Friday, June 13, 2008

Amextv_combo Major golf tournaments are fun: you're outside, the weather's usually nice, they serve lots of beer, and you're not at work. The only downside is trying to watch the thing.
Unless you've camped out at a spot for an hour or snuck stilts past the airport-like security gate, the most you'll see of a Mickelson putt on a crowded green is his left shoulder. If you want to see any more than that, you really need to bring a periscope (as if the golf clothes don't make us look dorky enough). What's more, fans of other sports see replays on giant Jumbotrons. We have to wait for people to change the number on the leaderboard or try to decipher crowd noise from other holes. ("Hmmm, polite applause from the southeast, sounds like a Tiger bogey.")
But thanks to American Express, those days may be over. Amex cardholders don't have to play submarine captain to watch all the action at this year's U.S. Open. Instead, they can visit the Amex tent and get "Championship Vision," a small, hand-held television set that shows live footage from the tournament as well as a special superstar channel that follows Tiger and Phil around. (Click on the image for a closer view.)
The service is free to cardholders, who simply swing their card at the Amex tent as a deposit and get to use the $2,000 gadget for the day. By 2 p.m. yesterday, the couple thousand devices Amex had were all out on the course.
"I love it," Darwin Gillies, 47, of Calgary, said as he sat in the stands at the eighth green and watched Tiger play the 12th. "I never used a periscope, but I was a great chair-stander."
Darwin, who wasn't named after the scientist because he's "barely evolved," according to a pal, said the tiny TV doesn't change how he watches a golf tournament--he likes to see it in person--but it gives him flexibility to watch different groups.
"If this just came with a Laz-E-Boy it would be perfect," Darwin joked. "And a beer service." (Photos: Al Tielemans/SI)

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