SBD/Issue 81/Sports Media

Villegas DQ Sparks Debate About Role Of TV Viewers For Golf

Golf Fan Who Saw Villegas Commit A Penalty
Sent Tweets To Alert PGA Tour, Golf Channel

The PGA Tour's disqualification of Camilo Villegas from this past weekend's Hyundai Tournament of Champions "will stoke a long-lingering debate" about whether a golf event should be "governed by people witnessing infractions on television," according to Jeff Babineau of GOLFWEEK. The Tour disqualified Villegas from the season-opening tournament after a fan watching Thursday's first round on Golf Channel notified the Tour and the network of a possible rules violation. The punishment "raises the debate whether some players are under more scrutiny than others because they receive more TV time." A Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson "certainly is going to be shown much more than a lesser-named player finishing in the bottom half of the leaderboard." PGA Tour VP/Rules & Competition Slugger White said that the Tour has "experimented with putting a rules official in the TV booth in the past, but it deemed it better to have that official on the golf course than sitting watching a telecast" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/7). ESPN.com's Jason Sobel wrote the disqualification is unfair because there "isn't a level playing field" for all golfers. If Golf Channel producers "had decided to cut away from Villegas at that point in the telecast and show another player instead," he would have "committed the same violation." Sobel: "It's not fair that those who are either popular enough or playing well enough to warrant TV coverage should be held to a different standard than their fellow competitors" (ESPN.com, 1/8). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits wrote, "Perhaps golf organizations should have rules officials monitoring TV broadcasts, but what about the portions of a tournament not televised?" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/9). But GOLF WORLD's Tim Rosaforte writes, "This is how it works in this game where competitors -- and fans from nearly 5,000 miles away -- get to call the penalties" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 1/10 issue).

IS THIS THING ON? Jonathan Byrd "agreed to become the first PGA Tour player to wear a microphone" during Friday's second round of the Tournament of Champions, but "technical problems scrapped those plans." The PGA Tour has "allowed Golf Channel to use microphones on players this year, provided the player goes along with it." The agreement "stipulates that it be either Thursday or Friday, but not during the weekend" (AP, 1/7). ESPN.com's Sobel wrote PGA Tour players "should request" to wear microphones during events, "even demand it." Golfers need to "market themselves -- and the game -- in any way possible," and "hopefully, more players will see it that way soon." Sobel: "I'm in favor of creativity across the board. As long as something isn't breaking one of the Rules of Golf or isn't an eyesore for the game, let's try it and see how it works out" (ESPN.com, 1/9). Golfer Brad Faxon in an e-mail said, "I like the idea of the mic for the players, but picking the right players is huge. That would be one of the first things I would like to see on TV." Faxon, who did some on-course work for NBC last year, added golf Exec Producer Tommy Roy "always told us as announcers to be quiet when player and caddie were talking" (GOLF.com, 1/9).

WIRED FOR SOUND: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Paul Newport reported the PGA Tour and Sirius XM Radio have "agreed to continue live play-by-play broadcasts of every Tour event in 2011, including the majors." Neither party would "reveal specifics of the deal, including how long the contract runs." PGA Tour Senior VP/New Media Paul Johnson said that the "day-to-day production now will be handled by the Tour rather than Sirius XM." The schedule and "lead announcers such as John Maginnes will remain the same" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/8).

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: SI's Gary Van Sickle in an e-mail said he wants "something different" from Golf Channel analysts. Brandel Chamblee "is the network's best," and Golf World's Rosaforte also "does good reporting." Van Sickle: "Other than that, I don't want to pick on any individuals, but I could do with a lot fewer cliches from Golf Channel. I don't think I'm going to get insight until Brandel is the coverage host and [Paul] Azinger is his color analyst. But I can dream." SI's Mark Godich added, "They certainly didn't lack for numbers: a host, no fewer than five people in the 'booth,' and I forget how many roaming the course. There were almost as many analysts as there were players in the field" (GOLF.com, 1/9). Meanwhile, GOLF WORLD's Chris Millard writes there was "plenty of good talk" during the first week of Golf Channel's new talk show, "Morning Drive." But the first week also will "be remembered for over-animated discussions on non-golf topics." Millard notes on Friday morning he was "expecting a lively debate" on Villegas' disqualification, or Chamblee 'breaking down the shot of the day, Bubba Watson's eye-opening driver off the deck into the 18th green." Instead, there was an interview with Vikings K Ryan Longwell. Millard: "How about just golf?" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 1/10 issue).

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