Bubba Watson stood on the first tee of his U.S. Open practice round Monday at Chambers Bay with his cellphone pointed toward his playing partners.
The two-time Masters champion pressed the “Start Broadcast” button and just like that, using the increasingly popular mobile app Periscope, anyone with an iPhone or Android device could see what Watson saw.
Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, allows users to stream live video using their mobile devices to anyone who downloads the free app. Watson was the most frequent user of Periscope during this week’s practice rounds — he transmitted his first broadcast Friday, actually, before most players arrived — but he wasn’t alone.
Billy Horschel shot a Periscope session at Chambers June 10. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, also used the app to give a glimpse into one of his practice rounds, then positioned his cellphone on the lectern Tuesday afternoon and live-streamed his own press conference.
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Then he used it to record some footage of some openers he shot for Fox’s television broadcast coverage.
McDowell said Periscope is useful for “just giving fans a little bit of a first-person view of some of the things we experience out here. The feedback that I’ve got is that it’s certainly revolutionary from a media point of view, being able to show them something a little different from inside of the ropes. I think if used well and used carefully, it can be a very effective way of engaging with people.”
It’s also been at the crux of a media controversy involving the PGA and popular golf-blogger Stephanie Wei, who had her PGA Tour credentials revoked after using Periscope to live-stream during practice rounds at the WGC Match Play Championship.
The PGA does not allow reporters to post video from tour events (even, apparently, practice rounds), claiming that such devious acts encroach upon the territory of television rightsholders — even though Periscope broadcasts only live within the app for 24 hours.
But there are apparently no such restrictions for players (and besides, it’s the USGA, not the PGA, that has oversight over the U.S. Open).
McDowell acknowledged that “obviously, Periscope has been a fairly contentious part of social media.”
He added: “No one from the USGA has told me to turn it off yet, so I guess I’m going with the ‘ask for forgiveness as opposed to permission.’ The PGA Tour has given us our guidelines and regulations on how to use it and use it carefully. And I think it can be a lot of fun if done well.”
It seems to be for Watson, who generated some buzz Friday when he posted a video of a wild putt he made with his back facing the hole, the ball traversing a massive left-to-right break on the 11th green.
He also broadcast a game of “H-O-R-S-E” between himself and Judah Smith, the pastor at Kirkland’s City Church and one of Watson’s close friends.
Watson said he’d never heard of the app before a friend texted him about it and urged him to try it at Chambers.
Fan feedback, he said, has been solid. As of Wednesday, Watson’s Periscope profile listed more than 8,000 followers.
And in the past five days, he’s plugged his Periscope ventures no fewer than 25 times to his nearly 1.4 million Twitter followers.
“I think they like it,” he said. “People are watching it, so I guess it’s OK.”