Seminole is the kind of golf club where openly doing business is frowned upon, thought of as kind of a dirty nuisance that need not intrude upon leisure time. Still, because of the powerful nature of its membership, business happens there. The Donald Ross gem not far from the high-end shops on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach was where Ben Hogan, a four-time U.S. Open champion, liked to prepare for the Masters. And over the years many of the most powerful in the game—presidents of the United States Golf Association among them—have been members.
Like Augusta National, Pine Valley and Cypress Point, Seminole is a place for those who have multiple memberships, and because the clubs are havens from the hustle and bustle, important people get important things done there. That was the case on March 4-5 this year when five top USGA executives hosted four key officials of NBC and Golf Channel at Seminole in what began a process that ended with a stunning $1.1 billion contract for the USGA—$93 million a year for 12 years beginning in 2015—and reshaped the broadcast landscape of golf by bringing FOX Sports into the sport.
The fact that the meeting was at the place Hogan readied for the Masters is not without irony. According to sources within and outside of the USGA (almost three dozen were interviewed by Golf Digest for this story), the seven words that most motivated the governing body's president, Glen Nager, to make a bold break and bring FOX into the mix were these:
"The Masters: A tradition unlike any other."
From the NFL playoffs in January through NCAA basketball's March Madness until the elite field arrived at Augusta National in April, those words echoed in the ears of Nager from CBS broadcasts and fueled his feeling that the U.S. national championship had fallen behind the Masters in stature as well as TV ratings. He believed the public's perception of the USGA as the governing body of the game, a role it shares with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, had diminished as well.
The competition for the USGA rights was ostensibly between NBC, which has televised the U.S. Open since 1995, partnering with its cable cousin Golf Channel (both properties of cable giant Comcast) against ESPN, which will do its 33rd and final U.S. Open next year under the existing contract. But it was FOX, the outsider, that apparently had the inside track, partly because it was a novice in golf.
In Tommy Roy, NBC has arguably the most respected producer in golf; in Johnny Miller, the most talked-about commentator. And the two Comcast-owned properties provide the exposure of a national network with brand equity and a cable outlet that is the only station dedicated solely to covering golf. But in FOX, the USGA could have a loud voice in entertainment, news and sports with only one golf property to ballyhoo. To negotiators for the USGA, it appeared to be a platform unlike any other.
Nager, chair of the Issues & Appeals practice at the Washington law firm Jones Day, has a way of teeing up a sentence with a snorted harumph of a half-laugh that seems to say, "Listen closely; this is important." And usually it is. A lawyer doesn't get to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court 13 times—the first when he was 28—unless he has the smarts to craft a solid game plan and the agility to subtly redraw that blueprint on the run.
During an interview with Golf Digest, Nager refers to his notes to build the framework of his argument, then puts the finishing touches on his design with succinct, often pointed responses to questions, at times dismissing assertions with an abrupt, "That's false." And then he explains why.
A relative newcomer to the game, Nager, 54, took up golf in his 30s and wasn't active in the USGA until becoming general counsel in 2006. He merely smiles and offers a shrug when asked if it's true he scored a rare 100 on the Rules of Golf test. Behind the smile is the heart of a lawyer, a litigator and a negotiator. He is also a man hellbent on reinventing the USGA to make it what he sees as more relevant. NBC/Golf Channel executives who met with him that day at Seminole heard evidence of that.
"I told them that if you went back to the '70s and looked at TV ratings and other indicia of what makes a championship great, the U.S. Open was considered the premier major championship in golf," Nager says. "And that if we looked at indicia today, the Masters is considered the No. 1 major in golf. I said I wanted to work with a media partner that had a proposal to elevate the U.S. Open and the other USGA championships and the USGA as a governance organization." (The weekend rating of the 1973 U.S. Open beat the Masters, 9.0 to 8.4. The next year, the Masters edged ahead and began widening the gap after that.)
Other USGA officials joining Nager at the Seminole gathering were executive director Mike Davis; Sarah Hirshland, senior managing director of business affairs; vice president Tom O'Toole, who is expected to be nominated this year for the first of two one-year terms to follow Nager as president; and Gary Stevenson, a member of the Executive Committee.
Missing was everyone from the USGA who had negotiated the last TV deal 10 years earlier: retired executive director David Fay; Mark Carlson, who was still nominally in charge of negotiating TV deals but who no longer was being invited to meetings; and Reg Murphy, a past president whose wife, Diana, is on the Executive Committee.
