In terms of drama, No. 17 at Sawgrass second to none

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

May 11, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

You don't have to watch a whole lot of golf to know about No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. In fact, the hole is kind of like Tiger Woods.

The casual fan might not be able to name many golfers besides Woods, just as that same fan doesn't have a mental picture of many holes besides the one where the green is almost completely surrounded by water.

NBC is making sure you don't miss much when Woods and Co. come to the 17th during The Players Championship this weekend (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4, tomorrow and Sunday, 2 p.m.). The network has 10 cameras set up at the hole.

"I think every championship ought to have a 17th hole like this," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said, according to highlights of this week's conference call. "I really believe it's a final gut check. I think it is a phenomenal hole.

"I don't think there is a player in the field that says, `Wow, I can't wait to get to 17.' "

Miller's colleague, Roger Maltbie, went a step further.

"It's got a high gag factor," Maltbie said.

Producer Tommy Roy said: "The bigger part of what we're showing there is the emotion from the players, both before they hit it, as the ball is in the air, and then after the result.

"I've never seen players of this caliber go through the emotional ringer like they do when they hit a shot there. It's great television, great drama."

One of the camera people assigned to capture that drama will be stuck on an island near the green for about eight hours each day. Our advice: Hold off on the drinks for a while.

The Players Championship is considered golf's "fifth major," which goes between quotation marks because it is still only the traditional four Grand Slam events - the Masters, U.S. and British opens and PGA Championship - that are officially majors.

"If they added this to the major list, it wouldn't break my heart," Miller said. "I don't think it would be a bad move, and I don't think the players would complain. I think Jack Nicklaus would love it. He's won three of them, Tiger's only won one. That would spread the difference [between their major victories - Nicklaus has 18, Woods 12] a little bit more, so Jack would probably be the first guy to vote on that one."

Talkies

I haven't been much of a fan of putting radio sports talk shows on television. Maybe if you're listening while straightening up the family room - hey, I just found enough change between the cushions to add large onion rings to my Whopper - that's one thing. Unlike regular TV talk shows, which are shorter, the radio shows drag on and on. So to actually sit and watch those static pictures of two people at their desks, headphones on, it's not very compelling TV.

However, in its newest version, ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning has figured out how to make the radio-on-the-TV thing work. The telecasts on ESPN2 are spiced with plenty of video related to the topics being discussed by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. It's almost enough to make you miss that quarter and dime under the recliner.

Tip of the Derby

As befits the home of the Triple Crown's second jewel, Baltimore's ratings for Saturday's Kentucky Derby on NBC topped the national numbers. The broadcast's first 45 minutes drew 7.0 percent of the local audience, compared with 5.7 nationally. The latter part of the show, an hour that included the race itself, got a 12.6 here, opposed to the 8.8 across the country.

In overall audience, NBC's Derby coverage was seen by 11.5 million, an 8 percent increase over 2006 and the highest in six years.

Mommy track

On Mother's Day Sunday, ESPN's Outside the Lines (9:30 a.m.) presents a report called Pregnant Pause, about the issues faced by pregnant college athletes. Among those interviewed are Cassandra Harding, a triple jumper on the University of Memphis track team, who lost her scholarship when she became pregnant. Also, seven Clemson athletes say they had abortions, partly out of concern about losing their scholarships.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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