Yes, dreams do die hard. That, however, doesn't excuse some of the Tigerbole that was heard during NBC's otherwise stellar coverage of the U.S. Open. During Sunday's round, in which Woods never got closer than seven shots, we heard a blizzard of pronouncements from NBC's team, including "Perhaps the miracle can start," and "With this putt he has a chance to get within nine of the lead"—nine?—and, most egregiously, from tower reporter Gary Koch as Tiger headed to the 17th green eight shots behind then leader (and eventual winner) Retief Goosen, "I'm sure Tiger's thinking, If I can just birdie the last two, you never know."
Even if the Tiger coverage was the fairway equivalent of the Y2K bug—a lot of hype for nothing—one can see why NBC persisted. After all, not only did the network lose its main draw when Woods dropped out of contention, but it also saw the next-biggest names ( Sergio Garc�a and Phil Mickelson) self-destruct on the back nine on Sunday. Midway through the round host Dan Hicks was left to ask, "Who's going to go out and catch the Goose?" It wasn't a question; it was a cry for help.
Fans who tuned out missed one of the most dramatic Sunday finishes in Open history (page 56). Those who stayed around—the overnight rating was a 6.9, 27% lower than last year's record-setting Nielsen—saw the type of heart-stopping, pity-inducing reality TV that NBC could only hope to mimic on the two programs that followed Sunday's coverage: Fear Factor and Weakest Link. Almost as compelling were the post-three-putt interviews with Goosen and third-place finisher Stewart Cink, deftly handled by reporters Jimmy Roberts and Roger Maltbie. After Goosen spoke, NBC analyst Johnny Miller remarked, "I feel bad for him, but Retief is definitely in denial right now." Miller, candid as always, also noted, "I've never seen a person three-putt an easier two-putt than that."
Along with its innovative bunker cam, candor was one of NBC's strong suits throughout the weekend. Analysts weren't shy about first-guessing players. When Garc�a lined up to attempt a high blast out of the trees at the 2nd hole on Sunday, Miller and course reporter Mark Rolfing correctly questioned his approach.
Still, the best analysis might have come from Woods. After finishing his round on Sunday, Tiger presciently declared that the tournament would be decided by which golfers were "controlling [their] emotions." Too bad NBC's analysts couldn't control theirs when it came to Tiger.