Sep 23

NBC’s Tommy Roy leads a mammoth Ryder Cup production

Tommy Roy can see the Ryder Cup from almost every conceivable angle. Roy, lead producer for of NBC Sports and Golf Channel, will have 67 different cameras at his disposal to tell the story of golf's greatest event. If It happens at Gleneagles, Roy won't miss it.

On Friday, a year's worth of planning and preparation will manifest itself on millions of TV screens as golf die-hards and the casually curious will see if the Americans can take back the Ryder Cup.

Roy and his team kicked off this journey last summer, visiting Gleneagles for the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Championship, staged annually at the resort. They learned how the European Tour's in-house production team broadcasts the event and built on top of that for this event. From cameras, to talent scheduling to figuring when to use 27 full pages of statistical nuggets during the broadcast, Roy's hand has touched it all.

Normally, Roy would find himself in a production truck on-site, maestro to the broadcast. However, the team learned a year ago it wouldn't have access to the kind of truck they need to beam NBC's Ryder Cup coverage back to the States. So they built a 5,100-square-foot production house from scratch and brought in the equipment to run the entire operation -- something the team hasn't had to do since the 2003 Presidents Cup in South Africa.

"It's very similar to what you have with the Olympics and there's an International Broadcast Center," Roy explained Monday. "Everyone works out of one building."

That might seem like a lot for what amounts to a spectacle that's much smaller than your week-to-week PGA Tour event. On Friday and Saturday, there are no more than four matches on the course. Over the course of the day, there are only 32 players to follow. Sunday will see 12 matches tee off, but, almost assuredly, they won't all ever be unfolding simultaneously. But Roy doesn't see the story of the Ryder Cup as that of your standard-issue, medal-play tournament. The Ryder Cup isn't so much about counting strokes as conveying emotion, and Roy has aligned his resources to share, as Roone Arledge said, "the human drama of athletic competition."

"I have super slo-mo cameras to see Ian Poulter's eyes after he makes a putt," Roy said with a chuckle.

Roy is charged with telling the American side of the story, but match play is tricky in that regard. A hole can be won as much as it can be lost. An American could win the hole with a birdie putt or the European opponent could lose it by missing theirs. How that hole is shared on-air is Roy's call, however, it's done with a bias toward the red, white and blue.

"We try not to be jingoistic," Roy said. "We try to be balanced, but there is a definitive side of each story."

What makes sport compelling is that, unlike most other NBC programming, the story is unscripted. It can't be predicted. For an American audience, a close U.S. win is the perfect tale to tell. However, with the European side favored for a third-consecutive win, it's very well possible the American opponent could find itself in cruise control on Singles Sunday. If that's the case, however, Roy said the NBC approach doesn't change.

"The Ryder Cup lends itself to incredible shotmaking, incredible putting," Roy said, "so the action really carries it whether it's a blowout or not. If you're a golf fan, getting a chance to watch the world's greatest players do what they do under this intense pressure, it's still intriguing."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 23

The 2014 Ryder Cup rosters at a glance

The Ryder Cup is about to begin at Gleneagles in Scotland, and two dozen of the world's finest golfers will gather for the honor of country and competition. Here's a handy Yahoo Sports infographic to give you a sense of each team's experience in Ryder Cup competition. Clearly, Europe would seem to have an edge on paper, but they don't play the Ryder Cup on paper, do they? Matches begin early Friday morning.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook or on Twitter.

Sep 23

Is the Ryder Cup team better off without Tiger Woods?

The sample size is pretty small, but, since Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996, the U.S. has not lost the Ryder Cup when he didn't play. Sure, it was once, with Woods sidelined in 2008 after winning the U.S. Open on one good leg. However, there's a sense that this American team could benefit from playing without the 14-time major winner.

Captain Tom Watson said Monday he wished Woods, who withdrew his name from consideration after aggravating a back injury that has sidelined him much of this year, could be part of this team.

