In golf television as in football, it helps to be versatile.
It can be difficult at times to discern the roles played by those on a golf broadcast because so many play more than one. Some analysts are also talking heads, some talking heads are also play-by-play broadcasters, some play-by-play broadcasters are also hosts, some hosts are also interviewers — and so the circle bends. The number of spots on a network broadcast team may be finite, but the responsibility asked of those on one borders on infinite.
This is why the same faces and names seem to percolate around our television sets forever. They are good at a lot of things, and just as importantly, they are used to being asked to do all of them. The most valuable of these TV types are the ones who, like in football, can serve as a broadcast’s de facto “emergency quarterback” — meaning, a person capable of stepping into any role on the broadcast roster in a pinch. This weekend, NBC Golf’s newest emergency QB will make his grand re-introduction to audiences at the Honda Classic. His name is Brad Faxon.
“I loved working for [UK-based Sky Sports, where Faxon spent the last several years],” he tells me. “I loved their setup, with Ewen Murray and Nick Doherty who are kinda analysts and hosts. I was one of the analysts with [Paul] McGinley and Laura Davies. It was amazing to me that you could have former players do a whole broadcast, taking it out of commercial or opening and closing the show while also providing analysis. I think they do great work.”
Of course, Faxon himself is a former player. Could he see himself in a similar role, doing everything, if the moment called for it? He chuckles.
“Well, I wouldn’t be afraid of it,” he says. “I don’t know if I’d be the best at it, but I’ve certainly learned enough from watching [the Sky Sports team] to try it. I’m still amazed by how well they can do it.”
I tend to think he’s being modest. Faxon has spent the better part of the last two decades lodged in golf’s heartbeat. He’s worked for a handful of different golf media networks, on a handful of mediums, doing a handful of different jobs. He’s also served as a consultant, coach and part-time gear expert to the stars, including his putting protégé Rory McIlroy. And, if that weren’t enough, he plays regularly with the stars of yesteryear on the Champions Tour.
Faxon doesn’t like being tied down, which makes the role of emergency QB somewhat perfect for him. In his new role, he gets to take the job at his own pace, while NBC gets an insider’s insider in the booth for its Tour coverage.
“Obviously the playing part of it helps. I played the Tour from age 21 to age 49. That’s a good way to stay connected,” Faxon says of his expansive professional rolodex. “I’ve been teaching some players, coaching some players, which is another way to stay connected. And then even my previous television work — even though Fox only did one week a year — you know, you’d see most of the good players.”
“It’s fun for me to be able to teach Rory on the putting side of things,” Faxon says of his relationship with the World No. 3. “When they see me with Rory, he always tells me, ‘Brad, this helps you.’ I think that maybe players won’t be afraid to talk to me.”
As anyone who’s met Faxon knows, that last part won’t be an issue.
I met Faxon for the first time as an intern in the summer of 2017. I was a 20-year-old college sophomore spending the summer in the media relations department at Fox Sports, and Faxon was an analyst with Fox’s USGA championship coverage. We both wound up in the broadcast booth during that summer’s U.S. Women’s Open at Bedminster — me as an awestruck but silent set of eyes in the corner of the room; Brad as an intrinsic piece of the network’s national championship coverage.
Almost immediately, he stopped what he was doing to introduce himself to me. He seemed half-bemused by my interest in his work, half-impressed that a chubby Syracuse undergrad had snuck his way into the booth under the guise of “learning.” Before long, I was standing next to Brad during a commercial break while he offered a one-on-one lesson in golf analyst work. When his wife, Dory, appeared just a few minutes later, he made a big show of introducing the two of us — an effort he would repeat every time a new member of the Fox crew arrived on-set.
Later, as I gave a wide-eyed recounting of the afternoon to my intern mentor Anne, she shrugged.
“Well, that’s Brad,” she said with a laugh.
After our meeting, Faxon would go on to become one of Fox’s most vital talents, teaming with good friend (and fellow analyst) Paul Azinger to deliver some of the sport’s most innovative TV coverage in years. After Fox dropped its USGA deal in 2019, Faxon moved on to roles with Sky and SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. Now, with the golf calendar flipping to spring 2023, Faxon and Azinger are together again in the booth, while Faxon’s work as an analyst will also earn him work alongside former Fox executive producer Mark Loomis on Golf Channel studio shows, including Live From.
“Loomis, who’s now in charge of a lot of the production and a lot of the studio shows, was the first person to call me,” Faxon said. “He was a great guy to work for — very calm demeanor, extremely intelligent, didn’t get too excited under the gun, was very good at offering suggestions and constructive criticism if we needed it. I was immediately interested.”
By the time NBC Golf executive producer Tommy Roy and Loomis made their pitch, Faxon was already convinced, but he heard them out anyway. With NBC, he would handle both live tournament coverage on NBC and studio work on Golf Channel. His work would start with the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing and continue all the way through the Ryder Cup, giving him ample time in the middle to continue his coaching work and playing schedule. And, if that weren’t enough, he’d handle a variety of roles in both positions, giving him the ability to branch out across NBC’s golf platforms. In short, he’d be getting to do a little bit of everything with NBC. Just the way he likes it.
He took the job and set forth into his new future. But it wasn’t more than a few minutes before his phone rang again.
“‘Zinger called me as soon as he heard the news,” Faxon said. “He said, ‘Hey, look, let’s just have a great time talking about the game of golf, and using your own perspective.’ That’s it. I mean, when you think about it, that’s really all we’re trying to do.”
It seems there’s a simple truth behind Brad Faxon’s success as a do-it-all player/coach/broadcaster, and it’s the same advice he offered me from the Fox Sports booth a half-decade ago:
“Don’t ever be boring.”