Changes in the wind @ Open

ESPN will televise golf’s oldest major, the Open Championship, from Royal St George’s Golf Course in Sandwich, England, later this week.

Bringing a four-day golf tournament to viewers from the United Kingdom is challenging for more reasons than just long distance.

According to Mike McQuade, ESPN Vice President, Production, who oversees golf coverage, many factors play into making the Open Championship a difficult event to televise.

The constant, howling winds of a seaside links golf course are at the top of the list.

“I would say the challenges are especially wind and cameras on cranes and airplanes and cloudy skies,” said McQuade, who will lead the only golf coverage totally produced by ESPN this year.

“As far as the rain and the wind, I do believe that if you don’t expect that to happen when you’re going to the event, then you probably went to the wrong event. So everyone knows that going in.”

Weather is such a factor in links golf that ESPN’s Emerging Technology Group has worked with production to develop five portable weather stations that will be experimented with during the coverage, which begins at 4 a.m. ET on Thursday.

“We’ve put them out in strategic spots along the golf course to measure the wind speed, the wind direction and temperature,” said McQuade, who indicated data from the devices will be displayed graphically.

“We’re hoping that that gives the viewer a better understanding and sense of which way the wind is blowing specific to that area of the golf course and specifically to a hole.

“As we found out last year, [ESPN analyst] Andy [North] would be walking the course and he’d be telling us the wind is blowing in one direction, and some of the readings we were getting were in the exact opposite direction.

“The wind may be blowing 25 miles an hour out towards the outer portion of the golf course, and it may only be blowing 10 miles an hour on the inner half of the course. So we’re really making it a much greater emphasis this year and pretty much all of our technology to make sure that wind is accounted for in everything we’re thinking about.”

With more dedicated cameras than ever before, and less reliance on the BBC’s World Feed, McQuade said ESPN is ready to show golf to American audiences in the way they are accustomed to seeing it.

“We feel like we’re in position to once again present the greatest championship in golf in a way it’s never been seen before,” he said.

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