes.  It all starts with the Kia NBA Countdown at 12:30pm EST.  Hosts Magic Johnson, Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose, and Michael Wilbon will discuss the weekend’s previous games and their implications as the NBA post season rolls on, as well as Sunday’s games on tap.  Fans can catch the Countdown on ABC.

A full schedule of the weekend’s games is available below.

Date Time (ET) Game / Commentators Networks
Fri, Apr 26 8 p.m. New York Knicks at Boston Celtics (Gm. 3)

ESPN: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Heather Cox

ESPN Radio: Marc Kestecher, Dr. Jack Ramsay

ESPN, ESPN Radio, WatchESPN
  10:30 p.m. San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers (Gm. 3)

ESPN: Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, Chris Broussard

ESPN Deportes: Alvaro Martin, Carlos Morales

ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes
  10:30 p.m. Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors (Gm. 3)

ESPN: Dave Pasch, Jon Barry, Holly Rowe

ESPN2, WatchESPN
Sat, Apr 27 7 p.m. Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks (Gm. 3)

ESPN: Mark Jones, Doris Burke, Holly Rowe

ESPN, WatchESPN
  9:30 p.m. Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (Gm. 3)

ESPN: Dave Pasch, Jon Barry, Samantha Ponder

ESPN Radio: Kevin Calabro, Chris Mullin

ESPN Deportes: Alvaro Martin, Carlos Morales

ESPN, ESPN Radio, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Apr 28 12:30 p.m. KIA NBA Countdown

Magic Johnson, Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon

ABC
  1 p.m. New York Knicks at Boston Celtics (Gm. 4)

ESPN: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Heather Cox

ESPN Radio: Marc Kestecher, Dr. Jack Ramsay

ABC, ESPN Radio
  3:30 p.m. Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks (Gm. 4)

ESPN: Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, Chris Broussard

ESPN Deportes: Alvaro Martin, Carlos Morales

ABC, ESPN Deportes

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.