CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz has covered golf and football for CBS for 29 years. He’s less than a month removed from calling the NCAA tournament and the Masters in back-to-back weeks while welcoming his newborn daughter. A Mount Holly native, Nantz is in Charlotte to call the Wells Fargo Championship. He spoke with the Observer’s Jonathan Jones on Saturday about Quail Hollow, fatherhood and the Carolina Panthers.
Q: You call the NCAA tournament, turn around and do the Masters. Have you been able to decompress since mid-April?
A: It’s been three weeks, and I haven’t had a chance to. I went straight to Hilton Head, and I had my family with me. I live in California, so it’s too long to go back. I went early this week to Houston for a senior event. I get home on Monday, I recreate a few football games on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Madden (video) game that will come out in August. But at least I’m at home.
Q: So your daughter, Finley, is 7 weeks old. What’s this dad’s life like?
A: I have an older daughter (Caroline), who’s such a joy in my life. To go through it again, it’s wonderful. I just can’t wait til little Finley grows up to get to know her older sister. She’s already been on five flights in her 50 days.
Q: What do you make of the changes at the 16th and 17th holes?
A: Earlier I went out to coach (John) Fox’s house, dropped off my wife and baby and I walked a little. I made the observation that just looking down the fairways here, it really does look like a major championship. It has a different feel than your week-in, week-out tour tournament. It’s so much bigger than that. They’ve done such a good job of making this feel like it’s the center of the golf universe… It’s a really neat thing they did there. They took maybe the greatest three-hole finish that you have on a PGA Tour event and decided they could still make it a little bit better. That’s a bold move to make, and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to play out under pressure.
Q: There was some concern with the lack of top-tier players in the tournament going into the week, but the big names here are near the top of the board. How do you feel about this field?
A: Before I saw Phil (Mickelson) hit his second shot at 14, they put up the leader board. It was Phil on top, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy. It’s pretty heavy stuff. I know Derek Ernst came out of left field and won this tournament last year, and good for him. But McIlroy and Fowler in a playoff here with D.A. Points. Sergio (Garcia) battling down to the wire with Vijay Singh. Tiger winning here. This tournament has a knack to not only draw a great field, but the best know how to prevail here after 72 holes.
Q: What’s the PGA Tour without Tiger Woods?
A: Well, we’ve gotten a little accustomed to it because he’s gone through these injuries before. I think the way he was playing was a reflection primarily of the fact that he wasn’t well. The thing about Tiger, you’re just waiting for him to come back, and I don’t expect we’ll see the guy who failed to finish in a couple of tournaments this year. I hear all these doomsayers claiming he’s never going to win again, and I don’t buy any of that. He’s 38 years old. Now, his body has broken down on him a few times, but he’s come back from that before. He’s won on one leg (2008 U.S. Open).
Q: You lived in Mount Holly for the first six years of your life before moving around. What do you do when you get to come back to the area?
A: I had a family gathering last night with some of the relatives. I have another with some others for brunch before the final round. And it’s wonderful to come back and see everyone. I lived in two homes when I was here—very, very modest. I always like to go by and see them, but I haven’t had a chance to see them yet.
Q: CBS gets Thursday Night Football this year, and you will be calling the Saints-Panthers game in Week 9. Are you excited for this change, and what do you expect to see out of the Panthers?
A: If you take a weekly schedule of doing 20 games in a season with the playoffs, and you now add a Thursday night game to it, the preparation that goes into these games is immense. But I’m very excited and I know CBS is thrilled about getting Thursday Night Football … Obviously, the biggest question mark for the Panthers is, who’s going to catch the ball? What kind of threat are they going to present on the outside? But a lot of things can happen in the next week, as you know. I’m going to see a lot of (former Panthers receiver) Steve Smith, though. He’s in our package with the AFC. I think he’s going to do really well with the Ravens. He could really help them.