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.

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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.

Nordegren Speaks on Woods In New Us Weekly Interview

Courtesy:  Us Weekly Magazine

Courtesy: Us Weekly Magazine

Roughly three years have passed since golfer Tiger Woods and his now ex-wife Elin Nordegren divorced as a result of Woods’ cheating scandal.  But ask Nordegren, and she will tell anyone that there are still some very hurt feelings.  In an interview with Us Weekly magazine, Nordegren notes that she “hates Lindsey Vonn and everything about this romance.”

The thirty-seven year old Woods and his current romantic interest started dating in fall 2012.  They went public with their relationship this past March.  Among the couples dates were outings to NYC’s Met Gala this past May and a handful out dates with Woods’ children, five-year old Sam and four-year old Charlie, whom he had with Nordegren.

Nordegren goes on to note in her interview with Us Weekly magazine that she is “angry Tiger even has visitation rights to the kids.”  Nordegren herself has allegedly gotten back into the dating pool, according to the article.  It notes that she has been spotted with coal magnate Chris Cline earlier this year.  Cline is said to live near Nordegren’s $12 million beach side estate in North Palm Beach, Florida.

When asked what Woods thinks of her feelings over what has happened, Nordegren noted that “he doesn’t care about her” and that “He’s so egotistical.” 

On the other side of things, Vonn has spoken on her relationship with Woods saying that being in the public eye has “been difficult and interesting…But we’re dealing with it and we’re happy and that’s all that matters.”

More on this can story and many others can be read at http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/elin-nordegren-hates-lindsey-vonn-angry-at-tiger-woods-201376#ixzz2VYMlTw2E.

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.

New PBS Special Is Great For Golfers Of All Ages

Courtesy: PBS

Golf is one of the world’s greatest games.  It is, for that matter, known as “the greatest game ever played.”  Next to football (or soccer as it’s known in the U.S.), golf’s fans number more than any other sport across the world.  Fans know their favorite golfer.  They know their favorite course.  But how many golfers and fans know the history behind the game’s most legendary courses, or of those individuals that built them?  Now thanks to PBS, fans and players of all ages can learn that history in the new special, “Golf’s Grand Design.” 

North Carolina’s PBS affiliate, UNC-TV, will air this special tomorrow night, August 3rd at 10pm.  Those who miss it can still order it online next Tuesday, August 7th at http://www.shoppbs.org.

 “Golf’s Grand Design” is an excellent starting point for fans and golfers of all ages and experience levels.  It clocks in at just under an hour.  That’s not counting the closing credits.  It starts in the sport’s earliest recorded history in Scotland.  The narrator notes that before Scotland, golf’s roots are unknown.

The very first course featured in this special is, of course, St. Andrews.  The program’s narrator notes that this was the very first modern golf course.  From here, the special does something very smart.  Rather than merely jump from course to course and from architect to architect, each architect and course’s segment is preceded by a quote from the architect to be featured.  This lets viewers know which architect is going to be featured.  Kudos to PBS and all involved with bringing the special to life for assembling the program in this manner.  Viewers will learn about the history not only of each architect, but of how each one built his course(s), including his motivation behind building each one in its given form.  Among the many architects featured in the show are:  Charles Blair McDonald, David Ross, and Robert Trent Jones among many others.

In learning how each architect came to build his course(s), viewers will see a rather interesting process.  They will see how golf courses have come full circle from the simple to the grandiose and back to simple again.  The best explanation of this movement comes from a pair of sound bites run early on in the show.  One of the individuals interviewed exclaims of golf, “Half the experience is sharing the time with friends.”  Another noted that “It’s about the exploration of a piece of land.”  Both statements echo a similar mindset.  That mindset is that what makes golf great isn’t how grandiloquent a course is.  What it great is the simple experience of being on the links.  It’s about being with friends and being one with the game and with the course.  This is the mindset that makes the game great.  It’s the mindset that will always make gold the greatest game ever played, and that will always make its many courses just as great.

As a reminder, “Golf’s Grand Design” will air on North Carolina’s PBS affiliate, UNC-TV, tomorrow, Friday August 3rd at 10pm.  The DVD will be available next Tuesday, August 7th.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoppbs.org.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New PGA dvd documents a “major” moment in time

Golf, it’s said, is the gentleman’s game.  And since the PGA was founded April 10th, 1916, many gentleman have come through its ranks.  Those names go all the way back to the winner of the inaugural PGA Championship, James M. Barnes.  The PGA Championship was the first of what would become one of the PGA’s “majors.”  In 1934, another of the “majors” began, and has since brought the name of many gentlemen to fame.  That tournament was the Masters Tournament.  Horton Smith won the very first tournament, beating Craig Wood to take that title.  Since then, the Masters Tournament has brought many more names to prominence among the PGA’s ranks, including legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The pair combined for a total of ten Masters titles since Palmer took his first title in 1957.  Now, fifty-five years after Palmer won his first title, members and fans of the PGA could very well be looking at another legend in the making after the conclusion of this year’s Masters Tournament.  His name is Bubba Watson.  And thanks to the people at A&E TV, at&t, ExxonMobile and IBM, fans of the PGA can re-live Watson’s unexpected win at this year’s tournament in the dvd release of “Highlights of the 2012 Masters Tournament.”

“Highlights of the 2012 Masters Tournament” takes fans through the tournament from the pre-tournament festivities to the amazing final battle for the title between Watson and South African Louis Oosthuizen.  Along the way, the dvd takes fans on the up and down journey throughout each round.  The final score of each round highlights that there was no clear cut leader.  Each round saw a diferent golfer at the top of the leaderboard.  Fans can watch as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods struggle through the first round.  Their troubles, combined with Henrik Stenson’s collapse late in the first round set up what would become the start of Watson’s weekend rise.

The ups and downs of the tournament aren’t all that make this brand new dvd so enjoyable for golfers and fans of the “gentleman’s sport.”  Fans learn that the 2012 Masters tournament was recorded on a total of twenty-eight 3-D cameras.  It’s noted that the setup was the largest production of its kind.  That in itself is impressive.  Just as impressive is how this final product was edited and assembled for fans, including the soundbites added throughout the highlights.  Those soundbites really helped to emphasize the emotion being felt by the competitors.  The note of the production and the soundbites aren’t the only extra pieces of information that fans get in watching this documentary.  Audiences also learn that the double eagle shot by Oosthuizen in the final round was the first ever on television.  In small part, that may be seemingly irrelevant to anything.  But in the grand scheme of things, it shows how rare such a feat is, and for that matter, how rarely such a feat has ever been recorded.  That being the case, even such a small piece of information plays a big role in the overall presentation of this dvd. 

The doube eagle shot by Oosthuizen was one of many wonderful moments in this year’s Masters tournament.  ANother wonderful moment was watching Watson as he received his first ever green jacket, and the press conference that followed.  He openly professed his faith, and talked frankly with reporters about the tournament, adoption, and life in general.  He showed that he was just an average person who got lucky enough to be where he was.  He seemed to break the sterotypical mold of PGA pros and relate to the average fan and viewer.  Those moments are exactly what the PGA needs to bring in a whole new audience.  And having added them in their entirety as bonus features here makes the overall dvd presentation all the better.

The 2012 Masters Tournament was one of the greatest tournaments in PGA history.  From the weather, to the the ups and downs of tournament favorites, to the unlikely win of Bubba Watson, this new DVD documents it all, in a timely fashion.  The general presentation clocks in at just under an hour.  It all combines for what is a wonderful introduction to the sport for new fans, and an equally wonderful walk down memory lane for fans who have been watching the sport for a very long time.

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