Inside the Ropes (sort of) at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championships
The woosh of a drive, the thud of an iron shot, the click of a putt. Those sounds are familiar to golfers and golf fans. I've heard those sounds hundreds of thousands of time on television, but never in person. That changed yesterday.
I was lucky enough to attend the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship from Marana, Arizona. I tagged along with long time KTSM sports director Fred Albers. For the past six years, Fred has been moonlighting as a commentator for the PGA Tour Network on Sirius/XM radio.
As someone who has always been as fascinated with broadcasting as I have sports, it was amazing to watch Fred work. Fred was always at the mercy of his producer as to which match to follow. He had to keep track of the matches, battle crowds, and a hot Arizona sun. Somehow he was always flawless every time he was called upon to comment.
We started with the Graeme McDowell/Y.E. Yang match. Yang, the 2009 PGA champ, outlasted the 2010 U.S. champ 2 & 1. Here is Fred, hard at work, making a call at the 14 hole in the Yang/McDowell match.
As you can see, Fred has to take every precaution to ensure the golfers are not distracted by his voice.
After Yang polished off McDowell, it was on to the Bill Haas/Ryo Ishikawa match. Haas appeared to have the match won when he stuck to to five feet on the 17th hole. Most people were thinking Ishikawa would have to drain his sliding fifteen footer to have any chance to extend the match. Ishikawa holed his putt while Haas missed his. Ishikawa went on the win the 18th hole and the match.
We were then privy to the most improbable finish of the day. Jason Day looked dead to rites when he stepped on the 16th tee. Day was three down in his match with 27 year old Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello. Bello fought nerves and gagged short putts on 16 and 17 to help the Aussie live to fight another Day. Day was able to stick it to five feet on the 19th hole to put the final nail in Bello's coffin.
Ernie Els played like it was 1999 in his 5&4 victory over one seed Luke Donald. Here is some video of Ernie clinching the match with a smooth birdie on the 14th hole.
I saw a ton of golfers traversing the expansive Ritz Carlton property with Fred. The one golfer I never even caught a glimpse of was Tiger Woods. Fred wasn't assigned to the Woods/Fernandez-Castano match which ended with Tiger holing a six footer on 18 for a 1 up win.
The day on the course ended with Peter Hanson knocking off Jason Dufner on the 17th hole. This was a testy match at times. Dufner didn't take to kindly to Hanson not conceding him a short putt on a hole, and for the rest of the match nothing was conceded.
Fred's work day doesn't end when he leaves the course. After seven hours of live golf coverage, Fred then must write a column for pgatour.com. Then it's a half hour wrap up show on the PGA Tour Network. If that's not enough, Fred's day is not done until he does video recaps for the aforementioned pgatour.com
As for me, I had a wonderful time. I'll be honest, I was a little disappointed I didn't get to see Tiger hit even one shot. However, I got to see more golfers than I ever could have imagined. I also got to see some spectacular shots, clutch putts, and dramatic moments. It was an experience I won't soon forget, and I hope to do it again another time.