Here's a Great White Shock: Greg Norman is out at FOX Sports as its lead golf analyst after only one year.
A source close to FOX Sports confirmed Norman's departure, which is scheduled to be announced Monday. The news was first reported Sunday evening via a tweet from Links Magazine.
Norman was the marquee name in the talent department hastily assembled by FOX golf director Mark Loomis after FOX pulled off a coup by landing the USGA contract, which included the men's, women's and senior U.S. Opens. Fox Sports hired Norman before it landed Loomis, a former coordinating producer for golf on ABC and ESPN and also "Thursday Night Football" who was working as a senior vice president of production at MLB Network.
One obvious candidate as a replacement could be Paul Azinger, who once formed a dynamic and unlikely on-air duo when he was teamed with Nick Faldo on ABC’s golf broadcasts. Azinger was among the bright spots during ESPN’s excellent British Open coverage last summer from St. Andrews and is a glib, tell-it-like-it-is personality that the viewing audience relates to. But any list of replacement candidates is just speculation.
Norman was paired in the booth with veteran sportscaster Joe Buck, who hadn’t done golf before.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said Norman wasn't very good on the air because "he didn’t do his homework and he didn’t know any players who weren’t Australian." Norman just wasn’t engaged in any of the FOX telecasts the way the network had hoped, the source said.
"It was tough for the whole staff because he wasn’t involved in the shows like a lead analyst should be," the source said. "Maybe he thought just being Greg Norman was enough. He's been successful in everything he's done in business but he wasn’t good at TV. He was a team player but when the cameras turned on, he just went silent."
Norman climbed out of the broadcast tower to do some first-hand reporting on fellow Aussie Jason Day when Day collapsed behind the 18th green after battling vertigo symptoms during the U.S. Open, but that was among his few highlights. Many TV execs felt Norman dropped the ball during the drama on the 72nd hole in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. After Dustin Johnson played an exquisite 5-iron shot to the green and then three-putted for a bogey to lose the Open to Jordan Spieth, Norman said very little to set up the situation or explain it.
That was a big eye-opener for everyone, the source said. The U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club was another awkward wrinkle for the FOX team. Brad Faxon, a former PGA Tour player stationed at the 17th hole, wound up providing an unusual share of the analysis and commentary because Norman wasn't chiming in.
UPDATE: FOX Sports confirmed on Monday that Greg Norman will not return as a golf analyst for the network in 2016.
"After careful consideration, we have decided to make this change to our USGA Championships coverage," said John Entz, President of Production & Executive Producer, FOX Sports. "We want to thank Greg for his contributions last year, and wish him success in all his current and future endeavors."
Norman also commented in the press release saying, "I put a lot into my role this past year and really enjoyed the time I spent with the commentary team, I have a long history with FOX and wish them well on their journey showcasing USGA Championships. I also want to thank David Hill (former Head of FOX Sports) and the USGA for believing in me and instilling their vote of confidence in me from the outset."