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Fox ready for the technical challenge of covering U.S. Open

The control room inside the FOX Sports production

The control room inside the FOX Sports production trailer displays scores of screens used by workers for the media outlet's television broadcast of the U.S. Open at at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Wednesday. Credit: James Escher

It makes the Super Bowl look small, and a World Series game seem downright quaint. Fox Sports’ operation at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills is a village unto itself.

Actually, it is more like two villages, because Fox’s compound for this year’s Open was so big it had to be divided into two pieces: a small one alongside the course, and a bigger one beyond it.

“This is the largest show we do at Fox Sports – double the size of the Super Bowl, triple the size of NASCAR and the baseball postseason,” Brad Cheney, vice president of field operations, said on Wednesday.

And that is only for Fox. As Cheney spoke, he stood in a field of trailers that Fox shares with the Golf Channel, Sky Sports and TV Asahi.

Sarita Meinking, director of field operations, said there are more than 700 Fox employees at the event staying in more than 400 rooms in seven hotels, with an additional 150 or so people in rented houses. They use three parking lots.

“This has been, I would say, logistically the most challenging one I’ve done so far at Fox,” said Meinking, who has been involved in all four Opens Fox has covered.

That is a function of the narrow roads, heavy traffic, long distance from LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports and other hurdles that come with being on the East End of Long Island on a course that dates to the 19th century.

The operation this week includes 101 cameras, 38 miles of fiber optics and, as Cheney said, “enough technology to show you the ball traced everywhere you go.”

Fox was criticized for some elements of its first Open, at Chambers Bay in 2015, but even then it got strong reviews for its technical innovations, such as tracing shots in the air and enhancing on-course audio.

Every Open since then it has added wrinkles, such as a fairway feature this time that will trace the ball toward the possible landing zone. As the ball nears, the zone narrows to show where the ball actually is going to land.

Cheney also noted a data logging system that will allow Fox to compare statistics such as how far a given player drives the ball on the first three days to what he might do on Sunday, and to compare one player’s distances to others.

“It’s definitely an undertaking, not for the faint of heart,” Cheney said. “But I enjoy the challenge. We reinvent our show for every U.S. Open and for all the other USGA events we do . . . There is absolutely nothing more complicated than covering golf.

“Not only are there 18 holes we’re covering during that span of time, but at times there are two groups of players on that same hole, so you’re really almost covering 36 holes at once.”

New York Sports