THE BBC MUST be convinced that those viewers with an IQ that reaches double figures all go out on a Saturday night otherwise how on earth can it explain its schedule of programmes which consist of D-list celebrities dancing, singing or cooking things?
Its coverage of the Open Championship from Royal Liverpool Golf Club would not have cut into this evening of visual torment even before the R&A Championship Committee took the eminently sensible golfing decision to send the groups out in three-balls starting from both the first and 10th tees thus avoiding the torrential rains that followed close of play.
And the live coverage was still pretty solid although Peter Alliss increasingly comes across as an aged if affable old uncle who is slowly but steadily starting to lose his marbles. Whereas he can recall perfectly what happened many years ago, he tends to be loosening his grasp on the present.
He told us how he had undertaken his National Service at Padgate in southeast Dorset but called Dustin Johnson ‘Justin Johnson’ and ‘Dustin Rose’ on successive days. Then he was burbling gently away about the ladies’ nine iron that his old mate Christy O’Connor, who was born in 1924 and tied as runner-up in the 1965 Open, used to play to perfection off a tight lie but managed to get Johnson’s score mangled when he completely missed a shot in a fairway bunker on the eighth. Players using a rescue club or fairway wood in a putting action from the edge a green appeared to startle Alliss into a state approaching anxiety.
‘Always good to see Phil Mickelson here,’ he opined as last year’s champion golfer came strolling up the 18th. Did Alliss seriously expect Mickelson not to compete in a major tournament where the first prize is just a shade under £1m? Any insights into contemporary golf are far better left to Ken Brown who appears to understand the way courses are set up to host big championships, whereas Alliss gave us, ‘Amazing! The world of golf is quite amazing’ and left it at that.
There were other strange goings on as well with the excellent Maureen Madill out on the course saying, ‘There’s a heck of a noise going on-it’s disgraceful’ as the viewer was simply left hanging in the air. What was going on? Was it the drunken louts who started singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ to Rory as he walked onto the first tee on the Sunday in reference to his fractured relationship with Ms Wozniacki? Or was it something to do with the yahoo who was ejected on the 16th tee when McIlroy’s patience finally snapped? Either way it would have been nice to have known.
However, that is not what the BBC does at Open Championships; it avoids any kind of conflict or controversy. It gives us soft pictures of dogs on the nearby beach and the occasional shot of a paraglider out on the water. This allows Alliss to ask the dour Yorkshireman, Mark James, ‘Ever done that, Mark?’ to which he replies, ‘No, Peter’ and we get back to the golf.
Finally, on Sunday evening, after the presentation of the old claret jug to McIlroy by a man from the R&A who had the demeanour of one who was handing over the ashes of a much loved and recently departed relative, we had Andrew Cotter reading a prose-poem which included the lines, ‘so young to have travelled that long and winding road,’ and any minute one expected Paul McCartney to start singing to provide us with an entirely new take on the golf from Liverpool sound.
And with Cotter’s parting ode we left the Open Championship for another year. Anyone who had not sat through the day’s events would have to rely on snippets on the news of McIlroy hugging his mother or raising the trophy as the BBC saw fit not to show any package of highlights, probably the daftest decision it has made since employing former Birmingham City FC clogger, Robbie Savage, to provide expert analysis to football matches both televised and on radio.
Sky is looking very seriously at bidding for future Open Championships and, if successful, will most certainly be putting together any number of post round highlights programmes for its battery of ex-golfers, all sitting uncomfortably in their jackets and ties, to pass comment on.
So far, the BBC has not said why those who work during the week or were involved in other more important activities than simply watching golf on daytime television were denied seeing an edited programme later in the day, but denied they were. And with that the BBC looks highly likely to lose yet another of the sporting outside broadcasts it has traditionally done so well. But, like Peter Alliss at his best, those days seem a very long time ago.