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PGA Tour considers miking caddies
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson and caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay made for compelling television at Doral when they discussed the risk of Lefty hitting a right-handed shot on No. 12, and the club selection into the 18th green with a one-shot lead.
Now, the PGA Tour is curious if such dialogue is worth broadcasting.
The tour will be working with NBC Sports at the Shell Houston Open to determine if it's worth putting a microphone on some of the caddies. The Houston Open only will be a test for the quality of the audio and whether the conversations are worthy of the telecast. None of the comments will be on TV next week.
"The dialogue between Phil and Bones on the second shot Sunday at Doral is the type of stuff our fans tell us they want to hear more often," said Andy Pazder, senior vice president of tournament administration for the tour.
The concern is not what comes out of a caddie's mouth -- there is a time delay for TV -- but the quality of the sound.
NBC Sports and CBS Sports primarily use a boom mike that a network employees carries on the fairway, but they often can only get to one player at a time.
"Just like anything, we're always striving to improve the quality of the telecast," Pazder said.
But there could be logistical problems.
Putting a microphone on the caddie only works when the caddie is standing close enough to the player to pick up both sides of the conversation.
One improvement with such a microphone, however, is that television cannot get on the greens with the boom mikes to pick up a discussion of how a putt breaks.
And then there's the willingness of the caddies.
The topic was brought up last week at the tour's annual meeting with the caddies. Some of them are concerned about being limited in what they say -- not during the shot, but the three hours of dead time during a round.
"I know what they're trying to do, and that's good," said Jimmie Johnson, the caddie for Steve Stricker. "I'm not worried about what comes out of the caddie. I'm worried about what goes into the trailer."
His argument, one that several other caddies share, is that having a microphone will pick up everything they say during a four-hour round.
None of that stuff will make the telecast, but they have no guarantee that something inappropriate they might say -- about someone in the gallery, another player -- could be leaked.
"Most of us are aware when the big boom mike is around, and it's usually when you're coming down the stretch. You know what you say is being picked up," said Mitch Knox, whose players have included David Duval and Daniel Chopra. "But having a mike could be a problem."