NBC and ESPN are NOT in competition for the best broadcasting award at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage. The inevitable comparisons are being made, however, so let's spice things up and evaluate their efforts.
In my opinion, NBC and its crack golf team win hands down. Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks have no peers in PGA Tour broadcasting.
Mr. Hicks is the consummate professional, articulate, and well-informed with an affable nature about him. He could easily fit in anyone's recreation room eating snacks, telling stories, and enjoying the golf.
Johnny Miller continues his excellent work. Miller is about the only PGA Tour player who has successfully made the transition to the broadcast booth. His comments are made with professionalism, accuracy, and help the viewers understand the pressures of major tournament golf.
The technical staff at NBC also do a tremendous job. The video introductions to Bethpage are remarkable. The selected music seems to hit the right chords time and time again. Their camera angles show exactly what the viewers are expecting.
The on-course commentators are also superb. Dottie Pepper, Roger Maltbie, and Gary Koch have all "been there," and seem to be able to explain the situation without confusing the viewer.
Peter Jacobson can't escape this review. He has crafted a Tour image of being a jokester, even though he has an enviable record as a competitor. Jacobson has an excellent speaking voice, his expertise is impressive, and he delivers an aggressive commentary. Peter has a very bright future in the broadcast booth.
Jacobson needs to solve his identity crisis though when it comes to his analysis; is he a comedian or a serious golf analyst? His NBC work is improving rapidly. He'll need to decide very quickly what image he wants to project to his viewers.
ESPN still seems to be in awe of being selected by the PGA to broadcast our national tournament. Their performance at the 2009 Master's was hindered by a lack of professionalism. They were too excited at just "being there" to give an objective view of the action. This attitude seems to have carried over to Bethpage.
Mike Terrico at the anchor desk is tolerable, but he's too tied to Monday Night Football to be believable. Curtis Strange doesn't have the speaking voice viewers crave in their announcers. It's just too difficult to listen to Curtis for any length of time.
Andy North gets high marks for his accurate analysis and professional presentation. Viewers are beginning to detect a personality conflict, however, between North and Scott Van Pelt. At times, this conflict borders on being embarrassing. They probably shouldn't be teamed together.
Everyone seems to enjoy Chris Berman, although he doesn't add any serious golf expertise. ESPN probably needs to keep him busy until the football season starts.
In closing, these two networks have the enviable task of broadcasting our nations' premier golfing event. In future years, the broadcast networks should decide if two is better than one.