2013 Sony Open: Weather delays on Maui complicate Golf Channel’s broadcast at Waialae

Sam Greenwood

"Unprecedented" weather problems wreak havoc with Golf Channel’s production plans at Waialae.

Fans tuning into Golf Channel for first-round coverage of this week’s Sony Open may have noticed no difference between Thursday’s broadcast of the PGA Tour’s first full-field event of 2013 and any other -- and that’s just the way tourney producer Tommy Roy wants it.

“It’s certainly not going to be what they would normally expect from the Golf Channel/NBC team,” Roy told us Thursday, some seven hours before Golf Channel was slated to go live from Waialae Country Club just two days after the finish of the tour’s season-opening Tournament of Champions. “But our goal is to make it so that viewers can’t tell the difference,”

Roy has produced golf broadcasts since 1993 and has the 28 Emmy Awards to prove it. So when he says he’s never experienced anything like the madness at Maui that cancelled more rounds than golfers played, he probably knows what he’s talking about.

“We’ve certainly had some weather issues,” Roy said “But they always hit after you’ve already been set up. They’ve never created a problem for the set-up itself.

“This is unprecedented,” Roy said about the 54-hole tourney that Dustin Johnson won by four strokes over Steve Stricker. “They started the tournament on Monday, which was incredible to me, and finished on Tuesday mid-day.”

Players had to deal with rain and wind that wreaked havoc during Friday and Sunday’s false starts, and wiped out play entirely on Saturday. There were also no on-course scoreboards for the final round, with the tour having to ship the equipment ahead to its next stop.

The Golf Channel crew, however, had to wait until Johnson rolled in his final putt to wrap things up. That meant workers had 44 cameras to tear down in the GC trucks, pack up all the inter-linking cable and put the trucks on an inter-island barge for the 140-mile or so trip to Honolulu.

The trucks left Maui on Tuesday night and arrived at Waialae Country Club late Wednesday afternoon. The late start meant that Golf Channel would not be able to field its full complement of cameras for the start of the Sony Open.

“We have 32 cameras here,” Roy said, “but we’re going to have far fewer for the broadcast today because it typically takes two-and-a-half to three days for the crew to set up.”

Roy expected to fix equipment in place to cover the ninth, 17th and 18th holes, with crew lugging mini-cams across the rest of the course.

“We’ll make 10 cameras look like 32,” Roy said.

There was another unusual issue facing Roy’s team -- they had to go about their business without interfering with play.

“You have to be careful about bothering them -- they can't bother them -- so that's another little sidebar issue here,” Roy said about Thursday's ongoing set-up work. “But they’re all golf-savvy and I don’t expect any problems from that standpoint.”

Golf Channel’s live coverage of the Sony Open began on Thursday and will run throughout the weekend (or as long as it takes to finish the tourney). Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller are in the booth with Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo.

With Dottie Pepper retired as of December after eight years as a TV analyst, four-time tour winner Notah Begay III will pick up the microphone as the newest member of the NBC/Golf Channel team. Like Pepper, Begay will serve as a walking course reporter.

Last week’s driving grid graphic proved a popular new feature on the Golf Channel broadcast and will appear again this week, as well as at many events throughout the season. Similar to the computerized "first-and-10" yardage indicators employed during NFL broadcasts, the virtual graphic lines will be marked off in 25-yard increments on the 417-yard, par-4 16th fairway at Waialae.

You may tune in live to see if Johnson can sweep through Hawaii with back-to-back wins to start the season as follows (all times ET):

Friday: 7-10:30 p.m.

Saturday :7-10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7-10 p.m.

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