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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting Our Majors All in a Row

We are now in the thick of major season, so it might be good for us to get a handle on who's playing where... and perhaps whether we should even care. (More on this in a moment.)

First, the calendar, starting with this week. We have 5 majors in a row:
  • July 11-14: CHAMPIONS, US Senior Open
  • July 18-21: PGA, Open Championship
  • July 25-28: CHAMPIONS, Senior Open Championship
  • Aug 1-4: LPGA, RICOH Women's British Open
  • Aug 8-11: PGA, PGA Championship
This isn't all of the majors. The LPGA still has their new Evian Championship in September, but that's a ways off yet.

You should also be aware that the PGA will have the RBC Canadian Open the same week as the Senior Open Championship (Champions), and the WGC-Bridgestone will be the same week as the RICOH (LPGA). Overlaps like this aren't unusual, but it helps to be aware of them in case you want to watch both tournaments.

I raised the question of whether we should even care about all of these majors. It's not because we have so many of them now -- 14 in total for the 3 tours. In fact these 5 tournaments are all "major" majors, in that they're never the ones people question. We've got one US Open, one PGA Championship, and three British Opens (and since they're all played in England and Scotland this year, for now I guess it's proper to call them British Opens).

But do you know that the Senior British Open isn't currently listed as being broadcast by ANY network? Not even GC? The traditional networks (NBC, CBS, ABC) are no longer carrying as much of the majors as they used to:
  • NBC will share the US Senior Open with ESPN2 this week.
  • CBS will share the PGA Championship with TNT in August.
But get a load of this:
  • ESPN will carry the Open Championship (PGA) alone.
  • ESPN2 will carry the RICOH (LPGA) alone.
  • And NOBODY will carry any of the Senior Open (CHAMPIONS).
Are the networks losing interest in the majors? I think it's a valid question... and ESPN may be the big winner here. Over the last few years they've been rushing in to fill the void left as the "Big 3" networks have lessened their coverage.

Granted, the women have always gotten short shrift in coverage, but the big networks still wanted at least some of their major coverage. ESPN2 is going to hit the lottery this year; with Inbee Park gunning for 4 in a row, they're probably going to score big in the ratings that week.

Likewise, ESPN's solo coverage of the "youngster's" Open Championship could turn into a big score as well. Muirfield could bring a lot of popular players to the forefront.

But is everybody losing interest in the Champions Tour, even with Freddie and Tom leading the pack? That's probably a worrisome development for the Tour. And with the PGA Tour expanding their season to fill every spare minute they can find, somebody's got to lose out. In fact, the Tour had virtually NO info up about the US Senior Open when I checked Tuesday night -- just a power ranking for the top 5 players. No course info, no leaderboard... if you wanted info, you were out of luck.

Of course, this may be part of the plan for the big boys. Did you notice that Wimbledon was carried solely by ESPN and ESPN2 this year? No more "breakfast at Wimbledon" for NBC!

So the question remains. Should we care?

I can't answer that yet... but I suspect it's going to be answered for us over the next few years. Indications are that the networks are moving most of their sports coverage -- beyond NFL football and Stanley Cup hockey, that is -- to their various cable channels. ESPN, ESPN2, and TNT seem to be stepping into the breach for now. I'd keep an eye on them.

If you care, that is.



  2. Don't forget the US Amateur at Brookline