On the NBC side at Seminole were Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group; Golf Channel president Mike McCarley; Jon Miller, the president of programming at NBC Sports; and Tommy Roy.
The NBC executives left Seminole optimistic about their chances of getting a contract extension. FOX was not on their radar yet. But the NBC negotiators still sensed something was afoot.
THE FOX FACTOR
Hirshland met in April, a month after the Seminole get-together, with FOX's Randy Freer, Larry Jones, Chris Hannan and Kai Dhaliwal. The real negotiations had begun.
NBC/GC officials might have overestimated the incumbent benefit they would receive from the USGA. "Over and over we heard, 'This is the new USGA. What happened in the past is in the past,' " says one NBC executive. And that meant not only a new attitude, but new people without personal ties to the network. "They thought that we were too much in bed with NBC and ESPN," says a USGA insider.
That meeting at Seminole was actually closer to the end of a process the USGA had begun years earlier as it reshaped its staff to put in place the team that would increase the USGA's TV rights fee from $37 million a year (NBC and ESPN combined) to $93 million a year.
"Financials are absolutely important, but that was not the only factor," says Hirshland, neither confirming nor denying the monetary terms of the deal. "First, we get the opportunity to expand our exposure and tell our story to a broader audience. We also get the opportunity to create some distinctiveness about the role we play in the game through ancillary programming like previews of major events, wrap-ups of lesser events and documentaries that use our archival material."
The financial bonanza for the USGA was made possible in part by several events that extend far beyond golf. NBC, which was purchased by Comcast in 2011, rebranded the Versus channel in January 2012 as NBC Sports Network. This August, FOX launched FOX Sports 1 and joined NBC in competing with the behemoth ESPN in the all-sports programming market. And that battle has already been bloody. Content is king.
As Casey Wasserman, head of Wasserman Media Group, which advised the USGA on this TV deal (and once employed Hirshland and Stevenson), told The New York Times in July: "Sports will continue to be more and more valuable while movies and television will become more and more challenged. Sports is predictable and unreplicable in a world where almost nothing else is."
In 2011, ESPN took Wimbledon tennis from NBC, which had it for 43 years. In October 2012, NBC grabbed English Premier League soccer from FOX, paying $250 million over three years, more than triple what FOX was paying. The loss of EPL soccer created a content issue for FOX—how do you program a 24-hour sports channel?—and the USGA has 16 championships that can help fill that void.
Then in May 2013, the USGA got a sense of what its product might be worth when ESPN took the U.S. Open tennis tournament from CBS beginning in 2015 in an 11-year, $825-million deal. The USGA negotiators believed that U.S. Open golf was worth at least as much as U.S. Open tennis.
The atmosphere of this bidding war provided rich air for the USGA to breathe, and it was determined to take advantage. "That bodes well not just for any particular sport, but for all of them," says David Carter, the founder of the consulting firm Sports Business Group. "The presence of FOX is ultimately going to bid up the competition for rights fees. The NFL has always had one more network in the bidding than they had packages available. It's a tried-and-true formula."
(In 1993, FOX aggressively outbid CBS for its NFL package, ending a CBS connection with the league that had been in place since 1956 and making FOX a player versus the three traditional networks.)
The move by ESPN to take U.S. Open tennis away from CBS not only set a financial benchmark for the USGA, it laid waste to loyalty to a longtime business partner. CBS had televised U.S. Open tennis since 1968, far longer than the 20-year relationship NBC has had with the USGA. This is a new world, a Wild West of sports bargaining.
There were those on the USGA side of the bargaining table who believed that being on Golf Channel was reaching already hard-core golf fans. The idea was to expose the USGA product to the casual golf fan and even the general sports fan on FOX Sports 1.
NBC was there at the beginning, went away for three decades, and returned when it proved it belonged. The network carried the first televised major championship, Ed Furgol's victory in the 1954 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.
But in 1966, ABC took over the U.S. Open. In 1989, NBC made a bid for the Open and received an eloquent reply from former USGA president Sandy Tatum, who was involved in handling TV talks for many years after his presidency, telling the network it was not ready for such a prestigious event. NBC hired Tommy Roy and Johnny Miller, and five years later, it got the USGA package.
Tatum, 93, has seen many changes in his years in golf and views this one with fascination and a certain amount of suspicion. "In 1994, the ABC deal was at $7 million, and they went to 10 [million] and NBC went to 14 [million]" and got it, Tatum says, making it clear that money always plays a role in these decisions.
