DUBLIN, OH -- This week I'm on site with the NBC golf team covering The Presidents Cup in Columbus at Muirfield Village. Friday morning before another brief monsoon hit from out of nowhere I had the chance to interview longtime NBC Sports producer Tommy Roy in the safety of his office in a production trailer at the NBC compound. Golf production has always fascinated me with the action happening over 220 acres instead of a neat and tidy field or court. In addition, the crew working a golf tournament has to cover many players on the course at once, although this week at The Presidents Cup that's actually easier with only 5 or 6 matches out on the course at a time. Yesterday I asked Tommy about some of those challenges as well as the newest celebrity his team spotted on Thursday.
Q: What are the number of resources dedicated to a golf tournament?
A: A typical golf telecast picks up around the 7th hole and continues through 18 although we have the ability to do 1-6 with our RF cameras. That's typically 30-35 cameras for a PGA Tour event and 130 people we bring in to do it. That's production, announcers, and technicians. We'll also have another 20-30 spotters that we bring in locally who volunteer. An event like this or the US Open it's 50 cameras and 200 people. It goes up exponentially with the holes you're covering.
Q: As a producer, how does a highlight shot go from the camera taping to viewers at home? How does that process play out in the truck?
A: The cameramen are shooting every single golf shot. Every shot is being recorded. When it happens in a perfect world we're there live but if we're not there live because there's so many balls in play we queue it up and go to it, it's pretty simple. Tom Randolph is my co-proudcer on a headset with spotters all over the golf course. He's phenomenal keeping track of everything, particularly match play, all over the golf course. We have a person in tape watching that as well and then I'm watching it so there's a lot of people keeping track.
Q: Is there a science to trying to be at the right place at the right time for a live shot?
A: Yea. You typically do your commercials around the leaders at a stroke play event. Here there are no leaders per se, we try to be with the matches that are closest and furthest along on the golf course because they have the most drama. We try to stay live as much as possible with those matches or the stars. If you can get to Tiger's match as often as you can you will.
Q: Is golf more challenging to produce than other sports given all of these moving parts you have to keep track of?
A: Oh it's much harder. I've had the good fortune to be either the producer or executive producer of the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Daytona 500, Wimbledon, Olympics, all that stuff. The only thing harder than golf is the Olympics because of the magnitude of keeping track of all the different venues and what's going on. The next most difficult for sure is golf.
Q: For this week as a producer, what were the storylines coming into The Presidents Cup? Has that changed at all after the opening stages?
A: The storylines were the Internationals as underdogs and could they hang with the Americans. That looked like it was going to come to fruitiion then we had the rain delay Thursday and the International team was able to make their charge back so that was good drama. Jack Nicklaus' course is a storyline in and of itself as well, afantastic golf course and the Ohio crowds know their sports and know their golf (and football). Jordan Spieth is a storyline being an up and comer. The squirrel is now a storyline.
Q: How did you find that shot on Thursday and turn a squirrel into a celebrity?
A: Davis Love III was sitting in a golf cart. He's an assistant captain so your cameras usually don't focus on them, it's first the players, then the captains, and then maybe the crowd. But one of our cameramen happened to be sitting on a shot of Davis sitting in his golf cart texting. Gary Koch, it was the 15th hole I believe which is his hole, was looking at his monitor. In his tower he has all the cameras for his holes on a big monitor so he can see what was going on. He spotted something on his arm and I spotted it at about the same time too and thought "what the heck was that?"
We had a camera push in as tight as we could and sure enough it was a squirrel. That's when we first showed it then we had our guys find out what the story was, Jimmy Roberts went down and found out about it. Then on 18 he pulled the squirrel out and Lindsay put it on Tiger.
Q: As a producer do you dream about weird or memorable stuff like that?
A: Oh yea, definitely. You like to have something interesting beyond the competition. You can never go wrong showing animals.
I would have liked to have heard his thoughts on announcers like Gary Koch saying, "This just a moment ago". While there are some casual golf watchers (when Tiger is in contention especially), most people who watch golf I think understand that not every shot is live. It annoys me to no end when Koch says, "this just a moment ago" and you can tell what's going to happen. It takes the drama and surprise out of the moment. I swear you could have a great drinking game just based on this.