The return of golf was televised yet not revolutionary. After months away -- its absence driving despair into unpleasant mental conditions -- the sport came back over the weekend in Fort Worth with the Charles Schwab Challenge. A crowded leaderboard with major firepower and next-wave talent entertained for four days, with Daniel Berger eventually out lasting Collin Morikawa in a playoff to claim victory.
Best-laid plans to spice up the broadcast with more audio and in-round access largely fell flat due to lack of player participation. There was very little cool or interesting about the bells and whistles, which seemed to have real potential. But sometimes you simply have to see what an idea looks like off the printed page.
The biggest change, of course, was the fan-less atmosphere, which will serve as a guideposts for the return of other sports. And it was quite problematic. One realizes just how essential a gathering throng is to creating atmosphere just by breathing. The fans give the sport life and even compelling conditions and pent-up demand resulted in a markedly lifeless witching hour.
To be perfectly clear, the onus is on the players to spice things up a bit. CBS, Fox, NBC, or ESPN can come up with all the artistic flourishes they want, but it will take the cooperation and enthusiasm of golfers to make them work. They need to step up and be the energy now that there will be no supporters inside the ropes. So too do play-by-play personalities.
It was a bit jarring to discover how Pavlovian a viewers' response to a golf shot has become. There's a split second spent waiting to gauge just how ferocious the gallery's applause is before calibrating your own. Without that indicator, things simply feel a bit off. It's a crucial part of the process. It feels empty without the richness. Like one of the five senses has been taken away. It's 20 percent off in a haunting way.
The over-the-top response to our one weekend sample size would be to pipe in artificial sounds, which runs the risk of making things even weirded. My two cents is that it's a gamble worth taking so announcers can match their inflection with a roaring of humming or aghast crowd.
Perhaps the best way to think of it is this. The golfers are lead guitarists hammering away on a complicated riff. It's entertaining sure, but would be made better by a Am-F-C chord progression from a rhythm acoustic. It's time for the beautiful soundtrack of gathering crowds and weekend drama. With a little tinkering, the right arrangement can be found.