"I would judge this as a transforming event," Tatum says of the FOX deal. "The challenge is very significant. How are they going to be able to justify the money they spent without increasing the commercial clutter of the telecast? That will destroy the telecast."
CHANGING FACES AT THE USGA
When there is talk of "the new USGA"—one that is involved in governing the game but also more active in things like pace of play and growing the number of participants—that shift accelerated after Walter Driver became president.
After Driver made a series of unpopular personnel moves and policy decisions, a Golf World cover story landed at the 2007 U.S. Open with the headline: "Can the USGA Survive Walter Driver?"
Soon afterward, senior director of communications Marty Parkes left, the fall guy for Driver's bad press. Jim Vernon was president from 2008-'09, and then the build-up for the TV talks really began when Jim Hyler, a retired North Carolina banker, became USGA president in February 2010.
"Whether you view it favorably or unfavorably, I think a line of presidents have worked in a pretty coordinated fashion to retool the USGA team, staff and Executive Committee for what they believe—right or wrong—are the needs of the organization in the future," says one former member of the Executive Committee. "Obviously this would include the handling of media rights, but I think it's a more comprehensive reset than just that issue."
Hyler began to make moves that put in place the team that negotiated the FOX TV deal. The first big piece fell on Christmas Eve 2010 when Fay, who had been with the USGA for 32 years and executive director for 21 years, abruptly quit at age 60.
In March 2011, the well-liked and respected Davis, who rescued the USGA from some U.S. Open course setup snafus when he took over that job, replaced Fay as executive director. Just 19 days later, chief business officer Pete Bevacqua, who got crossways with the Executive Committee when he openly sought the job of LPGA commissioner, and who wanted the position Davis got, quit. (Bevacqua is now the CEO of the PGA of America.)
On Sept. 1, 2011, Joe Goode, a 15-year veteran at Bank of America, was named as managing director of communications and made a member of the senior management team. This was a tipoff of what was to come: The USGA was loading up leadership that did not come from the world of golf but was more experienced in the business world.
A week later, Hirshland left Wasserman Media Group for the USGA. And a month after that, the USGA nominated Nager to take over as president in February 2012, a spot most thought would go to Jay Rains. (Rains, considered close to Fay and NBC, was removed as vice president in 2011.) Nominated to the Executive Committee was Stevenson, who in 2007 sold his sports marketing and TV consulting firm, OnSport, to Wasserman.
Hirshland had worked for OnSport and met her husband, Golf Channel producer Keith Hirshland, at a business meeting in 2003. Sarah also had been a teaching assistant for Stevenson at Duke. Like Nager, Stevenson had been fast-tracked to the Executive Committee without time in golf's trenches.
Adds a second former member of the Executive Committee: "The part that bothers me: I'm not a Nager fan—he's probably a great lawyer, but he never went to a golf course to find a site for a boys junior or got out and pounded the stakes to set up a course for competition. My outside observation is that it now looks like a corporation and no longer a golf organization."
Though Goode says there was unanimity among the Executive Committee, the consultants and the negotiating team on the FOX deal, there is clearly a split between the old and new USGA. Even many supportive of the move to FOX have issues with how ESPN and NBC were treated after years of loyalty, and how some USGA operatives have been treated in the restructuring. The emotions at NBC/GC remain raw after the decision.
After Nager took over as president in February 2012, the USGA, which always handled TV talks internally, interviewed five companies to advise it on the negotiations. The contract went to Wasserman Media Group in September. The typical commission for such a deal? Let's say, based on the U.S. Open tennis contract, that the USGA expected to get at least $75 million a year over 12 years, or a total of $900 million. If Wasserman were to get 10 percent of the moneynegotiated above the expected bump, the final deal of $93 million a year—an extra $18 million annually over the expected increase—would bring in an additional $216 million over 12 years. Ten percent of that: $21.6 million.
After Wasserman was hired, the USGA's Carlson, who had done TV talks for 23 years, was no longer being invited to meetings. What was clear was that the two "golf people" on the USGA's Gang of Five—Davis and O'Toole—played the smallest roles in the talks, which were handled by the three "corporate people"—Nager, Hirshland and Stevenson.
"I was involved," says Davis, who was on a visit to 2015 U.S. Open site Chambers Bay when the deal was announced, "but I tell you, not even close to the hours that Sarah put in or, for that matter, Glen spent a lot time on the negotiation part. And Gary, he lived that world; he knows the television world exceptionally well."
