While the PGA Tour returns and golf fans watch on through their television sets, we were shown a new feature on Thursday. Rickie Fowler wore a mic during his first-round 73, occasionally filling in the audience on the details of his round.
According to Jim Nantz, Fowler was the only player in the field who volunteered.
“Audio is such an important part of any sport’s broadcast,” Nantz explained. “Without fans on the course, we’re hoping to hear more of the exchanges between players and caddies. We invited every player in the tournament to wear a mic if they wished during tournament play. We had Rickie Fowler take us up on that on Thursday. We were grateful. That’s the only one so far who has volunteered.”
Shortly after Nantz’ comments became public, Adam Hadwin commented on Instagram that he volunteered for the operation. Nonetheless, no players have been mic’d up since Fowler’s opening round.
Mic’ing up players has become a topic of interest lately with fans unable to attend events. On a simple level, improving the broadcast during this time would make sense for the Tour, but it’s clear that plenty of pros are uninterested in that. Justin Thomas was the first player to conduct a virtual press conference this week, and he was adamant he would not want to wear a mic.
“I would not wear a mic, no,” Thomas said. “That’s not me. What I talk about with Jimmy [Johnson, his caddie] and what I talk about with the guys in my group is none of anybody else’s business, no offense.”
Graeme McDowell was rumored early in the week to join Fowler as a mic’d up player, but that did not come to fruition. The lack of player interest seemed to annoy both Nantz and his fellow commentator Nick Faldo.
“We’ve tried to express this, Nick, to the players.” Nantz said. “It’s something that the fans really appreciate. And they would be investing in their own game. All it takes is 20 seconds, in the heat of the battle, in the field of competition, to give us their thoughts. What do you think?”
“Yeah, I agree. I think the fans would really like to know what it feels like to come back to golf. You’ve got some that would be very comfortable, some uncomfortable. I’m think it’s a huge opportunity for many of the players to show a little bit of personality, a bit of character and entertain us. Obviously without the crowds without the galleries, we’re starving for that little bit of ambiance.”
This discussion was compelling as ever from two figures who don’t often use the broadcast to file open critiques of the Tour at large. It also came while cameras showed Jordan Spieth, Harold Varner and their caddies in open discussion, the likes of which we will probably never know.