Fox Sports could have broadcast the 115th U.S. Open with cellphones and it would have been must-see TV.
The golf rookies couldn’t have asked for more to launch their 12-year run covering the game’s national championship.
There was the postcard scenery of Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, trains and ferries. Pierce County was clearly ready for its close-up.
There was the soap opera of the course setup and the putting browns. It was worth tuning in each day just to hear which vegetable the golfers would use to describe the surface. Broccoli? Cauliflower? Burnt kale?
There was the drama and feel-good story of Australian Jason Day, who collapsed during the second round then got up and battled vertigo all weekend while contending for the title.
And there was a buzz entering the final round thanks to a four-way tie atop the leaderboard that included three of the world’s top 10 players.
Throw in a Sunday morning charge by the world’s No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy, and there was no way Fox could screw this up.
But there were complaints. On social media, golf fans said they wanted more shots of live play. And they weren’t always kind in their critiques of Fox.
“#FOXSports #USOpen2015 coverage joins the ‘new’ Coke, the DeLorean, the Betamax, and Sarah Palin as one of the biggest flops ever,” wrote @sebastianwjames.
“@FOXSports STOP. You are making a mockery of golf. You r terrible. At least make (Fox announcers) Joe Buck and Greg Norman fight to the death,” wrote @zjsmith104.
But clearly the Fox bashers didn’t turn off their TVs while they were tweeting. Fox reportedly was quite happy with the ratings. Its primetime ratings Saturday night bested the other networks.
NOT QUITE RIGHT
Fox and the USGA have called the Chambers Bay Open different, but many national media types are calling it “Not right.”
Here’s how Steve DiMeglio of USA Today described it:
“By most any measure, this U.S. Open hasn't been right — not the greens, not the sporadic TV coverage of actual play, not the balls banging off slopes and backboards as if caged in a pinball machine. And certainly not the accessibility for fans, who can't follow in step with their favorite players due to the tight quarters, mountainous layout and forbidden zones.”
He’s hardly the only one offering less than glowing reviews of the experience.
Two-time U.S. Open champ and ESPN commentator Andy North said early in the week he does not think Chambers Bay is a course worthy of a U.S. Open. During Sunday morning’s coverage he called the course “bizarre.”
Sunday morning on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters,” Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News said, “How did this course ever get a U.S. Open unless you are fascinated by watching marbles roll around in a bathtub. What’s so great about this place?”
ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez responded, “I don’t think it is that bad. It just looks ugly.”
The panel went on to banter about baseball before Lupica steered the conversation back to the U.S. Open. “If you can’t decide whether the first hole is a par 4 or par 5 or what will be the 72nd hole is a par 4-5, you’ve screwed up here.”
Fox mostly defended the course and the USGA on Friday. Not really a surprise.
Norman said the “USGA did a phenomenal job” preparing the course for the event and talked as if the U.S. Open would someday return to Chambers Bay.
MIC’D UP TO THE MAX
Fox had 202 microphones placed around Chambers Bay, a move that brought viewers closer to the action.
Viewers could pick up more interaction between players and caddies and some other exchanges.
Friday, the mics picked up Jordan Spieth muttering to himself that No. 18 was “the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life.”
And when medics tended to Day when he collapsed Friday, the mics picked up the exchange. So much for HIPAA rules.