“I turned down a round with Tiger”

He was nearly fired, had an on-air dress­ing down from Greg Nor­man and bailed on nine holes with Woods... David Liv­ing­stone re­flects on 25 mem­o­rable years at the helm of Sky Sports Golf


David Liv­ing­stone said his fi­nal farewell to broad­cast­ing at the end of this year’s Ry­der Cup at Le Golf Na­tional, 25 years af­ter he first be­gan pre­sent­ing golf for Sky Sports. He’s one of just a hand­ful of men who have been there since Sky’s in­cep­tion, and Butch Har­mon led the trib­utes to his col­league, say­ing, “There is no pre­sen­ter in the world bet­ter than you my friend.”

And yet what many don’t know, is that ‘Livo’ never wanted to be in front of the cam­era. His ca­reer be­gan af­ter he replied to a news­pa­per ad­vert for a trainee jour­nal­ism scheme on a whim – the first and only job he’s ever ap­plied for be­fore or since, he tells me as we sit in the club­house of the Western Gailes Golf Club. “I worked all over the place, and it was great train­ing,” he said.

He pro­gressed into a ca­reer as a news and crime re­porter, but when Robert Maxwell took over the Mirror Group, Liv­ing­stone be­gan to look for a way out. It would end up lead­ing him away from news­pa­pers and into life on screen. “You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but he was an ab­so­lute ogre and I just thought I can’t work any­more for that or­gan­i­sa­tion. I man­aged to get out and I started at Scot­tish Tele­vi­sion through a friend who was high up and he took me on as a script writer for news and sport.”

And he was soon sent on a course that changed ev­ery­thing. “They sent me on a BBC course in El­stree where you had to do ev­ery­thing – pro­duc­ing, di­rect­ing, sound, and you had to do pre­sent­ing, so they said, ‘You’re quite rea­son­able at that, why don’t you give it a go?’ Hon­estly, I re­ally never wanted to do it.

“It was em­bar­rass­ing for the first few years be­cause I was re­ally ter­ri­ble. It was em­bar­rass­ing to go on TV ev­ery night and make a fool of your­self but that’s what you had to do – there’s no other way of train­ing for TV. It did burn my ego quite a bit, but some­how, if you’re lucky, peo­ple per­se­vere with you.”

He soon moved with a friend of his to what was then BSB and Sky, work­ing mainly as a foot­ball re­porter. But one mis­er­able Fri­day night, while cov­er­ing a Stoke City v Port Vale match, his boss told him they had done a deal with golf in Amer­ica

– and if he wanted the pre­sent­ing role, the job was his. “I’m stand­ing there with the rain pour­ing all over me,

mud was lap­ping over my shoes and I was think­ing about Hawaii, Cal­i­for­nia and Florida... I thought this is not go­ing to take long to say yes to!

“I started the day af­ter my 40th birth­day, so when peo­ple talk about life be­gins at 40, they don’t know how true that is.”

Start­ing at Sky

It was a re­ally tough time. Ken Brown and I were in Lon­don and we took in the first event from the sea­son in Amer­ica. It was the blind lead­ing the blind. Ken’s look­ing to me for lead­er­ship. I didn’t have any. I didn’t know what I was do­ing! I didn’t have any of the golf lan­guage. Ken, of course, knew plenty about golf, but noth­ing about TV, so we were in no-man’s land and it was a real strug­gle for three months. We were get­ting through, but it wasn’t good – and the bosses were quick to tell us.

The stu­dio back then…

We had two chairs and a lit­tle cof­fee ta­ble. It was lit nicely, but there was noth­ing elab­o­rate. We had a big screen be­hind us where they were feed­ing in ‘as-live’ pic­tures of the golf course. We felt a mil­lion miles away and we’d never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like Amer­i­can commercial breaks – and we had no pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity to cover any of that. I didn’t even know how to lead in and out of breaks, and it was re­ally em­bar­rass­ing. The stu­dio looked pretty grim and Ken and I def­i­nitely looked grim. Af­ter three months I went in to see the head of Sky Sports, David Hill, think­ing I was go­ing to sneak in a new contract. I caught him at the wrong time and he said “do you want the truth or the

