Fox hopes for story worthy of Chambers Bay “piece of art” backdrop

Fox hopes there will be a great story to tell from the 2015 U.S. Open, but the network already knows there will be great pictures.

Whoever’s name is carved on the trophy — the Fox broadcast team expects a heavy hitter with poise — the one certainty is that the championship will play out in a Northwest setting unlike anything the viewers at home have seen.

“The visuals will be spectacular,” lead announcer Joe Buck said Wednesday at the USGA Member Clubhouse. “We’re going to have, at the end of every day, the sun going down, the long shadows, Puget Sound, a train going by, this beautiful golf course. We’re going to be looking at a piece of art. These guys are going to be playing golf on a work of art.”

By now you know the story: a gravel pit transformed into a destination links-style course along the shores of Puget Sound and hosting a U.S. Open before its ninth birthday. But hearing that is one thing. From Thursday through Sunday, golf fans across the globe will get to see it. And many of them with see it through the Fox lenses — and that’s lots and lots of lenses.

“I’ve been lucky enough to (broadcast four Super Bowls and) I’ve never seen Fox go all in like this,” Buck said. “You could put the equipment we have down in that TV compound, it is like four Super Bowls piled up against one another. It’s unbelievable.”

Of course, Buck is aware this is Fox, the network that brought glowing hockey pucks to the NHL and animated robots to its NFL coverage. But Buck assures that Fox is aware this is the national golf championship, and will treat it as such.

“Everybody is worried that we’re going to have robots hitting golf balls, and sound effects, and a clown’s mouth superimposed over the 18th hole,” he said. “We’re not going to do that. We’re going to cover golf. But we’re going to give you different angles and a different look that I think you’re going to enjoy as a viewer and different sounds that you’ve never heard before. And more golf.”

What is beyond network control, of course, is the competitive drama that will play out. The Open could be won by one of the game’s greats — or an unknown. It could be won in a runaway — or on a long trickling last putt on the 72nd hole.

A sampling of the Fox broadcast team cited two top criteria for success. It’s a good course for a long hitter. And the distinctiveness of the course will reward mental agility.

“It is the hardest tournament to win because it tests you so mentally — I think more mentally than physically,” said Juli Inkster, Fox analyst and former LPGA pro. “You’re going to get some bad bounces, some bad breaks, and it’s how you react to those, I think, that sets people apart. … I think the winner is going to be the one that let’s things roll off their back.”

Much like the golfers, all Fox can do is plan and prepare — and then you play it as it lies.

“I know this: We’ve got a good group of people who know the game of golf,” Buck said. “It’s up to me as host to try and get the conversation going and in some respects get out of the way: set up the hole, set up the shot, what’s going to happen, where is the guy on the leader board and then shut up, and let people actually watch the golf at home and enjoy it.”

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