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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Returns Are In: ABC Is a Sure Winner

May 16, 1997|LARRY STEWART

This has been quite a week. Both Keith Olbermann and Tiger Woods have returned.

Olbermann patched things up with ESPN management and was back on "SportsCenter" Wednesday night. He was ordered to take a two-week vacation to gain some perspective, but now everybody seems to be happy.

Boy, that's a relief.

Considerably more noteworthy is Woods' return to competitive golf. The GTE Byron Nelson Classic at Irving, Texas, is his first event since the Masters, and

from ABC's perspective, the timing is perfect.

Ratings for the Nelson on ABC have dipped the last three years, going from a 2.9 Sunday rating in 1994 to a 2.7 in '95 and a 2.6 last year.

You can bet that trend changes.

Is a 5.0 or better possible?

"I don't know if it will be double last year's rating," ABC golf producer Jack Graham said from Dallas. "That's asking a lot. I'd say at least a rating point, particularly if he's in contention."

Woods finished the first round Thursday only one shot off the lead.

SIZING UP TIGER

ABC golf commentator Mark Rolfing says Woods' month layoff was a good thing.

"A lot of people are conjecturing about why he took a month off," Rolfing said. "My theory is he is a 21-year-old kid, and no 21-year-old wants to work all the time.

"Tiger's job--and that's what he calls it--is seven days a week. This week, he started out Sunday with a clinic and will continue nonstop until Sunday night.

"There are a lot of things outside golf he enjoys doing."

Rolfing said he's gotten to know Woods fairly well over the past year. Rolfing was the only on-course reporter at last year's Skins Game at Rancho La Quinta, where Woods was one of the four competitors.

He also interviewed him for his "Golf Hawaii" show on ESPN at the Mercedes Championships at La Costa in January.

"He told me the one thing he doesn't like about playing the tour is that Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the best nights to go out and he can't go out those nights. He can only go out Sunday and Monday, and those are the worst nights to go out.

"Sounds like a 21-year-old, doesn't it?"

Woods is getting star treatment throughout the Byron Nelson.

Curtis Strange will tape an interview with him tonight that will be shown Sunday, probably during the first half-hour of ABC's coverage.

An on-course reporter will be assigned to Woods during the weekend rounds. If he's in the last group, it will be Bob Rosburg. Otherwise, it will be Judy Rankin.

Today's coverage on USA is delayed at 4 p.m., although on DirecTV it is live at 1 p.m. because DirecTV picks up the East Coast feed.

Woods is playing this morning on the Cottonwood Valley course and will probably be finished by the time USA goes on the air. But Wayne Becker, vice president of sports programming for USA, said Woods' play will be documented and put into a highlight package.

Saturday, ABC carries the golf live at 11:30 a.m. and it leads into the network's Preakness coverage, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday's Byron Nelson coverage will be delayed two hours until 3 p.m., but at least it avoids going head to head with the NBA playoffs on NBC.

A PAY-PER-VIEW FIRST

It was only three weeks ago that women's boxing made its network debut when Yvonne Trevino scored a first-round knockout on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

Now women's boxing has made it to pay-per-view.

On Saturday, DirecTV and TVN, which serves the big C-band satellite dish systems, offer a $14.95 all-female card from the Country Club in Reseda. Trevino headlines the eight-bout card, facing Jolene Blackshear in an eight-rounder.

The card, which begins at 6 p.m., will also be shown at closed-circuit locations around the Southland.

The announcing team includes Phil Stone, blow by blow, Pedro Fernandez, commentating, and actress-model Terry Holbrook, roving reporter.

SHORT WAVES

TNT has what should be an interesting New York Knick-Miami Heat game tonight at 5. Game 5 Wednesday night got a 4.5 rating, TNT's highest so far for a non-Chicago Bull playoff game. . . . NBC will have single-game NBA playoff telecasts Saturday and Sunday, both starting at 12:30 p.m. There will be a one-hour pregame show Sunday and the NBA draft lottery will be televised at halftime. . . . If you prefer Bob Miller to ESPN's hockey announcers, he's working the Colorado-Detroit series for the NHL radio network with 13-year-veteran Eddie Olczyk, who spent most of last season with the Kings before being traded to Pittsburgh. KIEV is carrying those games. . . . One thing the Mighty Ducks' playoff run did was give some well-deserved recognition to the announcing team of Chris Madsen and Brian Hayward.

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