FOX Sports Coordinating Producer for USGA studio and event production Mark Loomis, has been around the U.S. Open all of his life from being a standard bearer as a child to a caddy but now for a second year in a row will help take charge of the event from the television side.
Excitement would be an easy way for Loomis to summarize the honor, which he does not take lightly.
Last year had some ups and downs but Loomis stated that the goal all along was to be better this year than last and find ways to improve in 2017.
“Anytime you put that many people together for the first time and you haven’t worked together under the stress of the U.S. Open, when you get to Thursday morning just to get to Sunday night it is a survival test,” he said. “I think it would have been unrealistic the first year that we would grab a bunch of people, put them together and think this would be a team for the next 10 years. It just wasn’t going to happen. You end up putting the team together and find out what you’re good at and not so good at and then you try to build on it. Anytime you do that it will be a learning experience.”
There were in fact changes in preparation for this year’s USGA schedule.
Paul Azinger was named lead golf analyst and will work inside the booth with Joe Buck. Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and Ken Brown will serve as on-course reporters while Jaime Diaz will serve as a reporter for the coverage. Additionally, Oakmont Director of Golf Bob Ford is tasked with adding his insight as well. Holly Sonders has been moved to the studio host role replacing Curt Menefee.
“It’s great to be part of this whole group and the event,” said Loomis. “We have all sides of it. We have Brad Faxon who sectional qualified 12 times to get into the U.S. Open, no one hasn’t told us that’s a record and played in 20. Paul played in so many U.S. Opens and was a major champion. Curtis won two U.S. Opens, so we have all sides covered. Juli Inkster is on our crew and she won two U.S. Women’s Opens and lost in a playoff here. I really think we have the right mix of people.”
There is the old adage about a picture being worth 1,000 words and that was a general idea of what coverage last year was intended to replicate but Loomis is hoping that with tracers being shown going towards the flagstick that the announcers can go beyond the pictures and inside the game.
These include ideas pertaining to what golfers are thinking or where the ball needs to land.
“Pictures tell the story, players tell the story, announcers tell story,” Loomis said. “Announcers know they are third. They don’t need to say much. There was a lot of times last year we weren’t talking on purpose. I think in some ways people weren’t used to it. Everyone wants change until they hear it or see it and then they think it is a little weird. It’s not weird it just a little different approach.”
Loomis learned to love the game of golf by tagging along with his parents. Now he is tagging with allowing the viewers to do the same through over 40 hours of coverage all week, in more than 180 countries. Loomis feels the FOX Sports team is prepared for the task.
“We are really looking forward to Oakmont, which is a traditional U.S. Open golf course,” he said. “We know how it plays, we know what the stories are and I think we’re really looking for to it.”