U.S. Open: FOX Needs Improvement, Chambers Bay an Entertaining Disappointment

By Michael Shamburger

The 2015 U.S. Open was not without drama and controversy. Jordan Spieth captured his second major tournament win in a row after Dustin Johnson missed a gut-wrenching putt on the final hole of the tournament. FOX reacted to this moment by having Joe Buck yell “Jordan Spieth has won the U.S. Open” as the putt crept by, then cutting to Holly Sonders, who asked Jordan Spieth how he felt after watching the putt and whether or not he brought a fifth outfit in case there was a Monday playoff.

The Broadcast

FOX is new to the golf game, but they came prepared…sort of. They brought fancy new graphics and cameras that improved viewership. The ratings were up over 2014 on NBC, though some of that is certainly attributable to having the leaders finish in primetime due to the West Coast venue. Their audio of player-caddie conversations was spectacular – for instance Jordan Spieth saying “this is the dumbest hole I’ve ever played” – but other issues with the broadcast overshadowed the good.

Joe Buck seemed knowledgeable, but his companions were mostly unbearable for the majority of the broadcast. Take, for instance, FOX cutting to Curt Menefee after the tournament ended, where he said “Jordan Spieth doesn’t do anything great. He’s good and solid at everything.” What? That’s not what viewers want to hear while watching the new great face of American golf immediately after he wins his second major tournament in a row. Thankfully, Brad Faxon quickly corrected him with, “No, he does everything pretty good,” which he definitely did this past weekend. Tom Weiskopf was talking about the Super Bowl for some reason. Greg Norman was praising the USGA and seemed to have forgotten a collapse of much larger proportions after Jordan Spieth double bogeyed the 17th.

That post-tournament discussion was just one moment of the broadcast, but there were several like it throughout the four days. It’s obvious FOX has work to do, and they have plenty of time to get it done considering they’ll be hosting the U.S. Open for the next 12 years, but changes need to be made. FOX needs to bring in golf talent, reach into the Golf Channel’s pockets and steal a few guys or use guys who know the sport like Shane Bacon, on the main broadcast.

The Course

When Chambers Bay was announced as the course that would host the 2015 U.S. Open, there was some excitement. It’s a new and different style course that isn’t usually what is seen hosting major tournaments in the U.S. It provided plenty of excitement, but also provided plenty of problems. The course was not navigable by those who were in attendance, because the layout didn’t allow for galleries to follow players from hole to hole. The brown grass made following the ball while it was rolling around the greens almost impossible, and the greens themselves were a complete mess.

USGA President Mike Davis and the FOX broadcast crew didn’t help any with their praising of the course conditions. Most notably, Billy Horschel sounded off during his final round interview with Holly Sonders, saying they were terrible and he lost respect for the USGA. Horschel wasn’t the only player who took issue with the greens: Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Chris Kirk, Camillo Vellegas, Sergio Garcia, Ryan Palmer, Henrik Stenson, and even nine-time major winner Gary Player all voiced their displeasure. Could their complaints be considered whining while players like Jordan Spieth were having success? Sure, but as Horschel said, “we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for consistency.” A putt shouldn’t be bouncing around the green after it’s struck, and it definitely shouldn’t hop like Snedeker’s putt did on the 14th on Sunday.

Final Thoughts

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Jordan Spieth is the real deal. Hopefully, Dustin Johnson doesn’t become the new Phil Mickelson of the U.S. Open. FOX broadcast gets a C. Chambers Bay gets a B. Chambers Bay greens get an F-.