Golf Channel decided to make the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the hood mount ornament for it’s golf coverage for 2012 by throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the first broadcast of the season from Kapalua in Maui. They covered the event wall-to-wall pulling their all-star broadcast crew from the Golf Channel and NBC Golf stables. I was not sure there was going to be enough headroom in the broadcast tent when they announced that both Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo would be working the 18th tower for the full four days of the event.
Truth be told they did over cover this event like it was a major. But with only 4 of the top 20 players in the world rankings in the field, this was basically the Greenbrier Open staged in paradise. To say that Golf Channel/NBC was stretching for content, they spent 3/4 of the two-hour pre-game show the night before the first round talking about Tiger Woods. Tiger was not only not playing in the event, but he has not even committed to his first appearance in a PGA tournament for 2012. It got a little over the top when the only thing they could find for Kelly Tilghman to do was sit in the tower in her prom outfit and tell us things like where Steve Stricker and the family went to dinner last night in Lahina.
Then there was the fabricated PTI atmosphere of Dan Hicks trying to prod Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo into contradicting each other. It rarely seemed to work. The two were actually quite compatible and somehow managed to leave enough wiggle room for each other to be insightful.
But if you ask me it was the unapologetic Hawaii expertise of Mark Rolfing that saved this broadcast effort. There is no one with the type of inside knowledge of Hawaii, Maui, and the Kapalua Plantation Course like Mark Rolfing. He knows all the local slang, the exotic species of wildlife and flora, and every break in every corner of every green on the Island.
He obviously was a consultant in the Crenshaw-Coore construction of this unique course at Kapalua and provided insight into the strategy of the layout that none of the others on the broadcast team seemed to possess. For example, Rolfing said the putt Stricker was looking at on 17 was a fooler, it looks downhill but is actually uphill because the mountain is in front of him not behind him. Sure enough Stricker left it on the lip a half a revolution short. He pointed out that on that dramatic drive on eighteen where all the pros hit it about 400 yard to the same 4 x 8 foot area in the bottom left of the fairway, Coore and Crenshaw started with the tee about 100 yards further up the hole and just kept moving it back because it did not seem to make any difference on where the ball would end up. They finally ended up with a hole that is 663 yards from the Tournament Tee on the scorecard which makes for some real
“Oh My God” moments in the broadcast.
Local knowledge is a huge asset in a golf broadcast and Mark Rolfing is the ultimate chip to play when the tournament is in Hawaii. Golf Channel could have saved a lot of money and the broadcast would have suffered from much less bloat if they simply miked Rolfing, Miller, and Faldo and let them do it all.