FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME

CBS’ Nantz makes case PGA is start of great­est stretch in golf his­tory

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - JEFF AGREST ja­grest@sun­times.com | @jef­freya22

Jim Nantz spoke about golf with such author­ity and con­vic­tion, it was mes­mer­iz­ing.

Of course, he prob­a­bly could speak about stock­ing gro­cery shelves and it would sound the­atri­cal.

‘‘No other sports can say this right now, ex­cept for us,’’ Nantz, the voice of golf at CBS Sports, said on a con­fer­ence call. ‘‘We are about to en­ter the great­est stretch of golf in the his­tory of the game.’’

He rolled out his ar­gu­ment: Start­ing with the PGA Cham­pi­onship this week­end, Nantz sees an 11-month stretch with seven ma­jors — in­clud­ing two Masters and two PGAs — and the FedEx Cup play­offs, an un­prece­dented sched­ule cre­ated by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, which shut down com­pet­i­tive play for three months.

‘‘If you’re hot, you have a chance to make

a ca­reer in the next 11 months,’’ Nantz said. ‘‘It’s an im­por­tant thing for us who are doc­u­ment­ing the sport, who love the sport and care about it, that we try to make sure we reach the fringe fan and peo­ple who maybe aren’t fully aware. It’s a big story to tell.’’

Nantz will tell it Satur­day and Sun­day at Hard­ing Park in San Fran­cisco, where he’s host­ing CBS’ cov­er­age of the PGA for the 30th con­sec­u­tive year. Per­haps equally as ex­cit­ing for him is that he’s shar­ing the tower at the 18th hole with an­other hu­man be­ing.

Lead an­a­lyst Nick Faldo will be back at a course after work­ing the first eight broad­casts since the re­turn from the Golf Chan­nel stu­dios in Or­lando, Florida. Ian Baker-Finch and Frank No­bilo, who were with Faldo, will broad­cast from the 17th and 16th holes, re­spec­tively. Dot­tie Pep­per, Mark Im­mel­man and Trevor Im­mel­man will re­port from the course, and Amanda Balio­nis will han­dle in­ter­views.

But even with­out a part­ner in the tower, no fans on the course and half a nor­mal­sized pro­duc­tion crew on-site, Nantz doesn’t think CBS’ broad­casts have missed a beat.

‘‘It feels very nor­mal to me while we’re on the air,’’ Nantz said. ‘‘When you look out and you watch a com­pe­ti­tion go­ing on and there are no fans, it looks like just an­other day at a golf course. Then you put the head­set on and you take the feed that’s com­ing out of the truck, it feels nor­mal. Our pre­sen­ta­tion has made it, I be­lieve for the pub­lic, feel like it’s com­pletely nor­mal.’’

View­ers will get to see more of the ac­tion at this PGA. It marks the first year of an 11-year part­ner­ship be­tween CBS and ESPN, which will com­bine for cov­er­age on TV and other plat­forms. The West Coast lo­cale al­lows CBS to take the third and fourth rounds into prime time for the first time at the PGA.

But the biggest boon for view­ers is that, also for the first time on CBS, 50% of the na­tional com­mer­cial spots will be ‘‘twoboxed,’’ with a com­mer­cial air­ing in one box and CBS’ ‘‘Eye on the Course’’ in the other. That also had Nantz ex­cited.

‘‘I’m go­ing to talk as a fan here,’’ he said. ‘‘The 50% ‘Eye on the Course,’ that’s a big deal. If you start adding up how many shots that you’re go­ing to be able to see now that you don’t have to come back and get on tape, prob­a­bly you’re talk­ing about an ex­tra six or seven shots per com­mer­cial break that you’re go­ing to be able to show. That could be an ex­tra 35, 40 shots per hour or more.’’

Golf was among the first sports to re­turn to TV dur­ing the pan­demic, giv­ing us made­for-TV events such as ‘‘The Match II,’’ which pit­ted Tom Brady and Phil Mick­el­son against Pey­ton Man­ning and Tiger Woods in late May. It av­er­aged 5.8 mil­lion view­ers, mak­ing it the most-watched golf event in the his­tory of ca­ble TV (it aired on TNT, TBS, TruTV and HLN).

Sports with­out fans re­main made-for-TV events, and CBS fig­ures to pull in strong view­er­ship for the first ma­jor of the year — more than the 5.01 mil­lion who watched the fi­nal round of the PGA last year and, if the stars align, around the 8.47 mil­lion who watched in 2018, when Tiger Woods fin­ished sec­ond. In case you didn’t know, Woods draws eye­balls.

How­ever it goes down, it might be the start of some of the most-watched golf in his­tory, the way Nantz sounds.

‘‘The world of golf is en­ter­ing a stage that the sport will never see again,’’ he said, ‘‘and I don’t know that any other sport will ever see a com­pressed win­dow of high stakes like this sport’s about to em­bark on.’’

CBS SPORTS, JEFF CHIU/AP (TOP)

Jim Nantz (right) will be re­joined in the tower at the 18th hole by an­a­lyst Nick Faldo, who worked the last eight CBS broad­casts from the Golf Chan­nel stu­dios in Or­lando, Fla. The pair will cover the PGA Cham­pi­onship this week­end from Hard­ing Park in San Fran­cisco (top).

GETTY IMAGES

‘‘The Match II,’’ which pit­ted Tiger Woods and Pey­ton Man­ning against Tom Brady and Phil Mick­el­son, was the most-watched golf event in ca­ble-TV his­tory.

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