We all know the debate. Godfather# 1 or Godfather #2. American Pie or Bridge Over Troubled Water?
Which is better or more impactful? Recency bias aside, it’s exactly how CBS and ESPN have to look at this historic week and weekend at the PGA Championship contested at Oak Hill Country Club just outside of Rochester.
The ironic thing about the coverage hit me last night as I thought about the best major championship stop I’ve seen from beginning to end in some time. CBS opened their final round coverage yesterday with Jim Nantz voicing over a scene-setter to the Rochester Symphony, playing Beethoven’s 5th with its wonderful and large notes hitting its crescendo at the end.
It couldn’t have played out any truer to form as Brooks Koepka went on to become only the 20th player ever to win five majors with a scintillating duel with Viktor Hovland for most of championship Sunday. But was that the real crescendo? I don’t think so, and it wasn’t close. It was the PGA Club Professional Michael Block who became the headliner, giving the raucous crowd and viewers at home visuals all week that will last a lifetime. He was the perfect TV foil.
Outgoing, embarrassed, shocked, and very much what the everyday golfer that those who were watching from home dreams of having a moment once in their golfing life. And for that matter, what TV networks dream of.
When Block dunked his 7-iron on 15 yesterday for an improbable hole-in-one to send everyone in America into a frenzy, CBS and rightly so, couldn’t contain their enthusiasm. They literally had every angle of that shot covered.
Sellers Shy, managing producer of CBS Golf had to be in golf producing heaven. It didn’t end there as one would think. Playing with one of the top players in the world in Rory McIlroy, (can you imagine?), Block needed a par at the very difficult 18th to auto qualify for next years championship at Valhalla. Block had what literally appeared to be an impossible up and down from about 40 yards left and below the treacherous green.
He’s in the middle of this enormous crowd staring down a daunting shot. CBS once again captured it all. From the crowd, to the caddy conversation, the angle of the shot. EVERYTHING SCREAMED, HE HAS NO CHANCE TO GET THIS UP AND DOWN!!! And the improbable happened. He nips it to 8 feet. Now, Jim Nantz sets the scene as only he can.
A ticklish 8-foot, sidewinding downhiller gets him in for 2024! And just as a movie would do, the ball eeeks into the cup barely with one final roll on the right-hand side and the crowd goes simply berserk. CBS lets the scene play out but wait, there’s a guy on the course who’s about to win an historic championship and you know what? It just doesn’t matter that much. CBS was exceptional in giving Koepka his due all day and showed every one of his shots. But the tournament in the eye of the CBS lens became more the Michael Block story and way less the Brooks Koepka captures his 5th major story. We know this in 2 distinct ways.
- You could feel the emotion of the CBS announce crew with Frank Nobilo, Ian Baker Finch and others commenting that they had tears after what Block had accomplished.
- The boos for Koepka that drowned out the muted applause as LIV Golfer Koepka made his way up to the 18th CBS didn’t comment on the boos because viewers know what they meant. Had they, it was just adding fuel to the fire.
Now, there were a few things that stood out to me so here are the bullet points.
ESPN– Scott Van Pelt was on his game all week. The chemistry with Curtis Strange and Andy North is excellent. They carry the early rounds magnificently. An addition this year that was tremendous was Bob Wischusen. I need more Bob on golf. He knows the sport well and had a tremendous week. He sees the small details quickly and translates that to exactly what the everyday golfer sees.
CBS– I thought Saturday was excellent. The weather was lousy and they captured the difficulty of Oak Hill very well and the golfers who were mudding there way thru. In fact, Saturday was CBS’ best day of championship coverage in years until…..Just see above. It was world class all the way around. My only gripe with golf coverage and all the networks do it. They cut to a shot of someone who’s out of contention who’s hitting a long birdie putt or hitting a shot from the fairway and they act surprised like its live coverage. It’s taped and we all know it. Just say, here’s what just happened. Don’t act surprised the shot went in. We know it’s going in!
Movie Studios, Late Night Television, Super Agents and Financial Advisors- They’re lining up now Michael!