NBC golf team likes the layout at Interlachen

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2008 - 7:55 AM

Annika Sorenstam's farewell Open figures to be a top story line as the network prepares its weekend coverage.

Dottie Pepper never had the chance to play Interlachen Country Club during her LPGA career, but the NBC golf analyst had high praise for the course as she prepared to work the U.S. Women's Open.

"This is one of the best layouts that there is," Pepper said. "It's a shot-makers' golf course in every sense of [the word]."

Pepper came close to playing at Interlachen in 2002 when the Solheim Cup was held in Edina, but she gave up her spot on the United States team because of a shoulder injury. Nonetheless, she was in attendance and grew familiar with the course.

NBC's golf crew also was in town for the match-play event, and Interlachen made an impression on producer Tom Randolph. "I actually forgot how good of a course it is," he said. "It looks beautiful, and that won't be hard to convey in the telecast."

While Randolph works for NBC, the coverage he produced on Thursday's opening day aired on ESPN. The all-sports network will carry today's second round from 2 to 6 p.m. before things switch to NBC on Saturday and Sunday.

Randolph has been a longtime co-producer for NBC's golf events, working alongside Tommy Roy. Roy, however, will be in Omaha this weekend overseeing coverage of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. Dan Hicks, the network's top golf host, also will be at swimming and will be replaced by Mark Rolfing.

Randolph said overall he is very pleased with how the course sets up for television and didn't see the need to change much from the Solheim Cup. One of the few issues is the matter of camera placement because the greens on holes No. 11 and 16 are so close that it creates a small challenge, Randolph said.

NBC's crew includes 100 staffers as well as 40 local free-lance hires. NBC will use 26 cameras to capture the action.

One of the main story lines figures to be LPGA Hall of Fame inductee Annika Sorenstam, who announced in May she will retire after the season. Sorenstam has three U.S. Women's Open titles among her 10 major championships. NBC will focus its tease Saturday on Sorenstam, hoping that she and a few other name players make things interesting through the weekend.

"We really want to document how the top stars are playing, introduce the stories that we feel are great and also follow the tournament and give everybody their due that is playing well," Randolph said. "It's going to make a lot of difference how Annika is playing. We will do a lot more than what we normally do around her."

Where's Johnny?

NBC lead golf analyst Johnny Miller will be part of the Open coverage, but not until the weekend. No, Miller isn't in trouble for comments he made about Rocco Mediate during the recent U.S. Open men's tournament when Tiger Woods edged Mediate in a playoff.

Miller found himself in hot water and apologized last week for saying that Mediate "looks like the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool." He also said, "Guys with the name of 'Rocco' don't get on the trophy, do they?"

According to an NBC spokesman, Miller never appears on cable coverage of tournaments and neither does Hicks. Rolfing will work with Judy Rankin and Pepper in the 18th tower today and then be joined by Miller and Pepper on Saturday and Sunday.

Miller, by the way, said in a statement that his intention was to "convey my affection and admiration for Rocco's everyman qualities and had absolutely nothing to do with his [Italian] heritage."

Fine-tuning

• Former Twin Jeff Cirillo, who has been doing work on Brewers telecasts this season on FSN Wisconsin, will participate in on-field "instructional" segments that will be seen on FSN North this weekend as part of the coverage for the Twins-Brewers series.

• FSN North will air the Minnesota High School football all-star game on tape delay at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday in St. Cloud.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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