WOODS, MICKELSON HEADLINE FIELD AS NBC SPORTS BROADCASTS WEEKEND COVERAGE OF THE PLAYERS
Golf’s “Fifth Major” Shown with Limited Commercial
“The finish here is as challenging and dramatic as will ever be seen in golf.” – NBC’s Maltbie on The Players
NEW YORK – May 6, 2009 – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson headline a field that includes Vijay Singh, defending champion Sergio Garcia and 46 of the world’s top 50 players challenging TPC Sawgrass and its iconic “Island Green” par-3, 17th hole as NBC Sports presents exclusive live, high definition coverage of THE PLAYERS, Saturday and Sunday from 2-7 p.m. ET, presented with limited commercial interruption.
Host Dan Hicks and analyst Johnny Miller anchor NBC’s Emmy Award-winning coverage from the 18th-hole tower. Hicks and Miller are joined by tower reporters Gary “Better than Most” Koch (17th hole), Peter Jacobsen and Bob Murphy; on-course reporters Roger Maltbie, Mark Rolfing and Dottie Pepper; interviewer/essayist Jimmy Roberts and Golf World’s Tim Rosaforte. NBC’s coverage is produced by Tommy Roy, one of the most nominated persons in the history of the Sports Emmys.
NBC Sports today conducted a conference call with Miller, Hicks, Maltbie, Koch and Roy to preview its PLAYERS coverage.
ROY ON NBC’S PRODUCTION AND NO. 17: “I think one of the things that we find so compelling about doing sports broadcasts is the unscripted drama, which of course we have here. We also have certain elements of a horror movie where there is this lurking beast, the 17th hole. As the players make their way around the course, I know they are always thinking about it and we don’t let the viewers forget about it. It makes for great television; it’s like a producer’s dream.
“In terms of our coverage, the status quo is never good enough so we have some additions this year. Peter Jacobsen will join our Emmy Award winning golf team and we’ve also added a new super slow-mo that operates at 7,000 frames per second going around with the leader. We’ve added a live real-time 3D animation called ‘Pinpoint.’ And on a few of these greens there are pretty significant elevation changes and this will give the viewers a good idea of how that works.”
MILLER ON PHIL AND TIGER: “This course is a very awkward precision course. Phil winning once when he drove it so great with that little baby cut and Tiger Woods in the year 2001 could have won on highway 80, it wouldn’t have mattered where he played in those years. He’s had a bit of struggle here but I think Tiger should be all about hitting those irons and 3-woods off the tees and just occasionally hit a driver. He’ll be tough; I think he can handle the pressure of the course. All in all, it’s sort of anybody’s ballgame this week. I think a lot has to do with the first round. When you see the first round that’ll probably determine who’s going to be there on Sunday. If you get a top player like Tiger or Phil having a 68 or something they’ll probably be the guys to beat.”
MILLER ON THE PLAYERS: “I really believe that maybe five or six events should be called championships and this is one of them. The rest of them are all tournaments. This is a great championship and it takes a special player to be able to play this course.”
MILLER ON THE FINISHING HOLES: “It’s going to be exciting, when you have those last three holes and the choke factor, and the pressure of winning The Players Championship, a lot of things can happen.”
KOCH ON THE 17th HOLE BEING INTIMIDATING: “It’s amazing to watch the guys in practice rounds. I was out there earlier this morning watching some of the players and they hit it on that green 99 times out of 100. It’s just a simple 9-iron shot, maybe a wedge shot for some of the longer hitters. There’s something to be said for the fact that there is no bailout. You have got to hit a very good shot at just the right time. Then you start to throw in the conditions with the green being firm, you throw a little wind into the equation, and all of a sudden even the best players in the world when they stand on that tee, and I think we see it often in the reactions after they’ve played shots that find the green, there’s a sense of relief there that you just don’t see on any other hole I can think of that these guys play.”
HICKS ON COVERAGE OF 17th: “I think the unique reactions are what Tommy Roy and his crew in the truck are trying to get and portray to the viewer. I think the Ryder Cup is one of those events that brings out emotions and things from players we normally don’t see. And I think another great example of that are the replays that Tommy and his group use after a tee shot at 17 — a sense of relief and the different kinds of emotions that you see on the players faces tell you all you need to know about 17. I think the reactions you get from a tee shot at 17 is different than any other kind of golf shot that we see from these guys.”
HICKS ON TPC SAWGRASS FINISHING HOLES: “I cannot think of another course that has the drama of the final three holes that the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course has. It just has it all. From the par-5 16th, which you can make an eagle on, and then you go over to 17 and you’ve got probably the biggest lump in your throat of any kind of hole you can possibly imagine. It just has three holes that were right out of a Hollywood movie script. It can be either a horrific ending or one of the most satisfying feelings you can have in golf. ”
KOCH ON NO. 17: “My tower at the 17th is always an exciting spot to be and I often say that if you’re a fan of the game and the players, that you can’t find a better spot then to sit there and watch golf all day long. I will certainly look forward to getting to highlight the 17th since I know so many people enjoy watching it as well and we certainly enjoy covering it. For shock value and if you could put a heart rate monitor on the players when they step to the tee, it’ll get your attention as much or more than any other hole they’ll play.”
