Frank Nobilo on disagreeing with Brandel Chamblee and the world's best caddie

Frank Nobilo
Gary Bogdon
WINNING SWING: Nobilo won once on the PGA Tour and five times on the European Tour.

You moved into the TV booth in 2004. How tough was the transition?
I hated television at first. I felt I was robbed of playing by injuries. I felt so envious of my contemporaries who were still playing, like Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. I had to approach television with the same sort of attitude I had when playing golf so I could learn the business.

What's changed since then?
The beauty of golf is that when you shoot 65, you still have to go out and play the next day. Same with television -- no matter how good a show you might have, you have to do it again. You constantly reassess the big story, and whether you got things right. I think I'm on the right track now. I don't panic as much. I don't try to get it all out at once. I let it breathe. I really enjoy it now.

What's the biggest thing that you've learned about broadcasting?
I think the best television I ever saw was the 2003 Presidents Cup. During that playoff between Tiger and Ernie, the announcers didn't speak for five minutes. I asked [NBC Golf producer] Tommy Roy, "Did you cut their mikes off?" He said, "I didn't have to." I think they should tell everyone who gets into broadcasting about that. We cover the sport -- the players make the sport. Sometimes we have to remember that it's their moment, not ours.

Have you lost friends over things that you've said on-air?
I've lost a lot of friends doing what I do now. The thing is, I didn't really have a choice. My job [as a player] was gone. It takes a while for people to realize that we're still sailing down the same river. I'm just in a different boat now.

Any specific examples?
I lost a pretty good friendship with Ernie Els because of something I said at the 2004 Masters. There was a graphic about his unbelievable run at Augusta, minus a win. I said, could he be another Greg Norman? That was my way of looking at Norman being the best player in the world for 10 years but never winning there. Ernie didn't take it that way. We were going to a break, so I didn't get to say that last bit about Ernie being the best player in the world. He took it as a shot at him. We sorted it out, but it took a long while.

How do you maintain relationships with players today?
You just try to be accessible. If someone has something to vent, I get that. Nobody likes being told that they haven't performed. I didn't like it when I played. I sure as hell don't expect the guys out there today to like it either. But that's my job.

You've also had some disagreements with Brandel Chamblee on-air.
He sees it differently than me. I know he works hard and at times is more candid than I am. I always say we eat from different sides of the same piece of bread. We've spent a lot of time together on-air and we disagree more than most people. But I know he's never once laid it up on a show. I don't have to agree with him to respect his work. I like to think he'd reciprocate on that.

What do your fellow New Zealanders think about Stevie Williams?
It's 50-50. Some think he's great, some not so great. I think he's the best caddie in the world.

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Golf Magazine, on newstands now. Click here to subscribe to Golf Magazine and to learn about Golf Magazine All Access.

 

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