"I would love to have Tiger on the team. He brings an element of intimidation," Watson said. "He brings an element of great play and competitive spirit. Even though he's not on the team, he's here in spirit."

With all respect to Watson, his fellow Stanford product would not have put much of a scare into the European team with his Ryder Cup record. Woods is 13-17-3 all-time in the Ryder Cup. Backing out his 4-1-2 mark in the singles matches, Woods is 9-16-1 in the two-man sessions. Obviously, it takes two to tango in the foursomes and fourball matches, but Woods has struggled to find a partnership that leads to consistent points. Steve Stricker was the closest Woods had ever come to finding that guy, and even that duo proved fallible. 

For his part, former Woods swing coach Butch Harmon thinks the U.S. is better off without Woods, who now seems an unhealthy shadow of his former self.

"I don't think they lose anything by not having Tiger Woods," Harmon said, "because at this point in time he's not the Tiger Woods we remember."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 23

Let the mind games begin: Name placards misspelled for Spieth, Walker

The Ryder Cup is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, and the European hosts know this as well as anyone.

Let it not be considered a coincidence, then, that the names of two Ryder Cup rookies were misspelled on practice range placards on Tuesday at Gleneagles. A few eagle-eyed Americans noted Jordan Spieth's last name had the vowels transposed, with Jimmy Walker's first name printed with an extra "i."

It's so on, Yourope.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 22

Captain Watson: Make no mistake, this Ryder Cup is a redemption mission

There's been some turnover from 2012 to 2014, but seven of the players from the American team at Medinah two years ago are in Scotland for the Ryder Cup. Seven players on this Ryder Cup team lived the meltdown that saw Europe overcome a record four-point Saturday night deficit.

Captain Tom Watson didn't lead that team, but he knows the motivation for this team is self-explanatory.

“I made it very clear to them. This trip is a redemption trip," Watson said Monday. "Those players who played on that team -- [seven] of them are on this team -- it’s time to make amends. It’s a motivation.”

Ian Poulter incited the European comeback on Saturday night, birdieing the last five holes of the Saturday fourball match against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson and earning a critical point while partner Rory McIlroy looked on astounded. The Englishman's rally incited a 8.5-point performance in the Sunday singles session, capping an unprecedented comeback.

That comeback is why, in part, Tom Watson is the captain of this team. Watson, previously captain in 1993, is the last American captain to win on the road. He leads a side with just two wins since then. While his team, minus Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, looks weaker than the stacked European side on paper, Watson is quietly confident his team can pull through. In fact, he's already instructed the traveling American fans on how to share his optimism: shout the chant that had the nation in a frenzy around the World Cup.

“We believe that we can win,” Watson said.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 22

Rickie Fowler gets ‘USA’ buzzed into hair for Ryder Cup

Rickie Fowler is juiced for the Ryder Cup, which starts Friday at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. 

The 25-year-old got a new do to look good for his third appearance on the American team. As part of the haircut, he had the barber buzz in the letters "USA" into his shorter locks.

We'll know if the Americans really want to win if Tom Watson shows up in Scotland wearing a red, white and blue mohawk.

Related Ryder Cup video:


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 20

Steve Stricker to wield wedge to win Whistling Straits tickets

Steve Stricker may be a part-time pro golfer these days, but his wedge game is still as sharp as the best in the world. He's hoping that will translate into a pair of great 2015 PGA Championship tickets for two Wisconsin football fans.

During halftime of the Oct. 11 game at Camp Randall Stadium against Illinois (curiously, Stricker's alma mater), Stricker will hit a 135-yard shot from the video-board platform to the school's midfield W. If the ball lands on the target, a fan will win a pair of Wanamaker Club tickets to next August's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc.

Wanamaker Club tickets run $475 for the week and come with access to "an air-conditioned, sports-bar themed pavilion with indoor seating, multiple HDTVs and upgraded food and beverage available for purchase," according to the PGA Championship website.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.