NBC/GC had another meeting with the USGA at the Players Championship in early May, and Hirshland met with the FOX people for a second time later that month. On June 1, 2013, a 60-day exclusive negotiating period began for NBC/GC and ESPN, and both opened with bids around $65 million a year, a considerable bump from the combined $37 million the two paid this year.
"We really felt we had the right package in place," says an NBC executive familiar with the talks. "Then in June we started hearing there was an outside unsolicited offer. We knew it was not CBS or TNT, so it had to be FOX."
On June 27, the day the U.S. Women's Open began at Sebonack on New York's Long Island, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, NBC's Lazarus, Miller and Roy, and Golf Channel's McCarley made their pitch at NBC's 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters.
The USGA had Nager, Davis, Hirshland, Stevenson and O'Toole as well as Joseph M. Leccese, chairman of the law firm Proskauer Rose (longtime advisors to the USGA with its sports-law group), and Dean Jordan of Wasserman.
The package included Olympic-like promo spots on Comcast properties like CNBC, MSNBC and the Spanish-language Telemundo. NBC/GC upped the number of hours for the U.S. Open, Women's Open and Senior Open and improved its commitment to the USGA's amateur events.
And then the door opened, and in walked Arnold Palmer, one of the founders of Golf Channel and a longtime USGA spokesman. Palmer gave an impassioned appeal that he believed it was in the best interest of the game to keep the package with NBC/GC. One of the lawyers from Proskauer asked for Palmer's autograph.
That night, retired Deutsche Bank CEO Seth Waugh hosted a party at his home in the Hamptons. Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American player, was staying there while she played in the Open, and the original plan was for a dinner of about eight people. Eventually more than 40 people milled about, cocktails in hands and smiles on their faces, according to one in attendance. NBC people were there, Golf Channel people were there and USGA people were there. It was, by all accounts, a love fest, both contingents seemingly thrilled with how the day had gone.
"A few days later we presented a number, and they said, 'You're not even close,' " says someone at that party who placed NBC's figure at $75 million. At this point, ESPN had dropped out.
"We went deep, but the moment we were told the [NBC] offer that was on the table, we knew we were out of it," says an ESPN executive speaking on the condition of anonymity because the network's only comment was a statement wishing the USGA well. "We wanted all of it, but we wanted it at the right price," says the ESPN source. "We were way short." (An NBC official says the network had been "breaking even at best" with its $24 million share of the old deal.)
In July, Casey Wasserman and Comcast's Roberts crossed paths in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the high-powered gathering run since 1983 by the investment firm Allen & Company.
Asked if Casey Wasserman told Roberts the USGA deal was going to go to auction—a move that would have altered NBC/GC's negotiating strategy—Jordan, the Wasserman executive, says: "That is absolutely not true. That sounds like sour grapes to me. I know Casey had a conversation with Brian, and he told him, 'You need to get serious about this, or you'll lose it.' "
On Friday, Aug. 2, with NBC/GC's exclusive negotiating period officially over, FOX and the USGA negotiated. That night, NBC said to the USGA: "If we put $80 million in front of you, are we done?" On Saturday morning, there was another conversation between the USGA and NBC, and at 4 p.m., the network was told to be in the Proskauer office at 1 p.m. Sunday.
That's when something ominous happened. Proskauer, known for its tough negotiating, agreed to everything NBC requested. "That's not good," one puzzled exec said to another. "That's not like them to agree so easily. Something is up."
All bids were to be in by 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, and NBC/GC upped its offer to a little more than $80 million and expanded its plan for massive promotion of the U.S. Open.
There was silence for 48 hours.
Then shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, NBC's Lazarus got a phone call from Nager breaking the bad news. FOX, which had never televised golf in the United States—though Sky Sports, also owned by News Corporation, does golf overseas—had the exclusive rights to the U.S. Open and the rest of the USGA properties for 12 years beginning in 2015. "The board made its decision on Wednesday morning, and our president informed NBC sometime Wednesday," Hirshland confirmed.
"Deals like this don't happen this quickly," says one former USGA staffer.
"Only four or five people knew what our offer was," says an NBC official. "When you're a longtime incumbent, you get some sort of hometown prerogative. Would we have matched? I don't know. They chose not to give us the opportunity. FOX ended at $93 [million a year], NBC just north of $80 [million]."
"With the benefit of hindsight, we're not sure the process was handled in the way that it was presented to us," says NBC spokesman Greg Hughes.
NBC was never given a chance to top the FOX offer, something Nager defends.