First time I met Tiger Woods

I in­ter­viewed Tiger at the 1996 US Open in Oak­land Hills. Butch was with me in the stu­dio and be­cause he was coach­ing Tiger, he was happy to come in. Just as they were about to bring him in, a USGA me­dia of­fi­cial told me that it was the first time he’d made a cut in a Ma­jor. So away we go, and I said, “Tiger, you must be very proud, this is the first time you’ve made a cut in a ma­jor”. He stopped me and said, “No, I made the cut in the Masters this year”. I couldn’t blame any­one else, it was my own stupid fault, but that was awk­ward be­cause Tiger even at that age is a de­tail guy. It wasn’t a great start. BS?” He said, “Look, you’re use­less” – it wasn’t quite as clean as that – “and if you don’t im­prove I’m go­ing to have to let you go.” He told me about this con­stant ‘ehh’ and ‘umm’. He said, “You’ve got a week to erad­i­cate that from your vo­cab­u­lary or you’re his­tory.” I was see­ing a sports psy­chol­o­gist the next day to in­ter­view him about what he did for sports peo­ple and he ex­plained a tech­nique to me – he didn’t know any­thing about my prob­lem – for play­ers who had a re­cur­ring prob­lem. I em­ployed it the next week. I watched the whole lot back and didn’t ‘eh’ or ‘um’ once. I got a new contract the fol­low­ing Mon­day.

The first tour­na­ment he went to

It was the Air France Cannes Open. Sky had sent me to Dun­hill in Lon­don to be kit­ted out; I’d never had clothes like that – £500 blaz­ers and shirts that cost £100. So on the first morn­ing I put on my best out­fit, get dropped off in the car park and there’s a storm. The pro­ducer looks at me and says, “You look fan­tas­tic, but com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate for what we have here”. So I’m stand­ing in the rain try­ing to do links in this out­fit... pre­pos­ter­ous. The first guy I in­ter­viewed was David Fe­herty, and I think Sam Tor­rance came in. Two guys from my sort of back­ground. They were so nice and wel­com­ing and you put the two of them to­gether and it was bril­liant.

The best af­ter­noon of his life…

The first proper out­side broad­cast we did (in Amer­ica) was at the 1994 US Open at Oak­mont. It was 108 de­grees, bru­tal. We had no re­sources, the en­tire commentary team was Ewen Mur­ray, Bruce Critch­ley and me. We didn’t have a stu­dio, we had a cou­ple of lit­tle plas­tic chairs un­der­neath a tree by the club­house. But it was right next to the scor­ers’ area, so I just asked ev­ery player who came past if I could do an in­ter­view. I got the lot. That was prob­a­bly the best af­ter­noon of my life. It was Arnold Palmer’s last US Open; Jack Nick­laus was still com­pet­ing; Greg Nor­man, Nick Faldo, Hale Ir­win, Lee Trevino… ev­ery golfer I’d ever watched, ad­mired and re­spected came and sat in my lit­tle plas­tic chair. It was driv­ing the host broad­caster ABC nuts be­cause I was de­lay­ing their route to their stu­dio.

Spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Butch

When we first met, I didn’t know him. I was in a strop leav­ing the US Open at Shin­necock in 1995 be­cause we’d had a long day. I picked up a beer as I was leav­ing the course and two guys said, “Sir, you can’t take that with you”. I was furious, threw it into the bin and stormed off, say­ing to my col­leagues, “What do you make of this coun­try? You can walk down the street with a gun in your hand but not with a beer!” This guy over­heard and said, “You don’t know what you’re talk­ing about” in an Amer­i­can ac­cent. I wheeled round and wasn’t too po­lite. I just told him where to go and then stormed off. In the car Bruce Critch­ley said, “Do you know who you’ve just in­sulted?” I said, “No and I don’t care”. He said, “Greg Nor­man’s coach, Butch Har­mon”. I put my head in my hands and wor­ried about it for weeks.


Grilling Paul Mcgin­ley at The Play­ers.

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