Is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in need of a Facelift?
Is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in need of a Facelift?
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I must admit, when I saw the headline, I had to agree. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has become the same old, same old.
I skipped my usual schedule of watching golf on a Sunday afternoon and only tuned in at 3.pm to watch the conclusion, although, with Brad Snedeker’s 4 shot victory, even that was a little ho-hum.
Martin Kaufmann of Golf Week seems to have the same opinion. Here is his take on the tournament.
Pebble Beach has the odd distinction of being perhaps the PGA Tour’s best venue and the site of its worst tournament.
Let’s first consider the course and setting. Pebble Beach arguably – some would say inarguably – is the best stop on the Tour’s regular schedule. What else comes close? Augusta National? Sure. St. Andrews, which is in this year’s major-championship rotation, would get a lot of support. Whistling Straits, the PGA Championship site, might get thrown into the mix. Same, too, for Kapalua and Sea Island. But that’s it. That’s where the conversation ends.
So last week, you had a great course hosting a completely unwatchable golf tournament.
And here’s the thing: Those of us who have been watching Pebble for decades know it’s going to be unwatchable even before we turn on the TV. If ever there were a tournament where viewers should mute their TVs and just look at the pretty pictures, this is it.
We know that CBS is going to give viewers an unhealthy dose of Chris Berman and Kenny G and Craig T. Nelson and Michael Bolton and Chris O’Donnell and Huey Lewis and Ray Romano and more. These guys are like Masters champions – they apparently have lifetime exemptions into the event. Huey Lewis noted Saturday that he’s been playing in the tournament for 25 years. Has he even had a hit in the past quarter century?
And we also know we’ll have plenty of fawning praise for entertainers who probably didn’t get fawning praise even when they were in their primes. At one point Friday, Golf Channel’s Matt Gogel referred to “the great Tom Dreesen” as the comedian was putting. Now, I vaguely recall that Dreesen, who made his bones as a warm-up act for Frank Sinatra, could be mildly amusing in some of his appearances on late-night talk shows. But that was more than 30 years ago.
And poor Phil Parkin had the hapless task of doing on-course interviews, including a FedEx executive on Thursday and a Dallas car dealer on Friday.
Was it a coincidence that FedEx is the Tour’s most prominent corporate sponsor or that the Dallas businessman helps organize the Byron Nelson Championship, which (another coincidence?) has a new sponsor in AT&T, which also sponsors the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Who knows? Perhaps I’m just being cynical.
So the question is: How to fix this mess? Tournament organizers could start by getting some fresh blood in this event and reminding viewers why they loved the old Crosby Clambake. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee had a good suggestion when I spoke with him after the first round on Thursday: Bring in some real celebrity firepower such as Hollywood golfers George Clooney or Jack Nicholson.
That would be a good start. I’m sure all of the B-listers and faceless millionaires who show up each year are fine folks, but only their families and friends want to watch them play golf. The Clambake has deteriorated into a glorified corporate outing with a few entertainers mixed in.
This event needs two booster shots of energy and spontaneity.
The nadir of golf broadcasting comes on Saturday, when moving day becomes snoozing day. (Seriously – I napped during the round, then watched it on the DVR later.) It’s all so formulaic. CBS’ Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo sit near the par-3 17th and the celebrities stop by to have their swings analyzed by Peter Kostis. (Did you ever notice how many of these celebrities – O’Donnell, Lucas Black, Josh Duhamel – appear on CBS prime-time shows? Is it odd that we didn’t see any actors who appear on ABC, NBC or other channels? I’m sure that’s just another coincidence.)
I’m not sure how the Clambake got this bad or how to allot blame. If you want to point fingers at the culprit, you probably would need a lot of fingers, aimed at, among others, tournament organizers, AT&T and other sponsors, the Tour, CBS and perhaps a few other entities that I’m forgetting.
Years ago, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was one of the biggest events of the season. Now, for TV viewers, it’s just a white-hot mess of utter unwatchableness. Can it ever recapture its former glory? Perhaps, with some fairly obvious changes, such as more fresh faces and less corporate backslapping. Will it? Probably not. Sadly, at this stage, I suspect there are too many entrenched interests – the sponsors, the Tour, CBS – that like it just the way it is.
Pictures: Christina Lauren
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