By Ken Kerschbaumer
It’s been one week since the 2009 U.S. Open Golf Championship came to a soggy, memorable end at Bethpage Black in Long Island, NY. NBC Sports golf producer Tommy Roy says the successful telecast, and the ability to fill hours of rain delay with interesting programming, was a testament to the hard work of all involved. “Everybody kicked butt,” he says. “Everybody dug deep, from the people on the course dealing with the physical part to those in the truck making decisions every 20 seconds for 10 hours straight.”
Heading into the tournament, NBC Sports, ESPN, and the USGA were well aware of the weather situation, which sent the tournament into a rain delay on its opening afternoon and a noon start on Sunday. During rain delays, NBC Sports would typically dip into the EVS servers in the NEP production trucks and show viewers fresh golf shots that did not make it to air. But the nature of the storm Thursday left NBC Sports short of fresh material, as it was only on-air for 15 minutes before the rain came.
“We were blessed with what happened last year,” Roy says of the ability to replay portions of the 2008 U.S. Open from Torrey Pines in California that ended in a legendary playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.
Tapes from last year helped on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but on Sunday, NBC Sports hit the air at 11 a.m. and needed to quickly fill one hour of programming before golfers teed off at noon. “We were in scramble mode to create an hour show out of thin air,” Roy says. “We put out studio hats on and created features that were slick and fast-moving.”
While the EVS operators and editors were among the heroes on Sunday morning, the cameramen were heroes throughout the tournament. “Anybody who can put a camera on their shoulders and keep a golf ball in frame and in focus from 200 yards away is every bit the athlete as the folks they’re covering,” Roy says.
In terms of technical challenges, Roy said all of the equipment worked pretty well with only some cloudy lens issues arising in the cool mornings. The blimp also didn’t fly during the rainy portions of the telecast.
“We had some pretty good drama Monday,” Roy adds. In fact, as the final four groups headed into the final holes, it appeared that a playoff was imminent.
“We were thinking that was all we needed: another four hours on the air,” recalls Roy. “But an 18-hole playoff would have been incredible, especially if it was similar to last year with Tiger and Rocco. So after all of the hours, we were ready to go for another four hours.”
The playoff never materialized, as Luke Glover sunk some crucial putts and hit some crucial greens on the final three holes, leaving fan favorite Phil Mickelson still looking for his first open title.
“From a storyline perspective, I would love to produce the U.S. Open when Phil [Mickelson] finally wins it,” Roy adds.