All Tiger, All the time fruitful for CBS

Tuesday, August 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CBS is proud to announce that 92 of the top 100 golfers in the world are scheduled to tee off Thursday at the PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky.

According to the network, that makes the PGA, which CBS will televise on Saturday and Sunday, host to the strongest field of any of golf's majors this year.

Which leads us to the most obvious of questions: Does it matter?

And the most obvious of answers: Not in the least as long as No. 1 shows up.

All CBS needs is Tiger Woods. The rest of the field could come from the Putt-Putt Tour. Woods is No. 1 in the world and No. 1 in the hearts and minds of viewers.

A mini-primer on the ratings for golf's majors:

• Woods won last year's PGA Championship and brought home the highest rating the event has had in 20 years.

• Woods won the British Open last month and gave ABC the highest Sunday rating for the event since 1972.

• Woods won the U.S. Open in June and gave NBC the best Open ratings since 1981.

• Woods did not win the Masters in April. He finished fifth behind winner Vijay Singh. He really wasn't in contention on Saturday or Sunday. The top 10 finishers included Ernie Els, Loren Roberts, David Duval, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Carlos Franco and Hal Sutton. No matter. Ratings were down 42 percent from 1997, when Tiger Woods took home the green jacket.

A few days ago, CBS production types and announcers fielded calls about coverage of the PGA Championship. Someone asked coordinating producer Lance Barrow, a gentleman from Fort Worth, if someday CBS would be able to follow Woods through an entire broadcast and relegate the rest of the field to a cable partner.

Barrow laughed. But when pressed on the subject Barrow conceded something like that could happen.

"I'm not an expert on this subject, but in any sport 10 years down the road, in any game, if you want to watch a wide receiver, or if you're only an Ernie Els fan, you'll be able to focus only on him somehow," Barrow said.

Which leads to the second most obvious question. Whatever happened to equal time? Doesn't the Federal Communications Commission have a law mandating that Tiger Woods split face time 50-50 with the other 149 players in the field?

Dallas' David Feherty, who follows the leaders around the course for CBS, pointed out that Woods' coverage qualifies for the Kournikova exemption.

"It's an Anna Kournikova thing," said Feherty. "People would rather look at him even if he's not doing anything."

He gets to see as much of Tiger up close and personal as anyone. He says he never ceases to be amazed by Woods' play.

"Part of my job is to be down there on the ground and predict what's possible for the players, what's going to happen and the options they have," Feherty said. "In that sense he has redefined my job ... I'm just not qualified.

"Tiger is probably lucky the PGA Tour isn't a reality show. He definitely would be the first one to be voted off the island."

• • •

Personal aside to those running the Rangers operation: The problem at The Ballpark in Arlington isn't the broadcasters who have been left dangling without contracts for next season. If management – from Tom Hicks down to Johnny Oates – performed as well as Eric Nadel and Company, the Rangers might now find themselves in a pennant race.

• • •

The radio ratings are in for the Spring 2000 book and sports talk numbers were down across the board. At 6 p.m., the only truly competitive prime-time sports hour of the day, WBAP's Randy Galloway beat out The Ticket's Mike Rhyner and Greg Williams among all listeners as well as the primary demographic group comprised of men 25-54. Galloway led 4.0 to 3.2 among all listeners and 6.0 to 5.5 among men 25-54. The Ticket, by the way, dominated AM-talk show competitors – KRLD, WBAP and KLIF – in that male demographic from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• • •

VCR alert: HBO offers up "Ali-Frazier I: One Nation ... Divisible" on Thursday at 9 p.m. The 60-minute documentary looks back at the March 8, 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight when all of America chose up sides.

Watch this and you'll understand why Frazier has shown so much animosity toward Ali all these years.