For the first time in its 150-year history, the British Open golf tournament will be broadcast entirely on cable TV in the U.S. this year. Starting Thursday, July 15, ESPN will carry all four rounds live in high definition - also a first - with recap shows featuring highlights on ABC at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. What a shame.
Hardcore fans who get up early every year - live broadcasts begin at 3 a.m., 6 a.m. on the weekend - will hardly notice the difference. But the move will shut out fans who don't have cable or whose remotes rarely stray to the all-sports stations. Every year, I hear from a few of the folks who get accidentally sucked in to the British Open broadcast.
"What's up with those pot bunkers?" they wonder. "How do they hit it out of that tall grass? And what about the hole where they have to drive over the corner of the hotel?"
The Old Course at St. Andrews, which hosts its 28th Open this year, is the event's true star. The holes are linked together (hence the golf term "links") along the North Sea shore through heather and sand bunkers, created not by course architects but by sheep burrowing for shelter from the unforgiving wind in the dunes centuries ago.
It's always a hoot to see the millionaire players struggle to shoot par under these difficult conditions. Sure, there's appeal in watching pros dominate a course, as Steve Stricker did in Moline, Ill., last week. But I guess I'd rather see them be miserable.