The new home of The Open Championship got an early present with American Phil Mickelson leading after 18 and then 36 holes and then match play between Mickelson and eventual champion Henrik Stenson on Saturday and Sunday. And through it all, Golf Channel and NBC stayed on top of the drama providing pictures and replays bringing viewers closer to the action. There were a few hiccups along the way, but for the only major golf championship played outside of the United States, the NBC Sports Group effort practically set a new standard for televising major golf.
While The Masters on CBS is the standard, Golf Channel/NBC gave fans wall-to-wall coverage from the very first tee shot by Colin Montgomerie in the wee hours of Thursday morning on the East Coast to the final putt from Stenson on the 72nd hole on Sunday afternoon. And in between, viewers were treated to coverage provided by a crew that loves to cover golf. It was certainly a Herculean effort to provide coverage from 1:30 a.m. to approximately 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and then again from 4 a.m. to the conclusion on both Saturday and Sunday. But from Golf Channel Executive Producer Molly Solomon to NBC golf producer Tommy Roy to the announcers, storylines were set from the first day as viewers were treated to pictures showing every type of condition from Royal Troon.
Thursday gave us pristine conditions with no wind that led to Phil Mickelson almost setting a major record, just one stroke off a 62, agonizingly missing a putt on 18. Then on Friday, the winds rolled in and on Saturday, it was the monsoons that wreaked havoc on the course and then the wonderful match play duel between Stenson and Mickelson that provided drama from 9:30 a.m. ET through the end of the tournament.
Let’s review some of the pro’s and cons of Golf Channel/NBC’s first Open Championship. And while you’re at it, feel free to check out the best sportsbook.
- Having Dan Hicks/Johnny Miller, Terry Gannon/Sir Nick Faldo, Mike Tirico, Steve Sands/Frank Nobilo broadcast in shifts on Thursday and Friday.
- Blanket coverage of each round beginning with the first tee shots to the final shot o the day.
- Cable cam on Royal Troon’s signature Postage Stamp hole that followed golfers from tee to green.
- Pot bunker cameras gave viewers perspective of how deep the traps were and showed where balls landed.
- Mike Tirico’s debut on NBC was very smooth. He gave perspective on past Opens as he was the main play-by-play when ESPN had the rights to the Open.
- On-course reporter Billy Ray Brown stationed next to certain holes on the course and reporting on the conditions.
- The partnership between host broadcaster IMG/Sky Sports and NBC paid dividends especially in the wee hours of the morning before Golf Channel/NBC’s main production team would take over for the remainder of the round. Seemless transition.
- ProTracer shots that have become standard on golf broadcasts were noticeably absent early in the action. Reportedly a glitch with Sky Sports, just a few shots were used from Thursday through Saturday, but they seemed to make a comeback on Sunday. Hopefully this will be rectified at Royal Birkdale next year.
- After Mickelson’s third round when he scolded some photographers for interfering at the 18th hole, there was no question from reporter Steve Sands. That was a glaring oversight.
- I know golf fans love it, but the return of Yanni’s In Celebration of Man was not welcomed by this writer. I’ve never been a Yanni fan and his golf themes whether they’re on CBS or NBC make me want to hurl.
- LinksTrax was a fun new innovation showing where balls landed and how far away they were from the hole, but it was not used enough. Again, hopefully this will be rectified at Royal Birkdale.
Overall, this was a very good debut at a men’s major championship for Golf Channel and a nice return for NBC Sports after a year’s absence following the loss of the U.S. Open in 2014.
Viewers know they’ll be taken care of at the Open for many years to come and the tournament is in very good hands.