TOMMY ROY ON IF NATURE CALLS FOR THE CAMERAMAN MAROONED COVERING NO. 17: “Well the good news is his tower is completely enclosed, so he can take care of business there if he needs to.”
MALTBIE ON THE FINISHING HOLES: “The finish here is as challenging and dramatic as will ever be seen in golf.”
MALTBIE ON THE PLAYERS’ STATUS: “I don’t think there is any other way to view this event than as the most significant golf championship in the world that is a non major. There’s no other way to put it. It has the best field; it’s a magnificent golf course.”
MILLER ON HIS EXPERIENCES AT TPC SAWGRASS: “To be honest with you, I just freaked out when I got on courses with water. I just didn’t like them. I can play out of the trees, I can play out of the long rough, but I just can’t play out of 10-foot deep water, so it just freaked me out. I’m choking in the booth just looking at those holes.”
MILLER ON FINISHING HOLES: “Those last three holes really expose the choke factor and the heroic factor, too. It’s a phenomenal course that really requires good ball striking.”
MILLER ON SERGIO GARCIA: “Sergio’s game was a lot like my game. He didn’t have the chipping and putting to fall back on so if you have him not hitting a lot of fairways he’s in big trouble. He can’t fake it with smoke and mirrors, he better be striking it good.”
MALTBIE ON GARCIA: “If you’re not playing good this golf course is going to expose you. You’re not going to fake it around here because you can’t get away with it. You might dodge it for a day, but you can’t dodge it for four days. Period. So, Sergio’s, his attitude has really got to change. That was really a defeated man who spoke after the Masters. He’s just not feeling good about the state of his game at all, it’s obvious.”
MILLER ON DIFFICULTY IN FORECASTING THE PLAYERS: “Sean O’Hair is really the guy to beat but The Players course is a whole new animal — it’s not like Doral or one of the more comfortable courses, so it’s really hard to predict who is going to win. It takes a guy with guts to win this event and there have been a couple that have won, who sort of came out of nowhere. It takes a guy that’s really gutsy who can finish off those last three holes without hitting a landmine. It’s really a hard championship to predict until you see the first or second rounds.”
MALTBIE’S PREDICTIONS: “A guy I’m thinking about who’s been nosing around but hasn’t got it quite done this year is Zach Johnson. I think this is really a good golf course for Zach Johnson. Nick Watney, a kid who has played well throughout the year, he could be ready. If I had to go with a super dark horse this week just because I think the golf course fits him, how about a guy like Brian Gay. Here’s a guy that drives well, won at Hilton Head by 10, and I see some real similarities between here and Hilton Head.”
17TH HOLE FACTS AND FIGURES (Courtesy PGA Tour/NBC Sports)
The famed “Island Green” was designed to ensure dramatic finishes by not allowing the leaders to play defensively to protect a lead. It generally requires players to hit between a 7-iron and a pitching wedge.
NBC’S COVERAGE OF NO. 17
- NBC utilizes 10 HD cameras on No. 17 including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny front bunker
- NBC Sports will utilize 42 cameras in total, including, “super slo-mo” to analyze players’ golf swings and its pinpoint technology to illustrate break on greens. NBC also will use “protracer” technology (at no. 2, 7, 13, 16, 17) to show viewers players’ ball flights.
- NBC will use two manned cameras placed on the 17th hole. A camera operator is lifted by a crane 120 feet into the air above the trees from right of the 16th fairway where his camera has a clear view of 16, 17 and 18. Another camera operator is ferried to the island right of the 17th green where he is marooned for approximately eight hours to get reactions from the 17th tee and operate the super-slow-motion camera.
- Approximately 120,000 balls are hit in the water during the course of a year, an average of just less than three balls per player based on the average of 44,000 rounds played per year.
- Divers enter the water 4 times a year to retrieve balls.
HOLES IN ONE
- Six holes-in-one have been made in 27 years of THE PLAYERS: Brad Fabel, 1986, first round; Brian Claar, 1991, third round; Fred Couples, 1997, fourth round; Joey Sindelar, 1999, first round; Paul Azinger, 2000, third round; and Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2002, first round.
17TH HOLE LORE
- Of the 27 winners of THE PLAYERS, only two winners have made a bogey on the 17th hole on Sunday, Steve Elkington in 1991 and Fred Funk in 2005. Of these winners, 13 have made par, nine have made birdie and two have made bogey.
- Bob Tway posted a 12 in the third round of the 2005 PLAYERS, with winds blowing 25-30 mph. Tway’s tee shot flew the green, as did his second shot. His third and fourth shots hit on the front of the green and spun back in the water. His fifth attempt found the green, he three-putted and totaled a 12. He went from four strokes out of the lead at 7-under par to 13 behind.
- Angelo Spagnolo, a 31-year-old grocery store manager from Fayette City, Pa., posted a 66 on June 19, 1985, in “America’s Worst Avid Golfer” contest. Spagnolo hit 27 balls in the water from the tee box and drop area. Rules officials finally directed him to putt around the hazard and down the narrow path that leads to the green.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 50,000 cubic yards of dirt was removed to create the island green during construction of the course in the early 1980’s.
- It is 75 yards to the center of the green from the drop area.
- It is 121 yards from the middle of the championship tee to the front of green and 146 yards to the back of the green.