Long on Salesmanship but Short on Substance, LIV Golf Broadcast Has a Long Way to Go – Sports Illustrated

LIV Golf’s Portland broadcast was keen on Dustin Johnson all weekend — even showing the same segment twice.
Courtesy LIV Golf
What’s the difference between LIV Golf and a swim meet for third-graders? Nothing, actually. All the kids walk away with a trophy and nobody will remember who won. This competitively compromised culture is reflected in the tawdry nature of the carpetbagger tour’s first two telecasts, which couldn’t help but strike viewers as pep rallies without pretense — a poorly disguised promotional vehicle more than a responsible pitch to a refined audience.
Flaws and fluff. It’s terribly campy stuff, although last week’s broadcast wasn’t without a few notable strengths. The visual elements of LIV Golf’s live stream from Portland were of similar quality to those at a major network. Lots of high-end camerawork, a nice array of handheld shots and some sharp closeups of the contenders as they battled down the stretch Saturday afternoon.
LIV’s expanded leaderboard, a shrine to busy optics that runs in a narrow column down the entire left side of the screen, is better than the traditional boxes you see on CBS or NBC. The absence of instant replay is a serious detriment, something you don’t notice until it’s unavailable, but that’s an issue streaming platforms must resolve before the medium becomes a viable sports carrier.
Not that Greg Norman’s rabblerousers are anywhere close to ready for real TV. Regardless of where you stand on the presence of an unsavory rivalry to the PGA Tour, LIV Golf is in plain sight — and much better seen than heard. It says here that its collection of on-air talent is weak, inexperienced and inane as golf commentators but exceptionally enthusiastic about glamorizing the product to insufferable extremes.
“The LIV Golf revolution is in full swing!” anchor Arlo White crowed at the top of the Thursday show.
A few minutes later, the tournament began with a loud blare into the Oregon sky, just one more reason to believe shotgun starts are for choppers and charity events. “Tell you what, that reception when the airhorn blew, it just gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?” analyst Jerry Foltz said without a trace of sarcasm. Goosebumps? On a Thursday?
Self-aggrandizement is obviously a huge part of LIV’s business strategy, but it’s a delusional mindset. None of its players reside among the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Only Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are in the top 20, a reflection of pro golf’s most overlooked trend: the turnover rate at the game’s highest level has never been higher. Rory McIlroy is the lone guy in the top 14 over the age of 30, and for most multiple major champions, their legacy is complete.
And that makes the over-the-top sales pitch amusing. White is the most decorated member of the coverage team, having called Premier League games for NBC since 2013. His endless supply of superlatives is a radical departure from his time in the booth at British soccer stadiums — Arlo can’t find a single facet of the LIV enterprise not worth gushing over. Positive energy is fine, but when the lead voice of a telecast shows up for work in a cheerleader’s uniform, everyone else wearing a microphone begins to sound like they’re auditioning for “American Ninja Warrior.”
It didn’t take White long to show off his golf naiveté. When Kevin Na’s second shot at Pumpkin Ridge’s par-5 17th sailed out of bounds in the opening round, Arlo whipped out his bag of acronyms. “That is Oscar Bravo,” he declared. Not only is that weird, it shows a total lack of respect for former Tour pro Olin Browne.
Foltz, the longtime Golf Channel voice who spent most of his time as an on-course reporter at LPGA events, reminded those with discerning ears that there’s a big difference between enduring a five-hour session of goosebumps and telling viewers what club the woman is hitting. Without question, the best audio all week came from the caddies, whose dialogue with players was clearly audible — and usually more interesting than not.
A distant second in the category of Insight From The Ground ended up in a tie between LIV chatterboxes Troy Mullins and Su-Ann Heng. At least half of their collective airtime was hard to stomach; the network ran the same practice-range conversation between Mullins and Dustin Johnson on back-to-back days. Wasn’t once bad enough?
It’s no surprise that a band of novices would fail to reach the same standard as those who have done it at a major network for years. Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for shamelessly deluging viewers with drool over a product that is, in its formative stages, a cheap imitation. There is nothing to be gained by such a ruse in terms of popularity. And given the considerable amount of disdain directed at LIV Golf from both passionate golf fans and those who wouldn’t know which end of the club to hold, the hard sell coming from Norman and his merry crew is questionable at best, utterly clueless at worst.
It brings to mind the wisest of words from the wisest of men: Better to remain silent and look stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln knew a thing or two about the art of effective communication.
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A worldview optimist trapped inside a curmudgeon’s cocoon, John Hawkins began his journalism career with the Baltimore News American in 1983. In 2007, the Hawk began a seven-year relationship with Golf Channel, where he co-starred on the “Grey Goose 19th Hole” and became a regular contributor to the network’s website. Hawkins also has worked for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and at various stages of his career.


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