Who's that moonlighting in the Golf Channel booth at Zozo Championship? Why, yes, it was Rickie Fowler, and he won't be the only one
At the PGA Tour stop in Japan, some pros are heading to the broadcast booth after their rounds.
Forget the driving range. This week, at the Zozo Championship in Japan, some PGA Tour pros are heading to the broadcast booth after their rounds to don the headset.
Rickie Fowler, fresh off shooting an even-par 70 that included a triple-bogey at the par-4 17th hole, joined Golf Channel’s George Savaricas in the 18th-hole tower and provided commentary. As Savaricas tweeted out, the plan is for a different player to sit in and do their best Johnny Miller impression each day.
As Fowler joined the telecast, the coverage shifted to the 17th hole with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama on the tee.
“Well, we’re coming right back to where my hiccup was today,” Fowler said.
“The scene of the crime,” Savaricas added, “of course we had to start with 17, of all of the holes that we had to have Rickie break down.”
When Matsuyama found the fairway, Fowler cracked, “Yeah, that might have saved me a few shots right there.”
Really looking forward to our @zozochamp broadcast w/Dom Boulet & @AliWhitakerGolf
A surprise this week with a “player takeover” of the booth…Have a different player joining us after each round, going to be a lot of fun –
RD 1: @RickieFowler
RD 2: ???
RD 3: ???
RD 4: ???
— George Savaricas (@GeorgeSavaricas) October 20, 2021
The player takeover doesn’t mean lead analysts Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger will be out of a job any time soon. Due to Japan’s extreme COVID-19 travel restrictions, Golf Channel sent a smaller team to the Zozo. Dom Boulet, who commentates regularly in Asia, and Alison Whitaker, who is a regular contributor of European Tour and Ladies European Tour broadcast coverage, are part of the on-air team this week.
“This opportunity presented itself as a creative solution and potential to enhance the telecast,” said Jamie Palatini, Golf Channel’s manager of communications.
Sources say that Charley Hoffman could be moonlighting in the booth following his second round but that is subject to change. In any event, it’s something different to the late-night broadcasts – what my colleague Julie Williams has dubbed “insomnia golf” – and perhaps it could become a regular thing down the road.
Here are some of Fowler’s insights:
Fowler on playing in Japan and his Japanese ties: “I love Japan. …spending the amount of time I did with my grandpa growing up. … Japanese culture is very much a part of how I grew up and a part of the family. I love Japan and I love the culture, I love the food.”
Fowler on upcoming birth of his and wife Allison’s first child due in November: “Things are about to get very real. The room is pretty much ready to go, Allison has been leading the ship there. … she’s running the show and we’re excited, but it’s going to be very different. No names yet, we’re working on it. Our end goal is to go in with two or three potentials and make a game-time decision.”
Fowler on working with John Tillery and recently visiting with his former swing coach, Butch Harmon: “Obviously Butch and I have a great relationship. Working through the kind of middle part of my career together, a lot of good things. And John Tillery and I have been together the last couple of years. It’s been a long road of not so good golf, but there was light at the end of the tunnel at times, and over the last six weeks before going to Vegas, I feel like we kind of really turned the corner and had some good stuff. So, I was excited to just go hit balls with Butch to just kind of show him what we had and what was happening, and ultimately, just to have him say, ‘Good job, keep it going.’ And that’s basically what he did. … So kind of the stamp of approval. … It’s been a fun ride at times, rough at others, but we’re definitely in a better spot.”
Fowler on the course at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club: “The golf course is great. It’s a very fair test. There’s some holes out there that are just tough, proper golf holes, 17 being one of them. You’ve got to drive it in the fairway and especially today with that pin tucked over on the right. You get plenty of scoreable clubs in your hands, but the defense here really are a couple of tough par fours and then there’s the greens. You can’t see it on TV – TV just doesn’t do it justice – there’s a lot of movement and if you get above the hole, you’ve got to be very careful.”