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LIV Golf Says Its Broadcast Will Be 'A Reimagined Experience' — Will You Care?

John Hawkins takes note of LIV Golf's promise of advanced technology with a diverse group of voices, but wonders if that can lift the startup circuit.
Golf Channel broadcaster Jerry Foltz is pictured in 2020.

Jerry Foltz, formerly of Golf Channel, will be the most familiar voice to American golf fans as LIV Golf broadcasts begin this week.

Like any fledgling company in almost any type of business, LIV Golf will unveil its product to the public later this week in a promotional blaze of promises and proposed progress. Since it doesn’t have much of a product to speak of, at least for now, the renegade tour must rely on its presentation of these early events as a method of building a fan base.

Given that its three primary broadcasting partners to date are YouTube, Facebook and its own website (LIVGolf.com), this won’t come easily. None of these outlets can claim any past association with live golf programming. Internet/streaming traffic still accounts for a very small percentage of those who watch PGA Tour events, and it’s reasonable to think that a fair number of ardent followers will pass on LIV tournaments out of sheer principle.

Not that those behind the upstart faction care even the slightest bit about TV ratings. Money is no object, revenue hardly a priority as the Saudis seek other forms of value on their mission, attention being one of them. Perhaps the best way to get noticed is to stage a high-end telecast that incorporates visual and graphic elements viewers don’t get from CBS or NBC — and to fully embrace the lure of legalized gambling, which neither major network has made an effort to pursue.

Armed with 50 cameras, 16 aerial vantage points and 60 microphones, LIV Golf is touting Thursday’s launch in London as an audio-visual extravaganza of unprecedented depth and vibrancy. “A reimagined experience,” says a company spokesman, who adds that “additional modernizations” will be introduced throughout the season to this “one-of-a-kind broadcast.”

Who needs a world-class field when you’ve got more bells and whistles than Willy Wonka? It was only seven years ago when Fox Sports, upon paying $1.1 billion to televise the U.S. Open (and four other USGA championships), through 2026, left no superlative untouched in heralding its state-of-the-art technology and how it would revolutionize golf coverage forever. Due to COVID-19 and subsequent NFL scheduling conflicts, Fox limped away from the USGA deal not halfway before it was completed.

To call that transaction a catastrophe would be a stark overstatement, but the departing network showed little interest in continuing its relationship with the little white ball. It certainly comes as no coincidence that LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, who lasted just one season as Fox’s lead analyst (2015), has filled several crucial staff positions with men who also cashed paychecks from fellow Aussie Rupert Murdoch at one time or another.

In accordance with the CBS-rooted premise that at least half of all on-air golf talent must speak in a foreign accent, there will be no respite from this colloquial quirk on LIV productions. This is a global enterprise, mind you, a de facto outfit operating under the Asian Tour shingle, which doesn’t explain why an Englishman with extensive experience as a soccer announcer has been hired to call its golf tournaments.

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Arlo White is a proven commodity in the booth, solid enough to anchor NBC’s Premier League showcase since its 2013 inception, but golf’s viewing constituency can be an impossible group to win over if it senses a lack of ingrained knowledge. White will be joined by Dom Boulet, a former Asian Tour journeyman, and longtime Golf Channel analyst Jerry Foltz, who ranks right behind Gary Koch on the unofficial short list of the game’s most underrated voices.

Considering the backlash to emerge in the United States over LIV Golf’s existence — the PGA Tour’s vehement opposition to anything resembling a rival, the Phil Mickelson nonsense, Norman’s inexcusable comments regarding the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi — it’s hard to imagine sportscasters of any repute showing interest in working for the Saudis.

Foltz waited years for a spot in someone’s starting lineup, and though he always seemed content covering women’s golf, this opportunity probably came with a salary he couldn’t turn down. The rest of the on-air cast will register as anonymous to many Americans — much like a majority of the golfers they’ll be talking about.

Mickelson may remain a pariah to many, but his fan club is large and loyal, dismissive of the public damnation that led to his exile. The potential defection of Rickie Fowler, another popularity-contest winner whose career has continued to crumble over the last three years, might be in the best interest of both parties. His loss would have little, if any, impact on the PGA Tour’s endless depth.

A handful of household names, many of them past their competitive primes, does not constitute the formation of a big-league circuit. It may take every slip of paper in the idea box to stamp this thing with an identity — if there’s one thing the game doesn’t need, it’s another obscure tour. And if there’s one thing Norman could use right now, it’s a reliable partnership with the gaming industry.

Something interactive and easy to access. Something that offers a direct connection between the audience and the action itself. Something that emboldens LIV Golf’s telecasts with a truly progressive, youth-friendly edge.

Something that gives people an actual reason to check out Norman’s collection of millionaire rebels and faceless fringers. For a well-funded product in search of immediate altitude, legitimate wagering is a wildcard with wings. A sure bet, as they say with a wink.

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