Q&A at PGA with CBS broadcasters

In a secluded nook of the Atlanta Athletic Club, where a paved service road gives way to gravel and dust, a compound of trailers thrums with the sound of a broadcasting platoon in prep mode. Here is base camp for CBS, the network broadcasting this PGA Championship.

It’s where a foursome of the most acclaimed broadcasters in the field sat down together for a few moments Wednesday to discuss subjects hither and yon — from the state of professional golf to the storylines for this final major of the year to a celebrity dream date with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The participants: Jim Nantz, the steadying anchor of each broadcast. David Feherty and Gary McCord, the glib on-course reporters. And one actual knight of this roundtable discussion, six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo.

Here are excerpts of the gathering:

Q: There is a very clear division of labor here. Do those out in the field, walking around in the heat, resent those who work in a comfy tower?

McCord: Some are meant to be generals and some are meant to be soldiers.

Feherty: I’m an outside pet. I need to be let out on regular occasions. ... We each have our own jobs, and there’s a dividing line there. I like being on the ground. I like being close to the players, seeing what’s going on and being able to report on it. Having the guys in the tower, I hide behind them.

Nantz: I want to defend that comment about, what did you call them, comfy towers? I think you need to pay a visit there. It might not be quite what you think.

Q: You do seem to be very comfortable with one another. Do you feel fortunate to have this combination?

Nantz: The chemistry, what you are seeing right here, we’re not performing. This is the way it is. This is the way it is when we are at dinner together, which is on a pretty regular basis. This is just the way life is on the CBS golf tour.

Q: At last year’s PGA Championship, you had a very interesting call at the end. [Dustin Johnson missing out on a playoff after being assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding a club in a sandy patch that was deemed to be a bunker]. Where do you put that one as far as weirdness?

Feherty: It was right at the top of the weirdness pile.

Q: Without the high-definition replay, would anyone have known for sure that Johnson had grounded his club?

Nantz: As all this is breaking loose, it’s amazing what’s coming out of this truck here under Lance Barrow’s production to bring some calmness to it, to be able to not only get the replay, but to enlarge it and enhance the picture to see, just barely, the mark where the club had grounded.

It was like special news reporting. All of sudden we were going back over all these replays, with a lot of discussion.

Feherty: The next thing I know I’m outside the showers trying to get Dustin Johnson for an interview, and he’s naked. And I’m thinking should I take my clothes off, too?

Nantz: David had one of his best lines — they’re always good lines — when he went back to look at the bunker. All this is ongoing. They’re in the scorer’s tent. They’re showing Johnson the replay on the monitor. And I said, ‘Well David, you’re back there now, what do you see?’ He says, ‘This doesn’t look like a bunker, it looks like a manger.’

Q: Are you looking forward to a saner telecast this time?

McCord: Well, I don’t know. That was good TV.

Q: What do you see as the predominate story lines coming into this PGA Championship?

Faldo: There are at least 20 guys that can win. No one would have picked Charl Schwartzel [at the Masters]. Nobody would have ever picked Darren [Clarke, at the British Open], and he played like a champion.

Feherty: We’re all supposed to be experts, and none of us have a clue.

Nantz: The story lines coming in: Tiger having missed the last two majors, what will he have for Atlanta this week after a tune-up tournament? Will the Americans ever get back, when is it going to happen they win a major championship? We have a disagreement on this. I have the Americans.

Faldo: I have the rest of the world.

Q: On the inevitable subject of Woods, from a media standpoint, can you ever have too much Tiger? Is there a danger of overshadowing other worthwhile stories while concentrating on him?

McCord: No. You can’t get enough.

Feherty: There are two stories on CBS that are sort of equally fascinating. How’s Ashton Kutcher going to do on “Two and a Half Men,” and is Tiger going to play this week? And you have to ask them both.

Q: In your jobs, do you feel a responsibility to point out the other personalities on Tour, to give shed some light beyond just one guy?

Faldo: We’ve been doing that ever since Rickie Fowler came on the scene in bright colors. And Ian Poulter. And you got all these youngsters. [Matteo] Manassero [18 years old] is a great story. You got [Ryo] Ishikawa [19]. That’s the theme we’ve been on for the last three years.

I think the Tour recognized that guys have to turn up the character, not just wearing gray slacks and a white shirt and hitting a golf ball. They knew what was happening with Tiger. If they want to play for these massive dollars, they have to do their part, turn up the entertainment volume just a little bit.

Q: So who picks up the flag now for American golf?

McCord: Fowler is the one they need. They want someone to go against [Rory] McIlroy, want someone who’s colorful. He’s got it. His swing is different, you can focus on it. He’s a great kid. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to do it sooner or later.

Nantz: If Gary Woodland wins this week, everyone will know about him. It’s not TV trying to make something up. Gary Woodland hits it longer than anyone on the planet. And by the way, he has a complete game. If he wins this thing he will be anointed as the next new star. Not saying he is going to be the most dominant player in the game, but he is going to be an exciting boost for not just American golf, but golf globally. It can all change in four days how you look at that.

Q: You guys are obviously pretty bullish on where golf is going.

Feherty: For me, I’m having more fun watching it.

Faldo: There’s all this character. I think we have at least 20 different faces, 20 different swings, 20 different characters. Sure everyone loved it when Tiger was there. Tiger knows. He used to have to beat only one or two guys each week. Now, it’s what we saw at the Masters this year, it’s all stacked up. He was in the mix, one of the 10, and he didn’t come through this time.

Nantz: All these young kids I believe are playing at this level because of Tiger. They weren’t around when Tiger was at his most dominant state, so they didn’t get the confidence knocked out of them; they didn’t get beaten up by the greatness of Tiger. And they have been inspired by Tiger to be this good this young.

Q: OK, one last softball. Fill out your dream foursome.

McCord: Catherine Zeta-Jones and hope the other two guys don’t show up.

Faldo: I would have loved to play with [Sam] Snead, [Ben] Hogan and [Lee] Trevino. Those boys could hit some shots.

Nantz: Arnold Palmer. I have a special friendship with him. ... I’d love to play with Jack [Nicklaus]. We’ve never played. And throw my boy Freddy [Couples, his former roommate at Houston] in there.

Feherty: My dad — because he has Alzheimer’s disease, and I’d like to play with him one more time. I’ve never played with Jack, the only one from the modern era I never go to play with. And Annika Sorenstam. She’s a special person.