Rules, a new mic and one of the best lines: This Tour shot was something
Max Homa first had a word for Trevor Immelman.
“Part of I wish I had your accent,” Homa said, in response to a question from the South African about what he thinks about in between shots.
Homa then jabbed Colt Knost. Homa had just hit toward a left greenside bunker on the 13th at Torrey Pines, and Frank Nobilo commented to Homa, tongue-in-check: “Keep as far away from Colt Knost as possible.”
“That’s usually at least a minor goal,” Homa said. “Only watch him have to walk around here with no cart.”
And then Homa plugged his golf ball.
CBS’ PGA Tour season debut came Friday during the Farmers Insurance Open third round, and with it came a wrinkle — a walk-and-talk, where a pro would, yes, walk and talk with the announce booth during a hole. Homa was first up; he’s personable, and after all, as he told the No Laying Up podcast recently and confirmed afterward, he had had a hand in the feature.
So off he went on 13, with an AirPod in his left ear, and CBS cameras nearby. He talked with Immelman, the new lead analyst, and Nobilo and Ian Baker-Finch, other analysts, and about Knost, the hole-by-hole announcer. But then Homa hit toward the bunker with his second shot on the par-5, and his ball disappeared, and CBS couldn’t get its cameras in place quick enough. Memorably, the sequence was similar to a moment two years ago, also at the Farmers, where Patrick Reed had hit left on the 10th, then checked to see if his ball had plugged by picking it up and touching the ground, before calling for a rules official, who would deem that Reed’s ball had been embedded.
And Homa? On Friday, he and caddie Joe Greiner found their ball buried just above the bunker. Homa called for a rules official. He dropped a tee near the area. He stood up.
“I’m not going to touch it!” Homa said, holding both arms up, as if he had just been caught robbing a bank. Homa’s dad, John, is an L.A.-based acting coach, and his son was camera comfortable.
From there, an official drove over, Homa picked the ball up, the official checked and confirmed there was an indent, and relief was given, under rule 16.3. All of it was picked up by CBS, including moments where both Homa and the official almost slipped.
“You all good? Be careful,” Homa said to the official.
Homa then pitched on, and the walk-and-talk ended with some pleasantries between the pro and the booth. It’s here, though, where you may have some questions. Like why. What’s all the fuss about? The answer is layered.
TV innovates all the time, and this is that, of course. Then there’s golf TV, and some folks will tell you it needs more than an extra camera or two. Then there’s golf TV in these days of PGA Tour v. LIV Golf, which will show its play on the CW Network starting next month. (Just in case you’re new here, the fight can be described in a sentence this way: The PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf are entering their second calendar year of a fight that has seen LIV offer guaranteed money to Tour players, the Tour create changes in response, and the sides sue each other. Let’s continue.)
Add that all together, and you get such things as walk-and-talks. Afterward on Friday, while describing that he had been pitched the idea about two months ago by Tour official Andy Pazder, Homa talked at length on the bigger picture of it all.
“He [Pazder] had sent me a clip of Trea Turner being mic’d up for an inning in a random baseball game,” Homa said. “It was awesome because the ball comes to him in the middle of them talking, he kind of fumbles it, ends up getting the guy out at first and says, you know, hey, I’ve been lazy lately; I didn’t get my knee down or whatever. I was like, man, I just learned a lot in 15 seconds.
“He said we should do something like that. We’ve been going back and forth because I was trying to give him the player perspective, that we don’t love doing 18 holes mic’d up — we imagine that every single word we’re saying is being broadcast and it’s just not very comfortable.
“So kind of came up with this idea with him and the CBS team. They were kind of figuring out the technology, if an AirPod would be a good idea. And who knows if that’s how this will finish up, but one hole, two holes at a time isn’t so bad.
“Like I said, we’re entertainers and I’d like for the players to be flexible. If it makes you super uncomfortable, that’s all good, but it wasn’t so bad; that was the first rendition. Hopefully, like I said, people at home appreciated it and enjoyed it because I just think it’s a little different than in an interview. You’re learning about a hole, about not just the player but about the tournament and the golf course and what it takes to be playing, you know, high-level competitive golf.”
Will it continue? Stay tuned. But Homa did have some thoughts on whom he liked to see put in the AirPod next.
“Man, a lot of guys,” he said. “I don’t think J.T. [Justin Thomas] will ever do it, but I think he’d be phenomenal. I honestly think a lot of guys would be great at it. I think Jon Rahm would be — it would just be interesting to hear him.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think — that’s kind of what I see the beauty in this is I don’t think there’s a wrong guy to use. Even if you don’t want to be super outgoing about it, even if we could just hear you talk through the shot with your caddie very clearly, even if you weren’t having like a back and forth and you could maybe even, if you did just have one question, just explain what happened on that shot — hey, I necked it because blank — and go about your business.
“I don’t think that there’s a bad person that would be on that.”