Does the PGA Championship need a big name to win its tournament this weekend? Do the TV networks need Tiger Woods to do a star turn at Hazeltine? Does John Daly wear ugly pants?
Outside Tom Watson's near-miracle at Turnberry, the PGA Tour hasn't delivered a vintage year at the majors to its network partners. Kenny Perry imploded at the Masters, allowing Angel Cabrera to back into the title in an ugly playoff, Lucas Glover (the Invisible Man) won the underwater U.S. Open, and Stewart Cink spoiled the Watson feel-good story in a deflating playoff at the British Open. Neither Cink nor Cabrera even led till others faltered on the final hole.
With Woods and Phil Mickelson no-shows (so far) on the game's biggest stages in 2009, it's not what the networks need. Buick has withdrawn from sponsoring two tour events, and FBR has called it quits in Phoenix. With the collapse of Stanford Financial and other sponsorship setbacks, the attack of the blands couldn't have come at a worse time to hold or attract advertisers and sponsors.
Viewership in the U.S. Open's delayed final round was down 37 per cent from 2008, while the Masters' final round was off 3 per cent. Other significant last-day drops: RBC Canadian Open (50 per cent), AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (60 per cent), FBR Open (43 per cent), Byron Nelson (33 per cent) and the Honda Classic (29 per cent). Woods either faded or did not play in all of the above. (Watson's Round For the Aged at the British Open popped the ratings 15 per cent.)
What can a winning Woods do for TV ratings? Final-round ratings for last weekend's Bridgestone Invitational, which Woods won, were up 105 per cent and 103 per cent, respectively, from last year. Five tournaments in 2009 had at least a 100-per-cent increase in ratings for final-round coverage. Woods won four of the five and was top five in the other. Case closed.
If you're Canadian, ignore the invitations from Jim Nantz or Ernie Johnson to watch coverage online before TV coverage begins on TSN. Canadians are denied Internet coverage of select groups and highlights. TSN tells Usual Suspects that such rights were separate from broadcast rights and that no one in Canada purchased them. Pity.
David Feherty plays fashion police. "A lot of white pants these days. At least you don't notice the white belt."
Added Vern Lundquist: "Like 1975 all over."
Feherty: "These guys are skinnier than they were in 1975."
Just a note to golf announcers who insist on saying that players are "paired together." Unless someone can be paired "apart," let's lose the "together." Let's lose "together" following the words pair, join, bind, weld, add, gather and any other act of union we can think of. This note from the Department of Redundancy Redundancy.
Did Frank Caliendo's John Madden impression make John Madden redundant? The legendary broadcaster called it quits this year to spend more time with his family. Sunday night's Hall Of Fame Game broadcast featured a touching tribute to the 73-year-old Madden, which reminded everyone how fresh and funny it seemed when the former Oakland Raiders' field boss first invaded the announcers' booth (sort of like that hockey guy - what's his name?). But in recent years, the grind of travel (Madden never took planes), commercial flackery and changes in the sport dulled the edge for the 16-time Emmy winner.
Then there was Caliendo's devastating caricature of Madden.
A gravel-voiced stew of double-back logic, stating the obvious and Brett Favre-love ("He's one step above the Greek gods," said Caliendo as Madden), Caliendo's act became a regular feature on FOX TV's pregame show and talk shows such as Late Show with David Letterman. With all Madden's tics and trademarks laid bare ("Bam! Pow!), Caliendo's uncanny performance strip-mined Madden's technique. And not always in a flattering light.
In one Letterman appearance, Caliendo as Madden garbled the football injury terms "likely, possible and doubtful."
Letterman: None of that made any sense.
Caliendo as Madden: And I make a living at it.
Lately, it was hard to see Madden work with Al Michaels ("the best broadcaster in the business … if you don't count 30 or 40 other guys," joked Caliendo as Madden) and not secretly wish for the imitation. When someone playing you becomes more compelling than you playing yourself, a line has been crossed, as George Bush Sr. learned when Dana Carvey's version of the 41st U.S. President ("Wouldn't be prudent") became more popular than Bush himself.
Madden changed the NFL sidekick role, allowing everyone from Dan Dierdorf to Tony Siragusa to play the blue-collar guy.
Instead of glorifying the pretty boys, the Hall Of Fame coach promoted the grunts and good ol' boys. The boy from Daly City, Calif., perhaps stayed a little too long at the party. Something Caliendo pointed out for comedic effect. Now, with an NFL season dawning, both of them will be looking for something new to do.
And nothing escapes ESPN's John Clayton. The Beeker- like reporter is touring 30 NFL camps in about 15 minutes, which allows him to come up with neat stuff. Like this from the Cleveland Browns camp, where Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are locked in mortal combat for the starting QB position. From his perch on the sidelines, Clayton learned that Quinn was secretly signalling the plays to the Browns' defence when Anderson was quarterbacking. To, you know … help them. No doubt the good fathers back at Notre Dame are proud as punch of young Quinn.