If you are one of the few that is still paying attention to golf on tv these days you have no doubt heard that the NBC golf announce team will add a couple of fresh, new voices in PGA TOUR caddies Jim “Bones” MacKay and John Wood to the broadcast this week. MacKay normally works for Phil Mickelson and Wood, who used to caddie for Hunter Mahan, now works for Matt Kuchar. Phil is taking the week off while Kuchar will play using another looper this week freeing up the two veteran caddies for this experiment. I’m under the impression one will announce on Thursday while the other will don the headsets Friday.
I produced golf on tv for more than two decades and in that time had the pleasure, and the pain, of giving people who weren’t professional broadcasters a microphone and sending them out on the golf course during a telecast. My guinea pigs were always either players, former players or celebrities, never caddies, but for the most part the mechanics of the broadcast is the same for NBC producer Tommy Roy as they were for me. So in my opinion here is some of what you can expect to see and hear on Thursday and Friday from Sea Island.
Less golf… Because NBC normally doesn’t have on course guys call pre recorded shots look for the action to “stay” with the group Bones or Wood is covering instead of bouncing around between live shots and taped shots. Roy will still do it but my guess is in an effort to make the caddies comfortable and give them more airtime we’ll see more shot preparation time with one group as opposed to NBC’s usual style on Friday and Saturday of showing a lot of golf shots.
More questions… The best way to get the caddies involved in the conversation will be for the other talent to ask them questions to get the chatter going. Announcers with experience almost always know when to jump in and sometimes know when to stop talking. These guys won’t so listen for quite a bit of “what do you think he’s looking at here Bones?” or “what would you be telling your guy to do here John?” type stuff. I always told my on course “rookies” to wait until they heard their name in the headsets to start talking so I won’t be surprised to hear even more “Bones” and “John” on Thursday and Friday than the “Rog” we usually get.
A lot of apologies, “you knows”, “yeahs” and “ums”… The vagaries of calling golf on tv from the ground are many. The best on course guys know exactly where to position themselves to see the shot from start to finish, which way the wind is blowing (voices carry), and the ability to use your normal speaking voice during commentary. But in my experience the toughest thing for the guys on the ground, who have never done it before, to do is figure out what’s happening in your headsets when you’re actually on the air. You have to be observant and listen at the same time, be able to distinguish the voice of the producer versus the voice of another announcer and resist the urge to answer said producer when he, and not the fellow announcer, asks a question on the air. It doesn’t matter how many times you rehearse or watch from the back bench of the production truck, it all changes when your on the ground with a headset on live television. As I said it will help that they won’t be asked to call shots that play back on tape but there will be times that confusion will reign during live action so expect some miscommunication.
There are bound to be mistakes but those should be overshadowed by the insights these two will offer. I expect a couple of interesting broadcasts and only wonder why MacKay and Wood will be sent home early and not get to “work” championship Sunday.