NBC Sports Group Puts TPC Sawgrass in Spotlight at Players Championship

Like many of the greatest tournaments on the golf calendar — Augusta National and St. Andrews come to mind — the most intriguing character in the field at this week’s Players Championship will once again be the course itself. NBC Sports Group will highlight not only the gorgeous scenery at TPC Sawgrass but also the twists and turns that often mark the course’s closing holes.

“There is no doubt that we have a love affair with this event,” says NBC Sports Group Executive Producer Tommy Roy. “For me personally, producing this golf-tournament broadcast is more fun than any other golf event we do because of the wild turns that can happen anywhere on the course, specifically at [holes] 16, 17, and 18.”

Two Networks’ Worth of Coverage, Gear
NBC and Golf Channel will combine to deliver 22 hours of live coverage (with limited commercial interruption) over the next four days. The two networks will deploy a total of 51 cameras (up from 42 last year), including a blimp cam and a battalion of newly added POV cams.

Eight production trucks are on hand, including NEP’s ND-3 and SS-24 (A, B, and C units) as well as NEP’s SS-17 and SS-10 for Golf Channel’s Live From The Players studio show. CP Communications has also supplied two RF trucks, RF-6 and RF-8. Bringing it all together is a total of 1.26 million feet of fiber at the stadium course in Ponte Vedra, FL.

More Cameras Than Ever at 17
The crown jewel of TPC Sawgrass has always been the dreaded yet breathtaking island green on the par-3 hole 17. Roy and company will have a record 11 cameras covering the 17th, up from eight last year. In addition, 17 will once again feature a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny front bunker as well as a super-slo-mo camera on the island to the right of the 17th green (where the operator is marooned for approximately eight hours) capturing reactions from the tee box.

Also returning to hole 17 this year will be the “periscope cams,” two cameras that resemble a submarine’s periscope and peek just above the surface of the water. The cameras, which debuted at the Players last year, sit atop two pipes that are anchored to the bottom of the pond, allowing them to rotate 360 degrees and providing a green-high view of the hole.

NBC’s coverage at 17 also includes a manned crane located at the right of the 16th fairway and lifted 150 ft. high, giving the camera a clear view of 16, 17, and 18.

POV Cams at 16, 17
NBC is also experimenting with several unmanned POV cameras located at holes 16 and 17. Though expressing excitement at the new angles they potentially offer, Roy notes that the jury is still out.

“I’m honestly not sure how I’ll like [the POV cameras] until we see what they’re giving us when the tournament is under way,” he says. “We’re hoping that these extra little cameras give the viewer more of a feeling of what it’s like to be on the property, especially in that arena that is the 16th and 17th hole.

NBC, Golf Channel Hit Synergy High
The Players represents the highest-profile tournament produced since the NBC and Golf Channel came under the NBC Sports Group umbrella following Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in January. As has been the case for all golf productions over the past four months, all NBC coverage will be branded “Golf Channel on NBC,” while Golf Channel’s coverage will be dubbed “Golf Channel powered by NBC Sports.”

Both networks’ coverage will deploy a graphics package designed specifically for the Players Championship that features NBC-Golf Channel co-branding and the new Golf Channel-NBC Peacock combo logo.  The two networks will also share talent and resources extensively.

“You’ll see the talent crossing over, mostly the NBC guys helping on Golf Channel during shoulder programming,” says Roy. “Golf Channel’s videotape library really helps us become better storytellers. We have 145 players in the field here, and there’s no way to prepare for every possibility so we end up being reactionary in how we personalize players. It could be Phil or Tiger, but there ‘s all these other guys that we have to be able to react to personalize.”