This week in Fort Worth, Texas, CBS anchor Jim Nantz will sit alone in a TV tower behind Colonial Country Club’s 18th green. His longtime partner, Nick Faldo, will be calling the action from the Golf Channel studios. His analysts, Ian Baker-Finch and Frank Nobilo, will also be working remotely in Orlando. Inside the ropes, following the featured groups, will be on-course reporters Dottie Pepper and Mark Immelman.
With dozens of shots in the air at the same time, golf is already the most difficult sport to broadcast, and the first tournament of the COVID-19 era will look – and sound – different.
“We’re all going to adjust,” Nantz said in a conference call Monday with reporters. “It’s one of the great challenges that I’ve ever seen in my 35 years, but this crew is ready for it.”
The CBS Sports team returns this week for the Charles Schwab Challenge, the beginning of a 11-tournament stretch that will run through the start of the FedExCup playoffs.
How and where the talent is positioned is only part of the unique challenge. CBS will utilize 23 cameras (hard, mini RF and robotic) and have roughly half the number of people on-site. (For instance: Their main production unit typically has 22 people; this week, there’ll be nine.) The other members of the broadcast and production teams will be spread out in Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, Stamford (Conn.) and even New Zealand. With only a few days until they’re live on the air, Nantz said they’re still looking into a feed that would allow him to receive non-verbal cues from Faldo and the other announcers.
Though many of the usual staples will be shown throughout the broadcast – Toptracer technology, aerial flyovers, slow-motion breakdowns – CBS is also looking to introduce a couple of new elements.
A few players have already agreed to wear a microphone during this week’s telecast, part of what CBS chairman Sean McManus described as an “aggressive” push with the Tour. With no spectators for the first five events, McManus said there’s “a little bit more of a willingness” among the players to be mic’d up.
“I think there’s probably a greater appreciation for wanting to contemporize golf coverage a little bit,” he said, “and players are beginning to realize they can play a real role to make it more interesting.”
This week, CBS will also debut a “inside the ropes” segment that will involve players walking off the tee and into a tent, where they would answer a question in front of an unmanned camera. Those 30-second bites would then be rolled in throughout the broadcast.
“I think it can make a big difference,” Nantz said, “and we need the players’ help.”
Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET Thursday on Golf Channel.