FINDING A THEME FOR THE 2011 SEASON
Morfit: Ten events into 2011, where is this season headed? As soon as we think we've identified a theme (the return of Phil, the rise of the Europeans) it vaporizes just as quickly. Despite Graeme McDowell's 64 on Sunday (T6) and Luke Donald's 66 (T10), the Euros didn't do much at the Honda despite all the pre-tournament build-up. The only thing that's been consistent about this year is Tiger's crummy scores. Is 2011 in the throes of an identity crisis?
Van Sickle: I think we do have a theme. As I wrote last week from the Match Play, the torch has been passed and we're watching the battle to see who's going to pick it up and run with it. It's like horses jockeying for position as they enter the final turn at the Derby. There are a lot of possibilities. It just may take a while to settle. And it may end with Tiger or Phil reasserting himself.
Evans: I think consistency and parity could be the major themes. The narrative is boring, but I think it's good for the game. Instead of 10 guys dominating the Tour, or one or two, we have 50 with a shot to win every week.
Bamberger: You don't know who is going to win or even contend before the event begins. I love it.
Van Sickle: Agree with Farrell that it's good for the game in the long run. Very good. We're star-building for the future, we hope.
REMEMBERING FRANK CHIRKINIAN
Morfit: Legendary CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian died of cancer at 84, but not before videotaping his acceptance speech for the May 9 Hall of Fame induction. What will you remember about "The Ayatollah"? He told me once that he hated Greg Norman's hat, which surprised me since that was such a Norman trademark. "The eyes are the window to the soul," Chirkinian said, "and I didn't want that damn hat hiding his eyes."
Bamberger: I will remember that he held court, like a mob boss, and that people listened to what he had to say, and that he wasn't a corporate suit, and that he had a vision. Also, he had many purple sweaters in his collection.
Morfit: His legacy will live on not just through all the sports-television advancements, but also through the talent he hired: Nantz, McCord, Feherty, etc.
Van Sickle: CBS has had the best golf telecasts over the years. I don't think there's much argument there. Chirkinian is the reason, the man who built the model and got a lot of the right people in the right places, from Jim Nantz to the Gary McCord/Ben Wright duo to Tom Weiskopf (who had some great observations at the Masters) and others. Chirkinian turned telecasts from a collection of golf shots on the last few holes into a show, a story with an ending. He was a pioneer.
Gorant: A few years ago Mike Lupica wrote a My Shot for us arguing that Frank should get into the Hall of Fame. He and we were ahead of our time. I had to call Chirkinian as part of the editing process, and he could talk. Never boring though.
Spearman: I never met him, just enjoyed his work. I remember watching the Masters as a 12-year-old kid in the UK, live TV from America. That's how Faldo decided he wanted to play golf, watching Jack on TV at Augusta.
Morfit: I like that he had the sod above the cups painted white. We take it for granted now, but it takes some cojones to get in there and start messing with the playing field so it'll look better on TV.
Hack: Also never met him, but love that he instituted a "don't talk while the ball is in the air" rule during the broadcast. Also, at the 1996 Masters, when Faldo was choosing between 5-wood and 2-iron on the 13th fairway, the broadcasters were mostly silent as Faldo and Fannie talked it over. You heard the birds chirping and you saw Faldo trying to figure out which club looked better behind the ball, and it was great television.
Walker: He was a visionary and one of the great characters of the game. The Masters has an almost mythical quality that's unlike any other event in sports, and Chirkinian's broadcasts are a major reason why.
Evans: I was fortunate enough to interview Chirkinian last year. As I was talking to him, I kept thinking that he would have been great in front of the camera. He was lively, slick, witty, polished and successful. I place him right up there with Don Hewitt, the 60 Minutes producer, and Roone Arledge of ABC, as one of the truly innovative producers in TV history. But even more than that, he was a character and, as my mother would say, a sport.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Like millions more, I watched infinite hours of his golf coverage, and I enjoyed every minute of it all.