Viasat’s golf coverage lacking in quality

Viasat was a long way from shooting par in its Swedish broadcast of the Ryder Cup, writes admitted golf addict Gene Oberto.

Viasat's golf coverage lacking in quality

The weekend gluttony of golf called the Ryder Cup came to a merciful close sometime in the wee hours of this past Monday morning. I say mercifully, not because of the level of play at Valhalla, the golf club in Kentucky where the event was played. No, there were plenty of great golf shots, swings of emotion and partisan fervour to go around. No, sleep took me away from the pain that was the “coverage” (a word used in its loosest of definitions) by the Viasat offering called the Golf Channel.

Viasat, like all good pushers of palliatives, knows a good thing when it sees it. Golfers are addicts because they are usually not part time participants. If they are not actually playing the sport, they talk about the last time they played it. They plan on when they can play it again, read about other people who are playing it, and then go out and purchase products they hope will make them play better or look good while playing. They have all the classic traits of addiction.

Viasat brings golf into our living rooms in widescreen colour, allowing us addicts to pay to watch others do what we wish they could be doing. Viasat borrows other TV productions and rebroadcasts these programmes to their enslaved subscribers who pay for the habit to the tune of 100 kronor a month.

One would reasonably think that for these monies one could expect some reasonable quality of entertainment in return. To give us the illusion that Viasat actually may do more than throw a switch in some studio, they hire the venerable golfing commentator, former golf magazine editor and noted authority on the sport, Göran Zachrisson to explain to the Swedish audience what they are witnessing.

Certainly, stuffing the honourable Mr. Zachrisson in a studio in Stockholm to speak over the existing commentary is a nice thing. It allays any fear that Viasat doesn’t care for us, the audience. In fact, Viasat went to the unprecedented expense of stuffing Mr. Zachrisson in a studio at the Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky to give us his thoughts for this telecast of the Ryder Cup.

Unfortunately, for the over 30 hours of coverage that the Golf Channel brought us, Göran talked about the Kentucky derby, Kentucky bourbon, Kentucky bluegrass, Louisville, Kentucky, and famous people from Kentucky (though he somehow failed to mention Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, Kit Carson, Ned Beatty, Florence Henderson, Ashley Judd and Henry Clay.) The actual golf event was not particularly important unless it was that the “boooos” from the audience were for the American golfer, Boo Weekly, and not a comment on the telecast.

On Saturday night, there was suddenly a strange sound emanating from the TV. It was silence. The audio portion seemed to have disappeared! Did Göran take a break? Had someone pulled a plug? A crawl came across the screen alerting us to the obvious. There was a problem with the Swedish audio and that they were working to correct it. I was happy, because for the previous 30 minutes we had been subjected to the actual sounds of Viasat’s crack team of technicians trying to correct the problem.

The pops and static were intermittently broken up with the announcer talking about Boo Weekly and the audience boos – which are not a pop band from Kentucky. This watcher was hoping that maybe we could get the audio feed from the US or Britain in the interim, to let us in on what was happening on the golf course. It would seem that the Swedish audience was not allowed to have English words used in the coverage, except for the crawl that said they were working on the problem – which was written in English.

Sunday, having been sufficiently dulled by the previous two days of “commentary”, I was surprised to see a new wrinkle had been added to spice up the coverage. There were guests coming into the closet, uh, studio to chat with Göran. One was Björn Örås, the owner and creator of Stockholm’s wondrous golf course, Bro Hof Slott. He was in Kentucky to pitch to the powers that be the use of his golf course to bring the Ryder Cup to Sweden. There is one opening in 2018 for a European site. Why not here in Sweden? He was mum on the outcome, but did proclaim his course to be superior to the course that looked pretty spectacular on my TV.

The other guest was the proud papa of Robert Karlsson, who was pleased with his son’s play. He certainly had kicked his American opponent’s ass the previous day. Mr. Karlsson took offense with the Swedish media’s comments on the play of the Swedish players on Friday. Göran, wisely, told him not to go there. Mr. Karlsson also didn’t like the partisan American fans cheering when the European players would miscue on the course.

Hey, Mr. Karlsson, we Americans cheer when someone from the other team strikes out with the bases loaded or drops the ball in the end zone. Sorry, nothing personal. It’s just better you than us. When it was all said and done the guests had eaten up about 90 minutes of Mr. Zachrisson’s Ryder Cup programming without actually discussing the event at hand.

Finally, when the Americans finally clinched victory and reclaimed the Ryder Cup, we were subjected to over an hour of meandering camera shots filled with happy American golfers and a contrite but magnanimous European team, the team wives, screaming fans, snippets of unrelated conversations, and other examples of bad TV.

No interviews with players. No recap of great moments in this Ryder Cup’s play. No examination by golf experts on why the Americans had won, or why the Europeans couldn’t defend. Nothing. Luckily, the sweet arms of Morpheus prevented me from having to witness the award ceremony.

Let’s just say, kindly, that the Viasat Golf Channel and golf coverage have yet to be formally introduced.


Sweden’s Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters

Sweden's Alex Noren came back from a seven-shot overnight deficit to claim a dramatic French Open victory at Le Golf National on Sunday, as the difficult closing stretch of the Ryder Cup course saw a host of challengers slip up.

Sweden's Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters
Swedish golfer Alex Noren holds the trophy after winning the HNA Open de France, as part of the European Tour 2018, on Sunday. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP
Fellow Swede Marcus Kinhult had entered Sunday's play with a two-shot lead but struggled through a five-over final round to end in a three-way tie for fifth.
World number 16 Noren fired a brilliant four-under 67 to reach seven-under par for the tournament, before sitting back and watching his rivals falter as he won by a single stroke.
The 35-year-old will be a key figure for Europe when the Ryder Cup gets underway on September 28, and he showed all his qualities by playing the last three holes in two-under.
The big-name pairing of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm both threatened, but the two Spaniards found water at the 18th, while world number two Justin Thomas never seriously contended.
Julian Suri, who was looking to become the first American winner of the event since Barry Jaeckel in 1972, went to the 72nd hole on eight-under but made a watery double-bogey, while England's Chris Wood also blew a late lead.
That handed Noren, who finished his fourth round 45 minutes before the final group, a 10th European Tour title and first since the BMW PGA Championship in May 2017, when he also fought back from seven shots behind on the final day.
Scotland's Russell Knox carded a final-round 65 earlier in the day to finish tied for second with Suri and Wood on six-under — enough to secure him a spot for the British Open at Carnoustie along with Kinhult and Suri.