Yes, dreams do die hard. That, however, doesn't excuse some of
the Tigerbole that was heard during NBC's otherwise stellar
coverage of the U.S. Open. During Sunday's round, in which Woods
never got closer than seven shots, we heard a blizzard of
pronouncements from NBC's team, including "Perhaps the miracle
can start," and "With this putt he has a chance to get within
nine of the lead"--nine?--and, most egregiously, from tower
reporter Gary Koch as Tiger headed to the 17th green eight shots
behind then leader (and eventual winner) Retief Goosen, "I'm
sure Tiger's thinking, If I can just birdie the last two, you
never know."

Even if the Tiger coverage was the fairway equivalent of the Y2K
bug--a lot of hype for nothing--one can see why NBC persisted.
After all, not only did the network lose its main draw when Woods
dropped out of contention, but it also saw the next-biggest names
(Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson) self-destruct on the back nine
on Sunday. Midway through the round host Dan Hicks was left to
ask, "Who's going to go out and catch the Goose?" It wasn't a
question; it was a cry for help.

Fans who tuned out missed one of the most dramatic Sunday
finishes in Open history (page 56). Those who stayed around--the
overnight rating was a 6.9, 27% lower than last year's
record-setting Nielsen--saw the type of heart-stopping,
pity-inducing reality TV that NBC could only hope to mimic on
the two programs that followed Sunday's coverage: Fear Factor
and Weakest Link. Almost as compelling were the post-three-putt
interviews with Goosen and third-place finisher Stewart Cink,
deftly handled by reporters Jimmy Roberts and Roger Maltbie.
After Goosen spoke, NBC analyst Johnny Miller remarked, "I feel
bad for him, but Retief is definitely in denial right now."
Miller, candid as always, also noted, "I've never seen a person
three-putt an easier two-putt than that."

Along with its innovative bunker cam, candor was one of NBC's
strong suits throughout the weekend. Analysts weren't shy about
first-guessing players. When Garcia lined up to attempt a high
blast out of the trees at the 2nd hole on Sunday, Miller and
course reporter Mark Rolfing correctly questioned his approach.

Still, the best analysis might have come from Woods. After
finishing his round on Sunday, Tiger presciently declared that
the tournament would be decided by which golfers were
"controlling [their] emotions." Too bad NBC's analysts couldn't
control theirs when it came to Tiger.

--C.B.

Throughout the weekend Miller and other NBC analysts weren't shy
about first-guessing players.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)