Better golf through technology? For CBS viewers, yes.
The network will employ several new technologies this weekend for the third and fourth rounds of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, including one that will give the audience a top down view of the action.
Not only will there be the traditional aerial tracing from ground level — with the flight path of shots illustrated by a virtual line — but from the blimp, which offers a top-down view of the course. That blimp tracing over live video has never been tried before in tournament coverage.
That perspective “really does explain how the next shot is going to be set up and played,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, the first network in 25 years to broadcast back-to-back major championships. “People are accustomed to seeing tracer technology on a lot of the shots. It’s like the first-down line in football; it’s really part of the coverage.”
There’s more. The network debuted motion-capture technology at the Masters, one that explores human-body analytics during a golf swing. It highlights a player’s swing with stick-figure graphics that show hip and shoulder rotation, arm and knee contortion angles, and the speed of the club both before and after impact.
“Now we’re going to take it to a new level,” analyst Peter Kostis said. “We’re going to be able to generate computer-driven images. We’re going to have capabilities of actually putting real numbers to what’s happening.
“So when I say, for example, ‘Look at how much he turns his shoulders against his hip turn,’ we’re actually going to be able to put real-time numbers to it so people can get a little bit better imagery and a little bit better understanding of what we’re trying to portray in a particular golf swing.”
McManus, the son of legendary sports broadcaster and storyteller Jim McKay, said it’s important to strike a balance between using the best available technologies while not gumming up the production with too much of it.
“Golf is particularly well suited to technology,” McManus said, “whether you’re tracing the ball or showing a 360-degree view of a golfer’s swing, or whether you’re using the new aerial tracer coverage that we have, it really does help explain to the viewer a golfer’s swing, why he’s playing well or not.”
McManus said the weaving of technology with the seamless play-by-play work of Jim Nantz is a tough combination to top.
“The primary goal out here is storytelling,” McManus said. “If you can also add technology that brings the game closer to the viewer, that’s a really good thing to do.”
Home sweet home
Tyler Hall, a club pro and two-time New Jersey Open champion, felt pretty good playing in the familiar confines of Long Island.
“Just kind of took this week and embraced it,” said Hall of Wayne, N.J., who shot 72-73 to finish at five over. “I didn’t let it scare me. I felt very comfortable out there, not, `Oh, God, don’t hit a bad shot.’”
Asked how he felt playing in his backyard, Hall said: “I didn’t know my backyard was so difficult. I need to get the weed whacker out.”
Eyes on the prize
Jordan Spieth, tied for second yet seven shots behind Brooks Koepka, needs only the PGA Championship to become the sixth golfer in history to complete the career grand slam. But Spieth, who has been showing signs he’s emerging from a long slump, said that lofty goal hasn’t crept into his mind.
“It certainly hasn’t,” he said. “I can’t imagine it will because I really — I haven’t been in contention on a Sunday since The Open last year, and if I’m able to put some good work in tomorrow, then I will have — I will be in contention on Sunday. And at that point, it will be just more of trying to win a golf tournament.
“I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thought, but I mean, we’ll see. I’m not sure what to expect.”
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer