Who should replace Greg Norman at FOX?
Late on Sunday night, LINKS Magazine reported that Greg Norman was being dumped by Fox after only one year as Joe Buck’s colour man for USGA events and on Monday, the USGA confirmed the news in a press release. Officially, the term used is that the sides “parted ways”, and realistically, it’s possible that Norman wasn’t exactly enamoured with the role but based on a quick Q&A that Norman did with LINKS, it definitely seems like he was shown the door:
” All I can say is this: going from what I was told by many at FOX and the USGA, knowing all that I put into the process, and considering it was my first run at it, I thought I did a good job. Not great, but good. Like trying to be the best you can be in golf, the more practice you have, the better you get. I only had one US Open Championship. I would have liked another opportunity, as it was so new to all of us last year. “
I’ve talked about the Fox coverage repeatedly over the past few months, and while they had rough moments and made some inexplicable decisions, they were getting better as the week went on and considering that it was the first time for many of them doing a broadcast, the struggles were understandable.
As far as Norman’s own performance goes, I didn’t think he was that bad, even if he was a little out of touch with the current game and he seemed overly pro-Australian, which I mean, should have surprised absolutely no one because he’s Greg Norman. Aside from his golf course architecture, he hasn’t exactly been around the game much at all in since he stopped playing competitively, and if it wasn’t for Fox and a chainsaw, we may not have even heard from him at all in the past two years. He’s kinda divorced himself from golf over the past decade or so, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but knowing Norman, he was never going to turn down a job like the one he was offered by Fox, even if he wasn’t overly aware of what was going on in golf in 2015.
Norman’s appointment to this position was emblematic of everything that Fox wanted in a hire: a big name who people would recognize and who wasn’t afraid to spout opinions. They wanted their own Johnny Miller, but it didn’t work the way they wanted to, and now they need to replace him. So, who should they bring in? Jaime Diaz at Golf Digest gave five options that he thought would work as Norman’s replacement, and it’s an interesting list. Some quick thoughts on Diaz’ selections:
- Paul Azinger: Of the five guys on the list, he’s probably the most qualified from a pure broadcasting standpoint with his work at ABC and ESPN over the years, and much like Norman, he’s got name recognition and isn’t afraid to tell people what he thinks. I can’t make a compelling argument against Azinger.
- Brandel Chamblee: Hoo boy, let’s get some people riled up! Generally, I like Chamblee even if he sometimes makes nonsensical arguments, but you will not find anyone who generates the vitriol that Chamblee does from golf fans, which is usually centred around Chamblee’s criticism of Tiger Woods. I don’t think he’d be a bad choice by any means, but much like David Feherty’s recent free agency, I’m not sure I can see Chamblee abandoning Golf Channel for a chance to broadcast three or four events per year.
- Jack Nicklaus: Like Diaz mentions, there’s no one that Fox and the USGA could select that would bring more credibility than Nicklaus, who is usually very good in the booth when he joins for guest appearances. Nicklaus also won his first major at Oakmont, taking the 1962 U.S. Open, so having him look back on that and how the game and course have evolved in the last 54 years would be cool but even though he’d be an insanely popular choice, it just doesn’t seem likely that he’d be interested in the gig.
- Tiger Woods: When he was in the booth at the Hero World Challenge last month, Tiger was fantastic. He’s always had a great TV presence, and he’s still obviously close enough to the game that he knows the players and the course exceedingly well. If he isn’t healthy enough to play, I’d love to see him jump (carefully) in the booth for four days, but on some level, I’d think that he would look at that as a “waving the white flag” moment and I don’t think he’s ready to do that just yet.
- Hale Irwin: Diaz is right that Irwin is one of the most insightful minds in the game and his impressive USGA resume is something that I’m sure would be greatly appreciated on the broadcast, but I think a lot of this depends on what direction Fox wants to take this. If they’re following the same kind of Norman mould, Irwin doesn’t exactly fit the brand name bullishness but I do think that he’d be a solid selection.
A few suggestions of my own, even though I think Azinger is the best choice to replace Norman.
So, I know what a lot of you are thinking: Monty’s a choker who never won a major championship, and failed miserably at several U.S. Open’s. 2006 was especially bad with everyone folding around him:
But, doesn’t that make him especially qualified to talk about how brutal the U.S. Open can be? He talks all the time about how much he loved playing the U.S. Open because he didn’t feel like he took himself out of it mentally like other players did, and he’s a very eloquent speaker who isn’t worried about taking shots at himself from time to time. Throw in the fact that he has a ton of experience with live TV and that he regularly appeared on U.S. Open broadcasts on NBC, and you have someone who is incredibly insightful and won’t be camera shy in any way. Aside from Azinger, I think he’d be the best fit.
Chris Solomon from No Laying Up mentioned Wadkins this week in his appearance on Tour Confidential, and I really can’t add much to what he said. He’s great on Champions Tour broadcasts on Golf Channel, and him getting dumped from CBS in favour of Nick Faldo still doesn’t make a ton of sense to me outside of the name brand value that Faldo provides. Also, unlike Chamblee, I would think that getting Wadkins away from Golf Channel wouldn’t be all that difficult when you dangle the U.S. Open carrot in front of him.
Now, this would be dependant on Harrington not qualifying for the event, and with his upturn in play recently, it’s very possible that we see him tee it up at Oakmont. However, if he wasn’t able to play, I think you’d have a hard time finding a more enjoyable player to listen to for hours on end other than maybe Geoff Ogilvy, who will be playing in the last year of his exemption. He’s a name that people know and he’d be a wonderful addition to any broadcast crew but I can imagine that keeping him short and concise before commercial breaks would be the definition of a producer’s worst nightmare.
Johnny Miller, live on YouTube
Now, this wouldn’t revolve around Fox in any way, but if I’m NBC or Golf Channel, I’m figuring out some kind of way to get Johnny Miller involved in an online stream somewhere. You could even air it on Golf Channel over what I assume would be the 8932432nd airing of Tin Cup, and people would tune in.
Think about it: you know that it’s killing Johnny to not do the U.S. Open, but how much is it hurting him to not talk about the U.S. Open at Oakmont one last time? Never again will we get to hear Johnny tell us about his 63 on Sunday in 1973 while he’s watching other players attempt to do the same thing. Even the most ardent of Miller detractors had to be missing him last year while Fox was fumbling around, and we’re all going to miss him again this year. This is why we need someone to give him an outlet. Make it happen, NBC!
So, I’ve talked about this before and the likelihood of it happening is probably somehow less than zero, but how great would it be to just have more players and caddies mic’d up and have them describe the action? You’d need someone like Buck to navigate the waters for sure, but outside of that, do you really need a colour guy to explain what’s happening? The players and caddies on the course will tell you all you need to know and more if you let them, and chances are the audience will end up being more informed anyway compared to a talking head taking guesses as to what players are thinking and feeling.
Even if you hire someone to replace Norman, which Fox will definitely be doing in the coming weeks, giving the players and caddies more airtime if they’re willing to help out would be a great way to let the audience in on the action.