By Dave Shedloski
CBS Sports begins its 2017 golf coverage this week at the Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, California, the first of 22 events on its calendar, continuing its run as the most comprehensive in network television.
And in all begins this week at Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods will compete in an official PGA Tour event for the first time in around 17 months. In a way, said Jim Nantz, CBS Sports golf anchor, this weekend’s coverage from the South Course is this year’s debut event for the tour. “This is a blockbuster field that we walk into as we start our season,” said the award-winning broadcaster. “It’s really, in many ways, the launch of the new season on the PGA Tour — not to give us any credit. It’s just the way the schedule breaks. The fall season and the early events get covered up by football. … We’re walking into a very nice situation this week. But every week, to me, feels that way.”
To help preview the season, Nantz, Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports, lead golf analyst and six-time major winner Nick Faldo and on-course reporter Dottie Pepper offered some thoughts on what’s in store for the year, including the return of Tiger Woods and the chance for more low scoring on the PGA Tour.
Here are some subjects they touched upon:
Sean McManus on the start of the new season: “We have some of the best events on the PGA Tour schedule. We’ve been doing the Masters for 62 years, the PGA Championship for 27 years, so we like the longevity that we have with these great events, plus we have some of the best events on the PGA Tour schedule … so we can’t wait to get started. Golf is an important cornerstone for CBS Sports, and the fact that we have the first major and the last major, we use those as book ends surrounding some of the greatest events on the PGA Tour schedule. It’s a great programming opportunity for CBS.”
Nick Faldo on the return of Tiger Woods: “This is a really important time in Tiger’s life. If he wants to stay a golfer, he has to commit and he has to be rewarded. Otherwise it will be hard luck… He’s a total dominant, and he doesn’t want to just be a golfer, I don’t believe. Maybe he does, but he wants to somehow find a way to be competitive. … I think one of the biggest things is can Tiger Woods play how Tiger Woods wants to play, so he can really enjoy it ”
Dottie Pepper on Tiger Woods: “He admitted that he has some concerns about if his body is going to hold up and that plays into how your mind holds up. When you’re in that arena for that amount of time, for such a short period of time, I think we’re going to see very quickly if he is ready to come back at this intensity level. … It takes practice, and it takes being in contention to be sharp.”
Nick Faldo on the low scoring on the PGA Tour highlighted by two 59s this year already and Jim Furyk’s 58 last summer: “I’ll take four 68s this week (laughter). There will be no 59s this week. It’s amazing, isn’t it? … There are certain golf courses that are just wide open for that. There are 100 guys playing great every week. They have moved the bar. Everything has been fine-tuned. Now we need a 57.”
Dottie Pepper on low scoring: “I’d like to take a bigger view of this scoring thing we have going on. You’re seeing setups from week to week that are so similar, and predictability the players are able to use to their advantage. Now if you get a stretch of good weather on perfect greens and bunkers that don’t plug, no flyers from the rough, you’re going to have guys this confident put up these kinds of scores. It’s almost inevitable.”
Jim Nantz on Tiger Woods’s influence on and inspiration to today’s players: “In many ways this is one of the great tributes for this young generation, this young crop of incredibly gifted talents we are seeing. This is a byproduct of Tiger. It also becomes in many ways, the biggest barrier he is going to face in his attempt to come back to where he once resided at No. 1 [in the world]. These players today, because they grew up watching him, he made this indelible impression on all of these young players about being able to do things that were unimaginable before. … He was able to bring to the game a fearlessness that we are seeing in today’s top players. And it is that fearlessness that they have that is going to make his path to get back to where he wants to be all that much more difficult. This generation, they are not intimidated by anyone, and he made them that way. It is a tribute to Tiger that they watched him, wanted to be fearless like him. Wouldn’t it be something one day if he would be able to find himself back battling at the top of major championships and golf tournaments, going against the young brigade and seeing what it looks like.”
Nick Faldo on the unpredictability of the game: “We’re very lucky in our sport. What I loved about golf was there was a goal in every shot. There was goal in every hole. There was a goal at the end of 18 holes. And it’s the same thing when you’re watching it unravel on television … that you never know what you’re going to get. For me, the beauty of golf is that every single moment is going to be different. You can never replicate any two moments. It keeps us fresh. It keeps us riveted to golf.
Jim Nantz on the thrill of covering golf: “I was hopelessly in love with watching golf [growing up]. That’s never left me, and I can’t explain it. When I get into that tower and I have three hours to document it, I truly feel like I’m in my living room as a fan watching it.”
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.