The U.S. Open has moved on the sports calendar, and now the golf tournament is moving from one television network to another.
The Open will return to NBC this year, with Fox Sports opting out of its 12-year contract with the U.S. Golf Association, the USGA announced Monday. The switch was first reported by the Associated Press.
“Partnering with NBCUniversal, including Golf Channel, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to connect and engage with the core golf audience more directly and routinely, and as a nonprofit, to continue to have a significant and lasting impact on the game,” USGA chief executive Mike Davis said in a statement.
The tournament, one of golf’s four majors, had been scheduled for last week at Winged Foot in New York’s Westchester County, an early novel coronavirus hot spot. It will be played at the club Sept. 17-20, which means that the final Sunday of the tournament will be up against Fox Sports’ moneymaker: NFL games. NBC has no daytime NFL games, and the final round of the U.S. Open will segue into the network’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Fox also has conflicts with its baseball and college football programming. According to the AP, Fox considered moving this year’s U.S. Open telecast to Fox Sports 1 but Davis was not open to the idea.
“Recent events calling for the shift of the U.S. Open created scheduling challenges that were difficult to overcome,” Fox Sports CEO and executive producer Eric Shanks said (via NBC). “While we are proud of the success we’ve built over these years, this is a win for golf fans everywhere, a win for the USGA and a win for Fox and NBC Sports.”
Golf is a better fit overall for NBC, which televised the Open from 1995 until the USGA and Fox agreed to a 12-year, $1.2 billion deal that began in 2015. Fox got off to a rough start with the tournament at Chambers Bay that year, struggling with graphics and camerawork as Joe Buck and Curt Menefee were slammed for their commentary.
NBC will pay just under half of the rights fee for the last seven years of the contract and will show Thursday and Friday rounds of the Open on Golf Channel and Peacock, NBC’s on-demand streaming service that will launch July 15. Both NBC and Golf Channel are owned by Comcast.
The Open will be the second of the majors this year. The PGA Championship will take place Aug. 6-9, followed by the Open and the Masters on Nov. 12-15. The British Open was canceled because of the coronavirus.
NBC’s acquisition is effective immediately. In addition to the U.S. Open, it will telecast the Aug. 3-9 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Aug. 10-16 U.S. Amateur and the Dec. 10-13 U.S. Women’s Open.