Fox brings bling to golf cov­er­age

Los Angeles Times - - 57 - chris. ersk­ine@ latimes. com Twit­ter: @ er­sk­ine­times CHRIS ERSK­INE FAN OF THE HOUSE

No one does vis­ual bling like Fox Sports, which of­fers a snazzy, some­times- tooor­nate jew­elry box of spe­cial ef­fects.

This week, Fox has brought all that jazz to the U. S. Open. Drones. Topo maps. Mi­cro­phones in cups. Smudge around the hole, the same sort of blur the NHL once used to su­per­size the puck.

What sounds like trou­bling video game magic was ac­tu­ally pretty nu­anced, at least in the early rounds.

On Fri­day, the to­po­graphic en­hance­ment of un­du­lat­ing greens, known as the “Shaded Green” sys­tem, was un­der­whelm­ing. The swales were al­most as ev­i­dent with­out the magic trick.

Used spar­ingly, con­cen­tric cir­cles showed the lo­ca­tion of the cups, in an odd neon green that look like a spilled daiquiri. As the field thins, ex­pect to see more of these new tricks as the pace of the tele­casts slows.

Ac­cord­ing to Fox, they wedged tiny mi­cro­phones into the cups, but any sort of rat­tle- kerplunk they pro­duced was lost on me.

Most ef­fec­tive was the dig­i­tal va­por trail that shows the am­pli­tude of tee shots, an ef­fect we’ve seen be­fore. For golf, it has be­come the equiv­a­lent of the yel­low stripe that marks po­ten­tial first downs. Known here as the “Lexus Ball Tracer,” the spe­cial ef­fect has its own spon­sor ( doesn’t ev­ery­thing?).

Sur­pris­ingly en­gag­ing were su­per slow- mo re­plays of a club strik­ing the ball, pro­duc­ing a vol­cano of dirt, grass, di­nosaur dust and what­ever else serves as the mat­tress for this odd public course.

Lord, what a wicked play­ground this is. For play­ers, it must seem god­less, even amid the dropdead- gor­geous back­drops of Puget Sound.

But, man, is it fun to watch. It’s not so per­fect as the typ­i­cal lush USGA stage. If you haven’t al­ready, tune in sim­ply for the cin­e­matog­ra­phy.

Cham­bers Bay looks like some­thing the Al­lies in­vaded in 1944. The best club for this course is prob­a­bly a shovel. Once in the rough, you’d be best off grab­bing for your nine- sickle and a pock­et­ful of Prozac.

And those oily traps: You’d have bet­ter luck hit­ting a matzo ball out of a bowl of soup.

It is on this strangely brown course that Fox de­buts its stash of spe­cial ef­fects, one of the prom­ises it made to the USGA two years ago when it won the con­tract away from NBC.

But for all the giz­mos, the com­men­tary stole the show in the first cou­ple of days. Hav­ing Joe Buck at the helm never hurt any tele­cast, but I found my­self pay­ing the clos­est at­ten­tion to Tom Weiskopf ’s pithy, hon­est com­men­tary.

“I hate to watch this, to tell you the truth,” Weiskopf said as Tiger Woods seemed to morph into a week­end duf­fer.

Later, Fox’s au­dio team caught wun­derkind Jor­dan Spi­eth growl­ing over a typ­i­cally trou­bling Cham­bers Bay chal­lenge.

“This is the dumb­est hole I’ve ever played in my life … un­be­liev­ably stupid,” he com­plained, ev­i­dently un­aware his voice was be­ing picked up.

Find­ing a story line among mod­ern play­ers must be the tough­est work. Not sure how you find a main­stream au­di­ence for the likes of Joost Luiten and Brandt Snedeker, who sound like char­ac­ters out of a Mered­ith Will­son mu­si­cal.

What can pos­si­bly res­onate here be­yond the game’s most avid devo­tees? This is a sport where the guys still wear white belts, af­ter all. And not a tat­too in sight.

Yep, what golf needs des­per­ately now is a story line: Nick­laus vs. Palmer. The Shark vs. Larry Mize. Doug San­ders vs. a three­foot putt.

In that vein, I sup­pose there’s Tiger. He’s a dif­fi­cult guy to feel sorry for, but I think we’ve reached that point. In­creas­ingly, he has be­come a poster child for ath­letes who stay on a lit­tle too long.

Hey, maybe Fox can make a dig­i­tal tra­jec­tory of that.

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