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Sports on the air

NBC gives U.S. Open respect it deserves

Published June 18, 2004

The bar is low this week for golf coverage.

NBC started the week with 17 hours of U.S. Open coverage (it started Thursday), but all it will take to surpass ABC's coverage of a week ago is to make sure the final hour is seen. In 80 percent of the country last week, including the Tampa Bay area, ABC left the Buick Open for America's Funniest Home Videos, leaving viewers to guess on the outcome.

NBC should have little problem providing a more satisfying telecast, with two hours today and 13 hours combined for Saturday and Sunday (12:30-7 each day).

The Masters may be the prettiest event, dripping with emotion (that sometimes feels scripted) and leaving a sweet taste in viewers mouths, but there is but one event - the U.S. Open - that seems to embody toughness and grit, from the players right down to outspoken analyst Johnny Miller.

"The U.S. Open is the hardest championship to win and probably most prestigious prize," said Miller, who has played in 22 Opens; the NBC announcing crew has 70 Opens among them.

"The courses are set up the toughest. The USGA tries to test not only your game, but your will. The Open is unlike any other championship that way. It's the ultimate gut test and test of your game. The fact that it's our national championship just adds tremendous pressure."

Miller, as well as tower reporter Bob Murphy, played in the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock.

"I remember that Jack Nicklaus lost a ball on the 10th hole and he said it was just the second ball he ever lost in competition," Murphy said. "That'll give you some clue as to how hard it is when it gets hard."

As usual, the attention will focus on Tiger Woods and his quest to end his major drought, but NBC has a couple of fresh looks for viewers among its record 50 cameras.

A lipstick-sized camera - NBC says it's on loan from its NASCAR coverage - will sit beneath the rim of a bunker at the 11th hole with the expectation of plenty of shots in and out of the sand.

NBC also will show off a wide-angle zoom lens sitting on top of the Shinnecock clubhouse, or the "clubhouse-cam," which boasts a gyro-stabilized lens that will cover the first tee. A hand camera will follow players between holes, a trek almost always ignored by television, potentially providing NBC with some of its most memorable moments as the fans cheer on the leaders Sunday.

And if those leaders are Woods or Phil Mickelson, NBC's toys will make for a fun conclusion for executive producer Tom Roy.

Now if they can just remember to stay till the end.

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 01:13:22]


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