As major championship droughts go, it wasn’t long — just 25 months.
But when Colin Montgomerie hits the opening shot at the 145th British Open at Troon at 1:30 a.m. ET Thursday, network execs and viewers alike will pay close attention as NBC televises a men’s major for the first time since losing the U.S. Open to Fox.
“Yeah, there’s a little bit of a hole there when you don’t get a chance to do a major,” NBC Sports coordinating producer Tommy Roy said in a conference call with reporters Monday, “so this is awesome for us.”
It could be awesome for the viewer, too, as this British Open marks the return of an old, familiar friend, of sorts, to the family living room.
Viewers will be treated to record coverage — nearly 50 hours of live golf on NBC and its partner, the Golf Channel (which will be broadcasting its first men’s major), plus more than 60 hours of wraparound news coverage on Golf Channel.
Roy is leaving little to chance, with 99 cameras at his disposal — 44 dedicated solely to NBC and the rest dedicated to the world feed.
There will be 11 cameras on the 123-yard eighth hole alone, including at least one in each of the five bunkers around the so-called “Postage Stamp” green. A wire-cam similar to the one on 17 at TPC Sawgrass will zoom viewers from tee to green.
To measure wind direction and speed — always a factor at the Open — NBC will deploy ultrasound technology used by the British national sailing team. Yani, the man behind the theme music that marked NBC’s U.S. Open telecasts for two decades, has composed a new riff for the British Open. There’s even an all-new graphics package.
“Not that we needed to be rejuvenated,” said Dan Hicks, a 20-plus-year NBC veteran, “but this has got everybody jacked up beyond belief. Just to get here and see the course and get the vibe of an Open is different, and it’s something that I try to really immerse myself in and be ready for Thursday. But we will be ready for Thursday.”
Just over two years ago, Hicks and Johnny Miller held back tears as NBC signed off from its final U.S. Open at Pinehurst after 20 years of televising the USGA’s crown jewel. Back then it seemed that the network was hurting, but much has happened since.
First the news broke that NBC and Golf Channel had signed a 12-year deal with the R&A to televise the British Open, bringing it back to network TV for the first time since 2009. Then the Fox-USGA partnership got off to a bad start with two U.S. Opens and one U.S. Women’s Open defined by strange broadcasting mistakes, second-guessing of on-air talent, thunderstorms, bad greens and controversial rules interpretations.
After watching all of that, viewers may welcome NBC with open arms and a ready remote as the network gets back to the business of covering men’s majors. And NBC/Golf Channel’s roster of on-air talent is stronger than ever as it prepares for Royal Troon, with relatively new hires like David Feherty (from CBS) and Mike Tirico (from ESPN) joining Hicks, Miller, Nick Faldo, Frank Nobilo, Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie and Brandel Chamblee.
David Duval, the 2001 British Open champion, will play the Open at Troon this week but scamper up to the booth to provide analysis for Golf Channel after his rounds.
Majors come and go, and they can be lost in an instant — something NBC brass found out the hard way when they lost the U.S. Open. They’re taking nothing for granted.
“My dad was a golf pro,” Roy said. “His dad was born and raised here in Scotland. This means everything to our team and to me personally.”