To call golf John Wood’s best kept secret would be comparable to landing a 7-iron 20 yards from its intended destination. As he nears the end of his second season of full-time duty at NBC, Wood already stands out as the best ongoing analyst in the game, approaching the job with the ease of a man who has been holding a microphone for decades.
In a business where talking and thinking often seem to come from different skill sets, Wood’s ability to do both on the fly in a timely and insightful manner impacts telecasts more than other field reporters. Peter Kostis set the benchmark during his 28 years at CBS, which made the network’s decision to fire him even more perplexing: The swing instructor used his experience to tell you why one shot went wrong instead of regurgitating another. canned phrase about something you just saw. .
Original thoughts can become invaluable when a methodical sport is called for a major network. Wood has the ability to deliver a large amount of information obtained by himself in a very short period of time. He educates viewers without crushing them, an admirable quality in itself, and always sounds like a guy who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Knowledge, energy, credibility. Wood is the complete package, a PGA Tour caddy for 24 years before making an effortless jump to television.
On a major network, no less. “John was a pro from the day he got here,” says Tommy Roy, NBC’s chief golf producer since 1993. “He immediately knew how X’s and O’s work.”
Anyone with 29 Emmys in a 44-year career covering sports is unlikely to suffer fools without at least one poignant pause. Roy’s innovative mindset is why Wood and Jim “Bones” Mackay were hired: Mackay accepted NBC’s offer shortly after parting ways with Phil Mickelson in 2017 before returning to caddy for Justin Thomas last September. Wood was in her third year working for Matt Kuchar at the time of the Mickelson-Mackay split, but television never gave up her future plans after she first got a taste of it in 2015.
Roy had invited both loopers on board for what amounted to a de facto test during the Tour’s Fall Series event at Sea Island. “I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and that planted a seed in my head,” says Wood. “I never would have looked it up if I hadn’t enjoyed it as much as I did.” Five years later, Wood turned 50 the summer before COVID-19 hit and ended his association with Kuchar one event after the pandemic-induced suspension of the Tour ended.
NBC Sports had an opening. The timing couldn’t have been better. “It’s not easier than I thought, just more interesting,” says Wood. “It takes a lot more homework and research than I thought, and I love that stuff. In 24 years as a caddy, you learn the course with a style of play in mind. Now it’s about studying for all kinds of games.”
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It leads to an interesting discussion point. With Kostis, Mackay and Wood earning accolades as professional golf’s most effective course analysts over the years, why aren’t more people who haven’t played professional golf given the opportunity to do the job? Roy’s decision to hire a couple of caddies was not a calculated risk. The duties that come with the position are much more synonymous with those handled by the guy in the bag. I really work. Grind the glamour, or something.
Former Tour pros aren’t exactly cut out for such work, which is one reason Davis Love III walked away from CBS in 2020 after about three months of relatively modest work. “Frankly, it cost me a lot,” he said. “I found out that it was much more difficult than I thought.”
An avid outdoorsman, it’s not like Love is afraid to get his hands dirty. He just doesn’t have the verbal skills or perhaps the mental stamina to excel at a task that requires keen scrutiny of an assigned group, and then articulating those thoughts to millions of viewers while walking four or five miles on a four or five. stretch of hours Oh, and then you have to do the same thing tomorrow.
Roy believes there will always be a purpose for announcers calling the action from a booth, but with each passing year, the role of the green lawnmower continues to grow. CBS has a pretty good one in Dottie Pepper, though her value would go up if her fellow analysts, all nice and comfortable in their 25-foot towers, brought more than cupcakes to the party.
When Wood called out Lexi Thompson for playing too conservatively two months ago at the US Women’s Open, it was with a voice of reason and an appropriate amount of bite. LPGA players are rarely criticized in any context, even after making colossal mistakes, but Wood loves the game too much to ignore the truth.
“You’re not going to win a tournament unless you do it with the best part of your game,” Wood said of Thompson’s unwillingness to shoot attainable par 5s after excellent shots on the fairway. “It’s my job to be honest.” Not many people in his profession can seriously say that, due to the fragile sensibilities of the respective courses, while remaining blissfully oblivious to the notion that golf is a much better game to watch when everyone is treated like big boys and girls.
You take all that bread, you deal with the dread. It’s part of performing on the biggest stages in professional sports, and that goes for the men and women lucky enough to make a living on television, too. More than any of his attributes, it is John Wood’s appreciation of the game and the opportunities it has afforded him that serves as the main reason for his excellence.
Many players think they deserve it. A caddy really has to earn it, and as Tommy Roy will tell you, “John isn’t afraid to talk like a caddy.” A man with 29 Emmy Awards is never wrong.
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