NBC Sports Group Announces Coverage Plans Ahead of THE PLAYERS, May 8-14

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 1, 2017, 6:25 pm

Nearly 90 Hours of Live Programming on Golf Channel, NBC Surrounding PGA TOUR’s Marquee Event Featuring Best Field All Year, May 8-14 

22 Hours of Live Tournament Coverage, Highlighted by One of NBC Sports’ Most Technologically Advanced Golf Productions

With a recently renovated Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass serving as the backdrop, NBC Sports Group will dedicate nearly 90 hours of live programming coverage surrounding one of the most-anticipated events on the PGA TOUR schedule, THE PLAYERS Championship, May 8-14 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Boasting the strongest field of the year, Golf Channel and NBC will combine to provide 22 hours of live tournament coverage at THE PLAYERS, Thursday-Sunday, May 11-14, which will be complemented by more than 60 live hours of comprehensive news, analysis and high-quality features via Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS and Morning Drive.

“The Players has a special knack for eliciting incredible golf theater for spectators experiencing the event in-person at TPC Sawgrass or those at home watching on TV,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “THE PLAYERS has become a truly unique event on the professional golf schedule, and in partnership with the PGA TOUR, our award-winning production team is well equipped to cover the drama from every conceivable angle.”

SPECIAL PRODUCTION ELEMENTS: NBC Sports’ award-winning production team will cover every vantage point of the iconic par-3, 17th hole and its island green, with a total of nine high-definition cameras, including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny bunker fronting the green. The popular cable-suspended “Supra Cam,” camera system will return, providing unique angles by virtue of being able to fly over the body of water between the par-5 16th and 17th hole greens. Coverage also will utilize a 3D (dimensional) follow, along with Top Tracer technology on several holes throughout the golf course, including a reverse-flight angle for tracking tee shots from behind the 17th green.

A camera crane operator will be stationed 150 feet in the air above the tree line showcasing aerial shots of the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes. Another camera operator will be ferried to the small island near the 17th green to capture reactions of those in the field as they putt-out on 17. Coverage also will incorporate the use of wind-direction technology to track conditions throughout the golf course, including both on the tee box and high above the 17th hole.

BROADCAST TEAM: NBC Sports’ live tournament coverage of THE PLAYERS will be hosted by Mike Tirico, while the familiar pairing of Dan Hicks and Hall-of-Famer Johnny Miller will be positioned in the 18th tower during weekend coverage on NBC. Terry Gannon and Hall-of-Famer Nick Faldo will oversee the 18th tower during early-round coverage on Golf Channel, with Hicks and 1999 PLAYERS champion David Duval also contributing. The remainder of the broadcast team for all four rounds will include Gary Koch, Peter Jacobsen and 1998 PLAYERS champion Justin Leonard in tower positions, with Roger Maltbie, David Feherty, Mark Rolfing and Notah Begay reporting from inside the ropes. Steve Sands will conduct interviews with players, while Jimmy Roberts will offer essays.

Ryan Burr, Lisa Cornwell (Orlando), Rich Lerner (primetime), George Savaricas (Orlando), and Kelly Tilghman will anchor Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS coverage throughout the week, and will be joined by analysts Begay, Michael Breed, Brandel Chamblee, Duval, Jim Gallagher Jr., Billy Kratzert, Leonard, Frank Nobilo, Arron Oberholser and Rolfing. They will be joined by a team of Golf Channel reporters and contributors, including Heather Cox, John Feinstein, Rex Hoggard,Todd Lewis, Tim Rosaforte and Ken Schofield. Morning Drive will have a live presence on the TPC Sawgrass driving range beginning Tuesday, May 9. Morning Drive will begin each day focusing on the latest news with John Cook, Cara Robinson, Matt Ginella and Charlie Rymer on-site, in addition to show contributor Geoff Shackelford. Chris DiMarco, Damon Hack, Lauren Thompson and Gary Williams will anchor the show’s coverage from Golf Channel’s World Headquarters in Orlando.

