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Always a stroke up on other golf nets, ABC is set for Open


To the untrained eye, most golf telecasts look pretty much the same. A man or woman whacks the ball off a tee and the viewer pretty much has to take the announcer's word for where it went.

Included in the snappy repartee surrounding endless shots of people putting are thought-provoking questions like "What club is he using, Gary?" and occasional "Whoa, ball" and "To 14" grunts.

There is one network, however, that does a markedly better job of making a tournament seem like a big deal, something special, and that is ABC.

Of course, it helps when the event is the U.S. Open, which the net and its cable partner ESPN is blanketing this weekend.

Following today's 2:30-6 p.m. and 7:30-11 p.m. shows on ESPN, ABC will move in for nine hours of coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Given the amount of time allotted the event, roughly equivalent to CNN's effort with the Persian Gulf War, it's always best to go in with a plan and veteran producer Terry Jastrow has never been found wanting in this respect.

"We've got a saddlebag full of great moments in Open history," he says, "but we don't want to clutter the shows up with historical perspective."

While some may view a tournament as three days of preliminaries before a charge down the stretch, Jastrow says, "each round has different characteristics we try to capture.

"For instance, the first day there are 150 golfers out there and they're all a story because someone out there is interested in them. We try to document as many people and as much golf as we can on Thursday.

"Friday, the cut becomes an issue and we start honing in on that. Saturday is 'moving day' when the cream begins rising to the top and, usually, you are following about 15 players who still have a chance.

"Sunday usually produces four or five golfers in the main plot and another six or seven in sub-plots. A couple of years ago, 1986 I think it was, we had 11 guys tied for the lead early in the final round. It's quite a challenge to cover all those stories."

Perhaps too much for one man, so the net is using its noodle and having Jim McKay split time in the anchor chair with Brent Musburger. The latter has been catching flak for his work on golf to date. You can judge for yourself, there certainly will be ample time before Sunday evening.

* Tonight's Evander Holyfield-Larry Holmes heavyweight title fight doesn't have pay-per-view boxing fans champing at the bit, and it's easy to see why:

First, the cost of $35 isn't as bad as it once sounded, but the prospect of a fat and conservative 42-year-old Holmes doing nothing but slowly pirouetting in the center of the ring is a distinct possibility. Dullsville, man.

Then, there's the pre-fight hype. Holmes, who could make a sumptuous banana split seem similar to a spoonful of cod liver oil, has been his usual disastrous self while touting the match. "I'm in it strictly for the money [$7 million]," is the way the former champion feels is the best way to interest the public.

Lastly, the patience of fans is probably at an end with regard to the way Holyfield's career is being handled. Long thought of as a true warrior, which he probably still is, Evander's promotional arm has constantly steered him in a risk-free direction with fights against legends from the past instead of young contenders. And the full-page ads for Holyfield-Holmes official fashion collection clothing doesn't help to allay the feeling that a boxing match is incidental here.

Sure, the money's better in these bouts the public supposedly wants to see (out of curiosity?), but it doesn't serve the sport well, which should be a consideration once in awhile.

* "The Fortnight," otherwise known as two weeks to us commoners, commences at Wimbledon Monday and HBO will be there with its daily telecasts (5-7:30 p.m.). Baltimore's Pam Shriver opens with a toughie, Elena Brioukhovets of the Ukraine, then it gets worse, Jennifer Capriati (6). The best overall set of announcers in tennis -- Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Jim Lampley and Barry McKay -- will provide the commentary.

* After doing baseball so long, one can only hope that Channel 2 gets the knack of it before the millennium. For instance, even after that huge gaffe Opening Day of missing a run-scoring hit in a tight ballgame, WMAR continues to show replays during subsequent live action as if your typical three-hour ballgame doesn't have ample dead spots to work them in.

At the same time and after more than a decade of yeoman work in all sports, ESPN's cuts for commercials during baseball games continue to be horrendous. After cutting off an announcer in mid-sentence, we usually get the first five words of an ad spot before another splices in.

Speaking of clutter, executives of ad agencies are warning that the constant cutting of program time, especially during network sports programming, may see ad dollars fleeing toward safer ground. A report discloses that nearly a fourth of an hour is given over to commercials, promos and station breaks.

A good example of this was seen last Sunday (not on NBC affiliate Channel 2) during the men's Olympic Gymnastics Trials here. Two minutes of commercials were followed by a studio update (alias promotion), thence to two more minutes of commercials, one competitor performing on the high bar and another minute of commercials and a lengthy pitch for the network's Triplecast of the Summer Olympics.

The latter does not bode well for the weekend when the Peacock moves in to send along the action from the track and field and diving trials. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and we'll get more than the "Dan and Dave Show," decathletes Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson performing for the greater glory of Reebok and the NBC marketing department.

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