Twenty-eight years after he was booted off CBS’ Masters coverage for angering the dinosaurs with his metaphors, Gary McCord continues to get the last laugh. Asked what he’d do with the profits if he’d been given a dollar every time someone brought up bikini wax or body bags, the man without a mute button remained silent for about 15 seconds. An eternity in TV time.
“I would have invested it in golf lessons for myself,” came the emoji-less reply.
McCord’s loss became our gain — the chronically struggling tour pro turned himself into perhaps the most unique analyst ever to land on the boob tube. Wonderfully irreverent and largely irrelevant, McCord’s musings were not unlike those of 1970s quipster Bob Uecker, another borderline big-leaguer who sat in a booth to watch guys strike a little white ball.
Since CBS dismissed McCord (and Peter Kostis) at the end of 2019, it almost goes without saying that pro golf has sorely lacked a commentator who imparts equal shares of wit and wisdom to the viewing audience. Everybody’s afraid that one misconstrued sentence will get them fired, so they play it safe and put people to sleep. They forsake any attempt at originality for observations drenched in banality. They bring nothing to the party other than a book of cliches and a life preserver.
As we prepare to dive into the biggest TV week on the golf calendar, it’s worth noting that the staid approach is Augusta National’s preferred method of calling a tournament—no monkey business on our grounds, please. Save the jokes for Hilton Head and Colonial. And while the competitive element at the Masters is far more important than how it’s presented, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear stuff you’ve heard a thousand times before or wish you could learn more about this contender or that one.
It’s live television. Four days of fluid action with history on the fly Sunday afternoon, which makes it impossible for any network to make every viewer happy. It could be better, however, as any purveyor of pet peeves will be happy to tell you. Here are seven gripes to chew on while the 73-year-old McCord continues searching for the perfect guru.
> Rationalizing or apologizing on behalf of a player after he hits a lousy shot. With a tip of the cap to NBC, which does a superior job to CBS in serving pro golf to the masses, there were at least a half-dozen flimsy explanations for crucial misses and chances gone awry last Sunday in San Antonio. It has become reflexive for analysts to blame such errors on final-round pressure and leave it at that. C’mon fellas. Is that all you’ve got? That’s what made Johnny Miller so great during his 30 years with the Peacock. He told you somebody was choking, then instantly dissected the faulty swing and identified the flaw.
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Kostis was brilliant at the scene of the crime, having likely walked with the crumbling player all afternoon and compiling enough visual data to know what was going wrong and why it was happening now. His vast technical expertise made him highly credible and incomparably valuable. The best NBC could do in Texas was to mention that Dylan Frittelli was coming off a superb session with coach Chuck Cook the previous weekend before falling apart down the stretch.
> Way too much airtime wasted on reading putts. Does it really matter to the viewer if that 15-footer for birdie breaks three inches to the right or five? Speed affects borrow to a great extent; why is that hardly ever mentioned? Such information sends a subliminal message to the audience: these analysts know their stuff. They’ve been here since Tuesday morning. They’ve done all their homework. Unfortunately, the dog ate half of it, and Rover doesn’t need more food. A tracer similar to the one that tracks tee shots would be a fabulous addition here.
> The alarming lack of utilizing a player’s statistical profile in relevant situations. This makes no sense. The PGA Tour has its hands all over the product, mainly in promoting itself to nauseating extremes throughout every telecast. In this new age of legal wagering, why aren’t a player’s competitive tendencies used to help define his performance — and lure you into dropping a fiver on the shot he’s about to hit? Jordan Spieth has an awesome short game. Prove it to me. Show us the numbers. Some quick-hit graphics would require a lot of work and the timing would be tricky, but the process would eventually evolve to the point where stats add immense value to the viewing experience.
> Enough already on the FedEx Cup farce. The Tour forces both major networks to deluge us with references to its season-long battle, especially when it comes to projected standings and the biggest leaps made by guys in contention on Sunday. Is this stuff really necessary in the middle of February? It’s not whether anybody cares, even in late July, but Camp Ponte Vedra’s insistence on using such conjecture for promotional purposes. It’s shameless. It’s meaningless. When repeatedly jam something down the audience’s throat, there’s a pretty good chance someone will throw up.
> Calling players by their first names. This is a relatively fresh and growing trend, probably another via mandate from the Tour. Petty though may it sound, no self-respecting journalistic entity would even consider referring to “Thomas” or “Johnson” as “Justin” or “Dustin.” There’s a kindergarten-class mentality to this attempt at trying to personalize the game’s top players, as if they’re our buddies. Once in a while? Fine. Over and over and over? This is a professional golf tournament, not an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
> The same old, same old. Justin is one of the best ballstrikers in the game. Jordan has a lot of green to work with here. Dustin would do well to make a 3 and run to the next tee. You know, he has so much creativity and imagination in his short game. From the reality-show blizzard that still hasn’t stopped to the tired phraseology practiced by golf announcers, television is governed by a herd mentality. The cows follow each other to the promised land, then arrive to find out all the grass has been eaten. The pasture is bare. And I guarantee you, Dustin’s trying to make a 2.
> Hearing about how wonderful the weather is at a tournament site. This is a CBS staple, one of Ian Baker Finch’s favorites but also a go-to for anchor Jim Nantz. We hear it frequently on the West Coast swing, where 67 degrees and sunshine in San Diego are perceived to have every cold-climate viewer writhing in envy. There’s something rather gauche about the notion that three-quarters of the U.S. population has been sentenced to a life of misery because the wind blows hard in the winter and it snows a lot in Minneapolis.
If it was 67 and sunny here, I wouldn’t be watching your lousy golf tournament. Now go back up to the booth and say something interesting.