CBS Sports’ golf crew was about 30 minutes into a video conference on Tuesday promoting this weekend’s PGA Championship when Jim Nantz changed course.
Most of the questions from reporters had been about the production logistics of covering the first golf major of the COVID-19 era, but Nantz thought it important to note the bigger picture for the sport.
“We are about to enter starting Thursday the greatest stretch of golf in the history of the game,” he said. “Let that one sink in for just a moment.”
His rationale was that with this year’s PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Masters all delayed by the pandemic, assuming next year’s schedule returns to normal there will be seven majors in the next 11 months.
“If your game is on ‘go’ right now, you have a chance to make a career in the next 11 months,” the longtime CBS host said.
“It’s an amazing stretch for the game. That, to me, is what we need to be talking about now. This is an exciting beginning, starting at Harding Park [in San Francisco].”
ESPN will carry the first two rounds Thursday and Friday, with CBS taking over on the weekend, including prime-time coverage of the climax on Sunday night.
CBS has had two months of practice carrying PGA events under COVID-19 restrictions, but things will get a bit more normal this week when analyst Nick Faldo rejoins Nantz in the broadcast tower after working remotely from a studio in Florida until now.
Nantz has been calling events on site. He said nothing about the experience has felt normal, given the lack of fans and his lack of in-person access to players — at least until the telecast itself begins.
“You put the headset on, you get on the air, and our presentation, I believe, has made it feel for the public like it’s completely normal,” Nantz said.
ESPN+ will carry live coverage of the first two rounds digitally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with ESPN’s TV arm showing the tournament from 4 to 10 p.m.
ESPN+ and ESPN also will offer early coverage on Saturday and Sunday before CBS takes over, which will be from 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturday and at 3 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Including supplemental coverage of featured groups, the streaming and TV coverage will total more than 130 hours and mark the first wire-to-wire coverage of the event as part of the PGA’s new, 11-year rights deal with CBS and ESPN.
Golf has been up and running for eight weeks now, but everyone involved in the production understands that majors are different, and that this first major back will be more different than ever.
“What I don’t know at the moment, and I'm really anxious to see, is what does it feel like?” ESPN host Scott Van Pelt said. “The energy that a major has, there's something to it. There's an electricity. There's a tension. There's a buzz. There are these roars.
“And it'll be — who knows? It may be a foggy day with no one there and the best players in the world shooting great scores, and what will it feel like? How will we represent that? Will it be reflected in the way that we talk about it? I hope not. I don't want it to feel like it lacks energy.
“But I'm interested to find out what it will feel like to be the one trying to document it, because this is the biggest event that will have been played. I know this is an exciting weekend with sports coming back across the board and the bubbles and all, but this is a major championship.
“So this will be the biggest event that has been staged since the middle of March. We’ll try to reflect that.”