Jim Nantz, icon of CBS Sports, still shows passion for golf as PGA Championship nears

Jim Nantz
Photo: Getty Images
Jim Nantz has won an Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality in 2009 and 2010.
By
Ted Bishop, PGA
PGA.com

Series:

Published: Saturday, August 07, 2010 | 5:25 p.m.

Jim Nantz knows rare. After all, the number one play-by-play man in the sports world has been everywhere and seen seemingly everything, there's just not much in sports that Nantz has not only witnessed, but reported to the world. But every once in awhile, even today, something happens that's fresh to him, something that reminds him of the beauty and unpredictability of the sports he not only reports on, but loves with such a great passion. Such an event happened last Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic. And the man who has been the eyes and ears for so many fans during so many great events, relayed the play by play at another historic moment.

"It was really exciting. I have never had that type of thing." Of course, Nantz was talking about Stuart Appleby's amazing 59 in the final round which propelled him to a one-shot win. "In our production meetings we discussed the fact that a 59 could be given up on that course. The Greenbrier could be vulnerable. After Appleby made eagle on 12, we broke for a commercial and I predicted off-air that he would shoot 59. But, I also said he would lose the tournament!"

So maybe he didn't get that part of the prediction right, but don't ever discount his sports instincts.

Nantz, who joined CBS a quarter century ago, has anchored the network's coverage of The Masters since 1989. He's called the NCAA Final Four since 1991. He's even been the network's top NFL announcer since 2004. In fact, Nantz is one of only three play by play announcers to ever call both a Super Bowl and an NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. He received the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality, Play-by-Play in both 2009 and 2010. Nantz is a five-time recipient of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Accociation's National Sportscaster of the Year award.

But back to the golf.

Nantz reported, with his usual style and grace, Appleby's amazing final round. But he also found a great story in runner-up (and Indiana's own) Jeff Overton's performance and future potential. It was the third runner-up finish of the year for Overton. "What are you going to do?" quipped Overton. "I got beat by a 59."

"He is a big-time talent and he will get some wins," Nantz said of Overton. "I find his jittery tendencies to be intriguing. Overton is fearless and ready to play. He hits it so doggone far. His swing is interesting given his 6'4" frame and physical size.

"Overton will get comfortable in that rarified air that he was in Sunday. There is something about his nature that makes me think he will be successful and win tournaments," said Nantz.

Nantz is in the midst of a treasure trove of golf stories. Last week was The Greenbrier. This week is the World Golf Championship's Bridgestone Invitational. And next week will be, of course, golf's final major, Glory's Last Shot - The PGA Championship.

So this weekend, as golf viewers tune in once again and see Nantz side by side with Nick Faldo in the CBS booth, what will he be looking for from Firestone C.C.?

"Sometimes, these 72-player fields with no cut just seem to be missing something. I don't feel the buzz that a regular tour event has. But, you have the top 50 players in the world competing at Firestone and it should be interesting," observed Nantz.

And being a top reporter doesn't mean that Nantz can't have opinions. It's just that his opinions carry some great weight, and they always seem to fall in what he hopes makes the game a better experience for the fans.

For example, Nantz acknowledges that the WGC events, which have now become standard fare along with the four major championships for the top players in the world, have harmed certain elements of the week to week fans of golf. To wit, most of the top players limit their schedules to 15-18 events per year leaving "regular tour events" with fields lacking many of the game's superstars.

"There is not a lot left over for the Tour's anchor events, many of which have been around for years. I don't know how this can be fixed. There has been talk of requiring players to compete once every five years in these tournaments. I don't see how the Tour can mandate this," said Nantz.

"Every tournament would love a glimpse of Tiger. One fact that couldn't help but get my attention at The Greenbrier was that Appleby was playing in his 29th event of the year. That is a rarity," concluded Nantz.

And Nantz pontificates on the pendulum of golf power that seems to ebb and flow between the United States and International players. He believes that the International dominance will continue for some time. "Right now the foreign players are dominating golf. I don't think that is a bad thing. I really enjoy covering the international players and it certainly doesn't mean that the U.S. players won't regain their stature," Nantz said.

"It's a good time for the game. I think the theme of the year in golf is the "Roaring Twenties'. You have a bunch of young guys in their 20's who have suddenly taken a foothold. These players are fearless. Look at Rory McIlroy, who is my favorite to win at Whistling Straits (PGA Championship). Louis Oosterhuizen is another example. Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Overton are all guys that fit the mold. Then there is Japan's Ishakawa who is only a teenager!

"They all have a fearlessness that I haven't seen since 1997 when Tiger broke out. These 20-year olds just look at it things differently," says Nantz.

"In the previous decade, you had Tiger's excellence deflating people in golf. They knew they couldn't beat him. It was a weird psychological aura that suppressed the talents of the world's greatest players," observes Nantz. "There was absolutely no gamesmanship on Tiger's part, he just beat everybody. But, this younger generation of players doesn't concede any mental advantages. They think it is their time. They just look at it differently."

So, what about Woods? "I am not giving up on Tiger. He is back, but not the automatic thing that he used to be. When Tiger wasn't in the field the winner wouldn't get full credit. That has changed now and I think we should really appreciate the greatness of Tiger's accomplishments."

Nantz has said that he would like to announce 50 Masters before he retires. The last couple of summers he has vacationed in Scotland during the Open Championship and guest commentated on the BBC's coverage. His opening line on broadcasts, "Hello, friends!" has become a trademark as his distinctive voice delivers the goods to your living room all year long.

"There is a wealth of talent out there in golf, right now. Buckle up and enjoy," said Nantz as he signed off with me this week. Talent? Factor in grace and style, you get Jim Nantz!


Comments

dknagel

I have always liked this man...except what I found out about him and his robbing the cradle. Men that talk the talk.....but do awful things behind your back. Too bad - golf needs to clean up some of its character. Can't hardly watch him anymore along with Tigerrrr......Same character...

jtom142

Man what a class act this guy is! In fact, I almost won't watch golf if he's not commentating. His soothing demeanor really adds to the spectacle of a tournament. I hope he will be around for many years to come as he is one of the reasons I tune in to CBS for golf.