SBD/June 19, 2017/Media

Fox Draws U.S. Open's Second-Lowest Sunday Overnight On Record For Koepka's Win

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Brooks Koepka secured his first major over a leaderboard lacking big names
Fox drew a 3.6 overnight rating for yesterday's U.S. Open coverage from Erin Hills in Wisconsin, marking the golf major's second-lowest figure on record for a final round. The event saw Brooks Koepka secure his first major by four strokes over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama as the leaderboard lacked many big names in contention. The 3.6 is above only the 3.3 overnight that NBC drew in its last year with the event in '14, when Martin Kaymer took home the win by eight strokes in a wire-to-wire victory at Pinehurst. The telecast yesterday is down 5% from a 3.8 overnight last year, when Dustin Johnson won by three strokes at Oakmont. Fox in its debut with the U.S. Open in '15 at Chambers Bay drew a 4.8 overnight for Jordan Spieth's one-stroke win over Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. That event also aired from the West Coast, putting the finish at 10:45pm ET. Fox on Saturday drew a 2.6 overnight for third-round coverage from Erin Hills, marking the second-lowest Saturday rating for the event. It is above only the 2.5 from last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

SOLID JOB BY FOX BOOTH: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes lead Fox announcer Joe Buck "takes most of the criticism" from fans concerning Fox' coverage even though he is a "first-class pro, and his golf coverage is solid -- every bit as good as what Dan Hicks does for NBC and Jim Nantz does for CBS." Fox "doesn't have anyone as solid as NBC's Johnny Miller, but Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger are just as good as, say, CBS's Nick Faldo." NBC and CBS "do a better job covering golf than Fox," but to "dismiss Fox's coverage as bad is not fair." Jones: "Just because Fox might not do it as well as the other two networks doesn't mean the network does it poorly" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/19). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Azinger "was the medalist" this weekend among Fox' voices, as he "kept it crisp and mostly candid." Buck, "departing from his NFL and MLB demeanor, scored by making his information concise, his presence modest" (N.Y. POST, 6/19). GOLF DIGEST's Alex Myers wrote Fox had a "pretty good week, but you can NOT misidentify the winner of the tournament's girlfriend," the "cardinal sin of broadcasting." Buck said the name of Koepka's "previous girlfriend, instead of Jena Sims" after he clinched the championship. Myers: "Ouch" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/18). In DC, Scott Allen notes Buck's broadcasting partner, Brad Faxon, was "more up to date on Koepka’s love life and corrected the mistake moments later" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19). 

VISIBLE IMPROVEMENT: GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussed Fox' coverage, with SI.com's Michael Bamberger writing it is "getting better" in year three of its deal with the USGA. But John Wood, who caddies for Matt Kuchar, believes the cameramen "following the actual ball as it flies through the air for NBC and for CBS are just better." Fox "seems to depend an awful lot on Shot Tracer instead of seeing the ball land and roll out." Golf magazine's Josh Sens noted the shot tracers were "cool, when they worked." SI.com's Jeff Ritter noted Fox has "some bells and whistles that are different from the other networks, and it's starting to work for them." GOLF.com's Sean Zak noted Fox could "afford to go all-in on statistics, protracer, etc., since" the U.S. Open is "their crown jewel event of the season, but they have 100 percent paved the way for a better golf broadcast in that aspect." Each year of Fox "covering the Open will be a better year" (GOLF.com, 6/18).

COURSE MANAGEMENT: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann writes Fox has "taken pains in other sports ... to bring viewers closer to the action," but its "crew configuration at the U.S. Open prevented that." Too much of the action "was called from the 18th tower." The net needs to do a "better job of integrating its on-course reporters into its coverage." That would "bring more voices and a more conversational flow to the live shows and, more importantly, provide real-time information on course conditions and players' attitudes." The move also would "relieve Azinger and Brad Faxon of play-by-play duties." However, when viewers "did hear from on-course announcers, it too often was [Juli] Inkster, who's prone to saying cringe-worthy things" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/19).

Ken Brown's "Brownie Points" segments highlight specific areas of the course
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
 USA TODAY's Luke Kerr-Dineen wrote Fox' coverage has "been much improved since its error-prone debut at Chambers Bay" in '15, and "one element that has helped in that regard are Ken Brown’s 'Brownie Points' segments." The "best thing about the segments is how simple they are." Brown will "highlight a particular area of the course and explain it, usually through the form of a prop." His personality is "infectious, which give the spots a fast-paced and dynamic feel" (USATODAY.com, 6/17). GOLFWEEK's Kaufmann wrote it is "hard to overstate how good" Brown is on TV, as it "seems effortless" for him. Kaufmann: "I look forward to his segments not just because I learn from them -- whether he’s discussing the bunkers, the fescue or the architecture -- but I also laugh at them. That’s a powerful combination." However, the question still looms as to how long Fox is "going to continue the failed Holly Sonders Experiment." She is "just not cut out for the job" of a golf anchor. She "lacks an easy manner on camera, she’s not spontaneous, and she’s not amusing." Kaufmann: "Remove Holly and put someone in that job who can call up the proper graphic" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/16). 

PLAUSIBLY LIVE
: The POST's Mushnick noted during Thursday's coverage as Jonathan Randolph made a 70-foot putt, a "graphic in the upper right read, 'FOX/USGA LIVE.'” But "with the ball about four feet from the hole," Azinger "shouted the punch line: 'I don’t think we’d be showing it unless it goes in!'” He "simply was providing a voiceover of what he knew and we could surmise already had happened." But it was a "great moment in modern TV." Azinger, a "trained professional golfer, not a trained broadcast journalist, provided a national audience with a clear and even comically spoken truth that essentially served to mock the dishonest practices of 'live' TV coverage" (N.Y. POST, 6/18).

FINISHING NOTES: GOLFWEEK's Geoff Shackelford wrote the USGA "still doesn’t do [a] good trophy ceremony." USGA President Diana Murphy "nailed all of her lines but Curtis Strange kept checking his notes in an awkward interview with Koepka." It was "all set to a smattering of bored spectators in the background lining the practice putting green" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/18). Meanwhile, GOLF DIGEST's Myers asked, "Where are all these bird noises coming from? There aren't even trees at Erin Hills!" Myers was "straining to hear Patrick Reed's post-round interview over the chirping of a blue jay" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/17). 
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