FEATURES: Throughout the week within its news programming, Golf Channel will unveil a series of high-quality features, including:

  • TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course Renovations – When Deane Beman – former PGA TOUR commissioner – purchased the land that would become TPC Sawgrass decades ago, his vision for the Stadium Course always prioritized the experience for spectators at THE PLAYERS. Matt Ginella examines the recent renovations to the golf course, and discovers how the changes continue to reflect Beman’s original philosophy.
  • Golf Roots Run Deep for Monahan – As PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan approaches four months into his new role, Tim Rosaforte offers perspective on the Massachusetts native’s father, Joe Monahan, offering a glimpse into how the younger Monahan came to be so deeply rooted within the sport.
  • Rule of Thumb – Often receiving the most attention for their role as an accomplice during complex ruling situations on golf’s biggest stages, the feature will explore the often thankless job of PGA TOUR rules officials, through following them around the clock at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year. The day-to-day responsibilities and infrastructure are explored, providing a better understanding of their contributions at golf’s highest level.
  • Inspiring Journey of Max Jacobson – When Max Jacobson – son of PGA TOUR veteran Freddie Jacobson – was diagnosed with a heart defect in 2015 at age 7, it provided perspective that no TOUR player would ever wish for. The feature details the emotional and inspirational journey for Max and the entire Jacobson family.
  • Lonely “Other” Island – A unique piece written in the perspective of the lone isolated tree that sits on the island adjacent to the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass. In the tree’s voice, the feature examines the solitude that comes with the territory, but also the countless signature moments it’s served as witness to in the history of the event since transitioning to TPC Sawgrass.
  • Through a Mother’s Eyes – The final round on Sunday at the 2017 PLAYERS Championship will coincide with Mother’s Day, as has become synonymous with the event most years. Mothers of current PGA TOUR stars Justin Thomas (Jani) and Jordan Spieth (Chris) reflect on the special relationship they share with their sons. Also revisited is Lynn Fowler (Rickie’s mom) hurriedly finding a way back to TPC Sawgrass from the airport to witness her son’s victory at TPC Sawgrass in 2015.
  • Eluding an Ace at No. 17 – For all the attention the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass receives, TOUR players will often need only a wedge when sizing up the hole’s generously-sized landing area. Through a statistical-heavy approach, the piece will examine how so few holes-in-one have been yielded on No. 17 in competition since 1982, despite the inviting yardage showcased on the scorecard.
  • Paradise for Parity? – When considering what type of professional golfer a course like TPC Sawgrass favors, TOUR players are quick to point out that winners of the event are about as varied and unpredictable as any venue in golf, favoring no one type of player in particular. As Rich Lerner considers, that trend may have much as anything to do with the fact that no player has won back-to-back at TPC Sawgrass since 1982.

THE GOLF FIX: Airing Monday, May 8 at 6 p.m. ET, host Michael Breed will be on location at TPC Sawgrass, teaching the shots the pros will face down the closing stretch at THE PLAYERS. Breed will head to the 17th hole to teach how to conquer nerves when standing over an intimidating shot. Fitness guru Randy Myers also will join Breed to demonstrate how the best players in the world prepare for their rounds.

DIGITAL CONTENT:  Golf Channel Digital will feature expanded editorial content during THE PLAYERS Championship, led by a live blog focusing on up-to-the-minute storylines and reaction. Jay Coffin, Will Gray, Rex Hoggard and Ryan Lavner will report from on-site at TPC Sawgrass throughout the week.

Fans are able to access all the news and tournament coverage surrounding THE PLAYERS, and enjoy 24/7 live streaming at any time, on any device through Golf Channel Digital and the NBC Sports App, powered by Playmaker Media.

NBC Sports Group Programming at THE PLAYERS, May 8-14 (all times Eastern):

 

Monday, May 8

Morning Drive                                                                         7-9 a.m.

The Golf Fix                                                                            6-7 p.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                       7-9 p.m.

 

Tuesday, May 9

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                       9 a.m.-5 pm. / 7-9 p.m.

 

Wednesday, May 10

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                       9 a.m.-5 p.m. / 7-9 p.m.

 

Thursday, May 11

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      9 a.m.-1 p.m.

THE PLAYERS Championship (Round 1)                                  1-7 p.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      7-9 p.m.

 

Friday, May 12

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      9 a.m.-1 p.m.

THE PLAYERS Championship (Round 2)                                  1-7 p.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      7-9 p.m.

 

Saturday, May 13

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      9 a.m.-2 p.m.

THE PLAYERS Championship (Round 3)                                  2-7 p.m. (NBC)

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      7-9 p.m.

 

Sunday, May 14

Morning Drive                                                                        7-9 a.m.

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                      9 a.m.-2 p.m.

THE PLAYERS Championship (Final Round)                              2-7 p.m. (NBC)

Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS                                       7-9 p.m.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”

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J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.