In the post mortem surrounding the 2011 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club, I have received phone calls and inquiries from around the country concerning the confusion around the announcement of the final group during Sunday’s play. I would like to use this forum to explain exactly what television viewers saw (and didn’t see).
My responsibility as Vice President of the PGA of America is to announce the final five twosomes on the First Tee during the final round of the PGA Championship. The PGA Secretary performs the same task on Saturday. So, this was actually my third stint working with the PGA and CBS Sports as the first tee announcer, but my first in the high profile drama of a final round of a major championship.
I arrived at the tee shortly before 2 p.m. The temperatures were already in the mid-90’s and I was wearing a light blue wool blazer with gray wool slacks. Normally, I don’t perspire much. However, the heat coupled with the pressure of the moments to follow changed all of that.
I showed up with the official pairings sheet produced by the PGA of America tournament office, which lists the players and their order of play. I also had a pronunciation guide with the players’ names. In addition, I had the names, home clubs and hometowns of the PGA walking referees, which accompany the final five groups of players.
Even though I am only announcing five groups, I take this job seriously because, in all likelihood, most of this high profile task will be shown on CBS and viewed by a worldwide TV audience as well as thousands of PGA members from all over the United States.
The first group that I announced was the 2:00 starting time featuring Charl Schwartzel, Masters Champion, and Robert Karlsson from Sweden. It was necessary to clarify with Karlsson the proper pronunciation of his hometown of Katrineholm, Sweden. Next at 2:10 were D.A. Points and David Toms. Points made sure I knew how to pronounce Pekin, IL. Toms was the 2001 PGA Champion, so that bit of information was added to his introduction.
At 2:20 it was Steve Stricker and Anders Hansen. When Stricker arrived to the tee he received the loudest ovation of encouragement that any player got in the last five groups. Hansen let me know that he wanted to be announced from “just Denmark” since he had lived all over his home country. I guess down deep I was hoping that I would meet up with Stricker a few hours later on the 18th green for the Wanamaker Trophy presentation.
Then at 2:30 Keegan Bradley and Scott Verplank teed it up. I distinctly remember seeing the worn and tattered St. John’s University headcover in Bradley’s bag. My daughter, Ambry, coaches the women’s team at SJU. She knows Bradley well and I passed on her well wishes minutes before he teed off. Little did we know just how much his life was about to change over the next five hours.
And at 2:40 the fun would really start. There was one small patch of shade on the right side of the tee box. I had been standing there as the last few groups arrived. It was the coolest spot on the tee and it was also where the caddies set the players bags down. It was a good place for me to meet and greet the players as well as inform them of the appropriate order of play on the tee. In the case of the 2:40 starting time, I shook hands with Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner. I let Steele know that he was first to play. I took my station behind the tee and began my announcement of the Steele/Dufner twosome.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the 2:40 starting time. Joining the group as a walking referee from Show Low, AZ is PGA professional, Brad Gregory,” as I barked this out to the crowd, I saw a ball already teed up, which was not unusual as the first player to hit will often tee it up a couple of minutes before he is announced.
“First to play from Irvine, CA, please welcome Brendan Steele,” I said, but as I started to announce Steele I noticed Dufner circling around behind the ball. It was very distracting and when Steele was announced Dufner stopped, removed his ball and looked back at me. He quizzically pointed to a group of people standing by the tent on the first tee. I will now defer the rest of the story to the CBS telecast.
“Well, look at this, Dufner already had it teed up,” said Jim Nantz.
“Wow! That is some confusion,” exclaimed Nick Faldo.
“Let me pick that up and get out of your way,” chuckled Nantz as Dufner removed his ball from the tee.
“Hope they see the funny side of that,” replied Faldo.
“Just a great little example at how these guys are in unfamiliar territory,” replied Nantz.
“Exactly,” pointed out Faldo.” I was down on the range when these guys were being interviewed and he (Steele) looked slightly shell shocked answering all of the questions as quickly as possible.”
As the players were leaving the tee, CBS elected to show a replay of the incident.
“Oops,” said Nantz as Dufner picked his ball up.
“Excuse me,” said Faldo as Steele went to the tee box.
David Feherty was the walking CBS commentator with the Steele and Dufner group. At this point, he was approximately 75 yards down the fairway on the left- he was nowhere near the First Tee when the incident took place.
“The starter had actually gotten them mixed up. He told them the wrong order,” chirped Feherty.
And finally Gary McCord added, “I have never seen that in a major.”
It was a perplexing situation to say the least from my standpoint. The players were clearly told the order of play on the First Tee. The only thing that the PGA of America can figure is that the standard bearer who carries the walking leaderboard had showed up on the First Tee with Dufner’s name on top and Steele’s on the bottom. Dufner must have assumed that the standard bearer had it correct. Gregory had the names changed to the proper order before the carrier left the tee.
All of us with the PGA of America take our responsibilities very seriously at our Championship. In my opinion, the CBS Sports golf talent is as good as it gets. In reviewing the replay of the incident several dozen times last week, I think Nantz and Faldo maneuvered their way through the incident with the same style, class and humor that viewers get during every CBS golf telecast.
My only disappointment was with Feherty’s comment. The inference by Feherty was that the starter is the announcer and that the players were told the wrong order. Gregory was the starter and I was the announcer. The players were informed of the correct order of play on the First Tee. It can only be assumed that Dufner thought the standard bearer was correct and maybe in the heat of the moment he didn’t hear my instructions on the tee.
Either way, I spent the better part of last week fielding phone calls, answering emails and talking to people at The Legends Golf Club about the situation and hopefully this clears it up.
Finally, let me say that I find David Feherty to be an absolute delight. He is great for the game of golf and I would encourage you to watch his show each week on the Golf Channel. I am probably over sensitive to what happened on the first tee on that final day. Everybody that I mentioned was trying to do the best job possible, given the circumstances.
Fortunately, Keegan Bradley saved the day with a phenomenal comeback.