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TV missed out when Tiger, Mickelson, Duval faltered

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Neil Best
June 23, 2009

Lucas Glover is a heck of a polite fellow, a Yankees fan and an avid reader, all of which NBC dutifully told America on Monday about its new national golf champion.


Nice. But the tone bordered on perfunctory, as there was no hiding in the announcers’ voices what most viewers were feeling, too, as the U.S. Open concluded: anticlimax.


After faded runs by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval—a trio of fantastic story lines that put a charge into the rain-plagued event—Glover’s winning final-round 73 was a bit of a dud.


Analyst Johnny Miller summed up the vibe both inside and outside the TV tower when he said this after Mickelson missed a birdie putt on the final hole: “Oh, man. Look at the people. They wanted it so bad, so bad.”


Who didn’t, other than Glover’s family and friends? But Mickelson again failed in an Open in the New York area—finishing second for the fourth time in the four held around here since 2002.


Miller clearly felt for him, but he was in his usual fine form in bluntly telling it like it was, if not quite as harshly as when Mickelson blew the ’06 Open at Winged Foot.


After Mickelson’s bogey on Monday at No. 17, his second in three holes, Miller disgustedly said, “He’s just gone bogey-bogey for no reason.”


At 15, Miller predicted Mickelson would win if he made his par putt. He didn’t, and he didn’t.


“Oh, man,” Miller said after the miss.


After a stray Mickelson shot on 6, Miller said, “That was like something I’d see on a Wednesday pro-am.”


(Mickelson was the only one of the top four finishers NBC did not interview. He told course reporter Mark Rolfing he wanted to watch the end of the round before talking, but he did not make himself available before NBC left Bethpage.) Miller also leveled a doozy of a Miller-ism at Tiger Woods, who briefly got under par before a bogey on 15 effectively ended his hopes. As the unlikely Glover emerged as the likely champion, Miller suspected Woods must be thinking: “I could have won this thing half-blindfolded! What did I do?”


Duval had his turn, too, when Miller said this after analyst Bob Murphy labeled an errant shot a mud ball: “I’d like to give the mud all the credit, but that was a pretty skanky-looking swing.”


ESPN carried the first 2½ hours of the restarted final round, mostly with NBC’s announcers, then handed off at 11:30 to the Peacocks, who did not want to pre-empt the “Today” show.


(NBC was on the air for about 23 hours over five days; it was scheduled for 16 over four.)


Early on, producer Tommy Roy followed the traditional TV course by going live to Woods even when the leaders were playing. Initially, the strategy was annoying, but Woods justified it when he climbed into contention at 1 under par before falling back again at 15.


NBC’s on-air crew did its usual well-informed job, such as anticipating what players would do wrong on putts—for example, Woods’ birdie miss on 16 that Murphy and Dottie Pepper said would go left of the cup.


Unfortunately for Mickelson, the announcers also correctly noted before he missed for par on 15 that he botched such putts before in major championships.


When Glover lined up for his birdie try on 16, Miller said, “I think we’re looking at the putt of the championship.”


Glover sank it, and two holes later, the Open had a new polite, well-read champ. Fans near the 18th green clapped politely.



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