It’s a cold Sunday in early December and the CBS Sports NFL booth is buzzing.
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo — CBS’ ‘A-Team’ — are preparing to call the game of the season at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Nantz and Romo have called plenty of big games together, but they will eventually learn that this afternoon’s Chiefs-Bengals game is even better than their wildest regular season dreams: one-half ’22 AFC Championship sequel, and one-half ’23 AFC Championship prequel. As the two men prepare for air, there is a quiet urgency. It’s a massive moment for the CBS team on a game that promises to be a ratings monster.
Soon, the producer is counting the two men in and the booth goes quiet. It’s go-time. Romo and Nantz exchange a few final words and turn back to the camera.
A few feet away, a familiar face places a headset over his ears. It’s Trevor Immelman.
Immelman, who was promoted just months earlier by CBS’s golf team, isn’t technically supposed to be here. The booth is a cramped, busy space. The last thing the stage manager needs is another body in the way. But after a few months of pestering Nantz, the former Masters champion and current golf broadcaster has earned an invitation.
His role for the week is simple: fly on the wall. To absorb as much of what’s happening as possible and make it familiar, so that when the same experience comes his way, it will feel like second nature.
That last part is of significant importance to Immelman, largely because of the same experience is coming his way in only a few months’ time. From the corner of the broadcast booth, he watches intently as the opening kickoff begins.
Evidently, the best way to prepare for life next to Jim Nantz is to stand just slightly further away from him.
Immelman is The Big Change of 2023 in golf TV, and in today’s Hot Mic, we kick off the 2023 CBS Golf season by sharing some of the other changes, Immelman included, you can expect from “The Eye” in the new year.
6 intriguing changes coming to CBS Golf in 2023
1. Trevor Immelman enters the lead chair
“This is typical Trevor,” Nantz tells me, laying out the story of Immelman’s Bengals-Chiefs visit. “All in all, he wanted to come and hang out with the NFL team. So in Cincinnati he was in the booth with us, standing off to the side and wearing a headset. Just watching and hearing how Tony and I communicate on the air. That’s just typical Trevor. He’s an exceptionally well-prepared, exceptionally thoughtful guy. He doesn’t miss a thing, and I’m ready to roll with him.”
And roll with him, Nantz will. After years as an analyst in a variety of roles across golf TV, Immelman will ascend into the lead analyst chair at CBS Golf, becoming — as CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus readily admits — only the fifth man to earn that distinction since the 1950s. The 2008 Masters champion will replace Nick Faldo, who retired from the network upon the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Golf is a proud tradition at CBS. Turnover is unusual. It’s the sort of place folks retire from. These jobs open up about as often as Haley’s Comet makes the rounds. All of which is probably why Immelman found himself in Cincinnati in early December.
“Absolutely. I’m nervous,” Immelman says. “I don’t want to let my teammates down, particularly the guy sitting next to me.”
“I’m nervous as hell, quite frankly,” McManus chidingly agrees with a chuckle. “Because I’m the guy who made the decision.”
“There’s nothing — nothing — to be nervous about,” Nantz dissents more seriously. “This is the ultimate tap-in.”
Nantz represents the more serious opinions of those around CBS in voicing his support for Immelman, whose professionalism and preparation have earned high marks already with golf’s longest-running broadcast team.
Still, there’s only one opportunity to make a first impression as the lead analyst of CBS Golf, and if Immelman plays his cards right, it may well be the last first impression he ever makes.
2. New dynamics up top
“There is no replacing Sir Nick,” McManus admits in speaking about this year’s CBS team. But he leaves out a key point: there might not be any replacement necessary.
Faldo’s departure gives CBS the opportunity to lean on its analysts in a way it hasn’t in years’ past, when Faldo’s folksy charm carried much of the heavy-lifting. The dynamic between Immelman and Nantz will surely mark a noticeable difference for golf fans, but the return of the remainder of the on-air team (notably Frank Nobilo, Ian Baker-Finch, Dottie Pepper, Colt Knost, Amanda Renner and producer Sellers Shy ) should help smooth over whatever bumps arise as the CBS booth charts a new course.
3. A bigger schedule
The bigest ever from a programming perspective.
In 2023, CBS will carry the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time, covering the three final events of the PGA Tour season. The network will also handle “designated event” coverage from the WM Phoenix Open, Genesis, Memorial, RBC Heritage and more.
In addition to the Tour schedule, CBS will continue its coverage of the Masters, PGA Championship and Scottish Open. In total, the network will cover 23 events, including two majors and four countries, in the new year.
“We have 23 events in ’23, and that’s a big deal for us,” Shy, CBS’ producer says.
4. Tech enhancements
Drones and a “constant leaderboard” were two of them CBS producer Sellers Shy’s most well-received changes among the golf-viewing audience. Expect to see enhancements to both properties, as well as an increased frequency of “Fly Cam,” “Boat Cam,” and Atlas super high-definition camera shots utilized throughout the course of the broadcast.
5. Softening the “commercial load”
Nobody likes commercials during a golf broadcast, at least of which the people responsible for executing them. Shy and McManus both pointed toward scoreboard and segment enhancements as part of the pair’s effort to streamline the viewership experience on CBS. That might mean fewer pre-produced packages, or as the Sports Business Journal reported, scooting the tournament sponsor CEO interview — long a staple of Sunday afternoon coverage — to Saturday.
6. Amplifying the biggest moments
Last year, CBS experimented with a first-of-its-kind mobile set at the WM, bringing host Amanda Renner and on-course analyst Colt Knost to the famous 16th tee box. At the time, the aim was to have Renner help capture the energy of one of the sport’s best environments.
Then came Sam Ryder’s now-famous ace and the raucous celebration that followed, captured expertly by Renner and Knost.
In ’23, Shy said CBS expects to implement a similar strategy at a handful of golf’s biggest “places” in the hopes of capitalizing on the energy it found on No. 16.