THE FIRST ANNUAL “TIGER WOODS OPEN”
It couldn’t have worked out better for TNT. To CBS’s partner network the weekend golf major was always only about one person anyway. In round one of the final major of the golf season, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, TNT opened it’s coverage with just two live shots in the first ten minutes, both by a golfer who was seven shots off the lead at the time. Tiger Woods. We had a sneaking suspicion they were just setting the tone for the rest of the weekend. On Friday, while Jason Dufner was setting a new course record and becoming just 24th player to shoot a 63 in a major, the emphasis was on Tiger until Dufner played 18 with a chance to become the only golfer ever to shoot 62 in a major. That night ESPN’s coverage of round two also focused more on Tiger’s round, ten shots off the lead, than on Dufner’s record round. All’s well that ends well. The fact that Tiger was out of contention all weekend had him on the course so early on the last two days that TNT was able to present a separate tournament and write it’s own story lines. While CBS, which took over the prime time coverage at 2:00 both afternoons, was cheated out of the presence of Tiger Woods, other than what they could manufacture at every turn, TNT was able to present, in advance of the PGA Championship, the “Tiger Woods Open”. More correctly, the “1st Tiger Woods Open”, perhaps the first time in history an entire broadcast featured live coverage of every shot by one golfer, was already a non-factor in the tournament that would come later, the one that CBS would air. In the “made for TNT” tournament there was only one golfer who counted, all other scores were compared to his, and, almost miraculously, the network was able to get into and out of every commercial break without missing a single shot by that golfer, who, of course, was Tiger Woods. It was, afterall, the “Tiger Woods Open”. But, best laid plans being what they are, TNT was unable to win for losing, even in it’s own format. They didn’t get to show the winner of the “Tiger Woods Open” finish his round. He was approaching his second shot on the final hole when the clock struck two and they were forced to hand off the coverage to CBS, which opened it’s telecast with Jim Nance saying, “We thought we might close our coverage of the PGA Championship with Tiger Woods coming down 18, instead we open with Tiger on 18”, a quick lead in to live action and Tiger’s approach to 18, which landed in the rough to the left of the green. Then CBS was forced to turn it’s attention to something less important and less compelling than watching a golfer who hasn’t been able to win a major championship in what will now become at least six years, a little tournament in upstate New York, the postscript to the “Tiger Woods Open”. Far less compelling than watching Tiger was watching eventual first time major winner Jason Dufner swap leads with playing partner Jim Furyk. Afterall, Dufner shows none of the club throwing, profanity spewing emotion of Tiger Woods, none of those lovable personality quirks that make him so interesting to watch. Dufner, by comparison, is as dull as dishwater. Who cares that he brings the number of different golfers to claim major championships since the last time Tiger Woods won one to sixteen. I’ve heard a rumor that TNT is lobbying the PGA Tour to add yesterday’s runaway win in the “Tiger Woods Open” to Tiger’s official victory total, then add the tournament to the Tour next year, possibly to displace the Players Championship as the “fifth major”. I’ll let you know as soon as I check it out. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.