Just as journeyman Todd Hamilton came from out of nowhere to forge an identity for himself this weekend, so did ABC. But while Hamilton took home the Claret Jug at the British Open, ABC hit it into the gorse.
Even though ABC's 19 televised PGA events this year ties CBS for the most among the major networks, its coverage of late has never stood out the way CBS's, or even NBC's, has in the past. To put it another way, when you think of ABC, you think of Michaels and Madden on "Monday Night Football," or the BCS, or, recently, the NBA Finals. But golf? The network does not spring to mind when one thinks of memorable golf coverage, the way CBS does with its handling of the Masters over the years or NBC with its U.S. Open coverage.
ABC added three-time British Open champ Nick Faldo to the booth this year, and the results were mixed. He's certainly well-spoken, maybe too much so, talking over shots. At times, his comments verged on the nonsensical.
A perfect example came on Saturday when Phil Mickelson was hitting out of the rough at No. 17. "If anybody can [get it close to the hole], Phil can," Faldo mused. "In the can. Phil."
Faldo rebounded a bit on Sunday with a little more restraint and a fairly funny bit about Ian Poulter's much-talked-about pants, which he planned to auction off for charity after the tournament. "He is going to auction his fancy pants for the hospital," Faldo said. "If you would like to get in Ian Poulter's pants, or as we would say, in his trousers, and that's for the fellows as well as the ladies, then please, you'll find him somewhere, I guess." Saucy!
Peter Alliss stopped by the booth for a few holes, and even though his voice is similar enough to Faldo's to befuddle this American ear, he made an impression with his economy of words. Good shots were greeted by "not bad." A good putt was, as one would expect, "a good putt."
Ernie Els was looking "ominous" as he made his charge. Alliss's time behind the microphone was far too brief.
The other experts on hand added little. Hal Sutton didn't say much and often repeated himself. Perhaps the U.S. Ryder Cup captain was more concerned about filling out his lineup than filling in the audience. And all the announcers seemed to talk over poor Judy Rankin, who barely got any time as on-course reporter. Rankin did offer the nicest tidbit Sunday, letting everyone know Hamilton was using a putter purchased from a used-club barrel.
To top things off, ABC jammed as many commercials into coverage as possible, and often seemed in a rush to get to them. Twice Sunday, ABC started its theme music, signaling an upcoming commercial break, while poor Thomas Levet was lining up a putt. Once ABC went to commercial before viewers could see Levet hole out.
But at least ABC didn't cut away from the playoff between Hamilton and Els, as it did in June when it switched most of the country to "America's Funniest Home Videos" without showing the end of the playoff among Sergio Garcia, Rory Sabbatini and Padraig Harrington at the Buick Open. This time, at least they got that right.