Grant Me This: No better alarm clock than Peter Alliss
As we watch Tiger Woods and friends continue their chase for the coveted claret jug at Royal Liverpool, PGA.com contributor Grant Boone can't get enough of BBC announcer Peter Alliss, "without a doubt the best listen" in the game.
By Grant Boone, Special to PGA.com
It's feeding time at Hoylake, and the big dogs are about to eat. Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are 1-2 going into the weekend after second-round 65s put them at 12 and 11 under, respectively. The runts of the litter may have to settle for scraps.
Nothing against the other 69 players teeing it up this weekend. And two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, for one, is hardly a runt. (Besides, my record as an animal lover is a bit dappled at this point, so I won't stretch the metaphor.)
But in Woods and Els, you have not only a pair of past Open champions but also two of only four full-time players who've won major championships on each side of the Atlantic. (The others are the mercurial John Daly, who somehow in the midst of warm temperatures at Hoylake on Friday, built an 18th-hole snowman and missed the cut by two, and Mark O'Meara, a model of consistency with opening rounds of 71-70.)
Then there's the matter of Tiger's pedigree as a frontrunner. He's six-for-six when leading a major at halftime, two of those taking place at this championship. On paper, this would appear to be Woods' or Els' tournament to win. But you can never be too sure with dogs and paper, no matter how often they've been Best in Show.
There's no show quite like a British Open telecast, which airs on TNT and ABC here in the U.S. but is produced in large part by the BBC. Those first two Open shows each year are always a little like one of those all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets: lots of stuff you like (eggs, meat), entire rows you could do without (cottage cheese, kiwi), and the quirky selections you never consume anywhere else (mini muffins, do-it-yourself waffles). The whole thing is more than you want, way more than you need, and yet you still end up muscling down fourth helpings for no other reason than you hate forfeiting that all-access pass to a bin full of pigs-in-a-blanket. When it's over, you're stuffed for sure but not entirely certain of what you just digested.
For starters, Open courses always look brown and shaggy on television, a problem directly related to the fact that the BBC uses very primitive cameras which are only capable of transmitting what the course really looks like. Then there's the shot selection. After 50 years of this, BBC producers still enjoy giving us the perfunctory shots of disinterested youth, the befuddled octogenarian, a local pooch frolicking at low tide. Every now and then, they'll show a golf shot, which occasionally includes a player's entire swing and his own ball coming to rest.
But you really don't care because it's the Open Championship and it's charming and the clubs are always snugly tucked into little seaside villages and when else can you wake up to hear Peter Alliss whispering in your ear?
If Johnny Miller is the best pure analyst in golf, as I suggested a few weeks ago, Alliss is without a doubt the best listen. What's great is that he essentially operates independently of the rest of the announce team, which is roughly the size of the play-by-play crew that called the baseball game in The Naked Gun. (By the way, Ernie Johnson is absent from the TNT team this year as he battles cancer back home in Atlanta. God be with you, EJ.) A typical interchange includes host Mike Tirico gamely attempting to engage the others in conversation right up to the point when they go to a hole assigned to Alliss, at which point Peter immediately begins his commentary, without particular concern as to whether or not the others have stopped talking by then.
Thursday, Alliss told us of the available on-course refreshments: "...we call it, idiot broth here. It's a special beer, strong, brewed down the road. Three pints of idiot broth'll send you to sleep on any hillock; we might see a few grassy hillocks festooned with sleeping spectators as the day goes by..." Friday, he waxed wistful on a hoary Seve Ballesteros: "I remember when his hair was as black as a raven's wing..." At this point in his career, Alliss could pass anything off as legitimate if he wanted to -- "My mum always warned me, 'Don't take a biscuit from a bloke in the loo...'" -- and people would chuckle, assuming it's standard Anglo argot. Given the available technology and the fact that approximately 117 percent of what Alliss talks about has nothing to do with what's happening on the course, I see no reason why he can't broadcast the British Open forever. The BBC can take his best badinage from the past 40 years and intersperse it into the Open telecasts long after Alliss is in wonderland. I can almost hear my great-grandchildren now asking me to explain what he meant by "golfer's nipple."
All of which brings us back to this weekend and that leaderboard litter scrambling to sip from the claret jug come Sunday night. Of course, none of us in the viewing audience need worry about getting our fill, regardless of whether Woods and Els elbow the others out of the way over the last two rounds or someone else comes nipping at their heels. As long as we can keep watching mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, we'll be stuffed.
Grant Boone is a husband, father, golf broadcaster, and sports journalist based in Texas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here do not reflect those of PGA.com or The PGA of America.