"I told John Skipper at ESPN, I told Brian Roberts and Mark Lazarus at NBC/Comcast, and we told Randy Freer at FOX they had a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for making their last, best and final offer," Nager says. "I had given my word that I wouldn't [divulge bids]. They needed to value these things according to what they thought was the appropriate thing to do and be comfortable with their bid."
Still, an NBC official says Davis, the USGA executive director, went silent when informed that NBC didn't get a "last at-bat."
About 90 minutes after Nager called Lazarus, a press release from the USGA began dinging into email inboxes.
The timing created a bit of a stir, coming on the eve of the PGA Championship, a CBS event and a tournament run by the PGA of America, with whom the USGA had just tangled over the anchored-putting ban. Also, the day after the announcement, on Aug. 8, a self-published memoir by Keith Hirshland was released.
"The timing of our announcement was consistent with good organizational practice, a commitment to transparency, and involved a national governance organization and several large media companies whose stocks are traded publicly and applicable to disclosure laws and requirements," Goode says.
Nager was attending a PGA of America dinner in Rochester, N.Y., with many other golf dignitaries, when the news release hit. "Several people came over to congratulate me," Nager says. "One said it was the biggest thing to happen to golf since Tiger won the 1997 Masters."
The sentence in the USGA release that annoyed NBC and ESPN was this one: "The game is evolving and requires bold and unique approaches on many levels, and FOX shares our vision to seek fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf." Mike McQuade, who produces golf for ESPN, and NBC's Roy privately bristled at what they perceived as a knock on their ingenuity.
"We were disappointed that the USGA chose to disparage our production and the production of every media company [CBS, ESPN, Turner, Golf Channel, NBC] that covers golf instead of just being candid in choosing money over mission," says NBC's Lazarus.
Barely more than two hours after that press release about bold new directions went out, a former NBC executive now at FOX, David Neal, called Roy to talk about jumping to FOX. A close friend says Roy viewed the wording of the press release as "reprehensible" and told Neal thanks, but no thanks.
FOX tried to get involved in golf in 1994 when it offered to partner with Greg Norman to create a world tour of eight limited-field events. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem threatened to suspend any players who participated and effectively killed the project, as well as his relationship with Norman. Now it appears Norman might work as a commentator for FOX.
"I'm excited about it," says Norman, who adds that discussions with FOX are ongoing. He says his friend at FOX, David Hill, had reached out to him in an email "I believe, Monday or Tuesday of the PGA Championship." The deal was announced Wednesday.
FOX, which says it's too early to discuss plans for how it will cover golf because its first event is nearly two years away, commented only in general terms. "We're looking forward to FOX Sports becoming home to the preeminent golf championship in the world," says Eric Shanks, co-president, COO and executive producer.
Will bringing fresh eyes into the game help jazz up broadcasting? FOX has not been shy about experimenting, and its FOX Box, which shows score, down and yardage in football and score, innings, base runners and balls/strikes in baseball, has been universally imitated. One thing FOX has is the time to make mistakes—two years to get ready and then 12 years to get it right. Meanwhile, the USGA has the money to endure mistakes.
"When you generate two and a half times as much money as you did under your previous deal, that mitigates a lot of risk in terms of what otherwise would have been an unusual partnership in so far as FOX is not known for its coverage of golf," sports consultant David Carter says. "But they're known for understanding their demographic and delivering what their audience wants."
What is clear is that the USGA will have FOX all to itself for the time being as a golf property. The PGA Tour is signed with NBC, CBS and Golf Channel through 2021, though commissioner Tim Finchem says the tour has had "serious, robust" discussions with FOX in the past. CBS has the PGA Championship through 2019, and ESPN has the British Open through 2017.
The Ryder Cup, a lucrative property co-owned by the PGA of America, has its contract with NBC expire after next year's competition. But FOX's commitment to the NFL appears to make the biennial fall event an unlikely fit.
The interesting prize out there is the big one: the Masters. It has operated on a series of one-year agreements with CBS since 1956, and likes it that way, leaving money on the table to have yearly leverage on the telecast. The Augusta National deal with ESPN is also on a one-year basis.
Asked whether the FOX deal with the USGA might put the Masters in play, one veteran of TV talks says: "I think after this, yes, it now is. They're going to look at the money. And the one thing I've heard about the FOX thing is that the USGA presented a wish list, and it was 'yes-yes-yes-yes-yes.' "
But, given Nager's feeling about the "tradition unlike any other," it's hard to imagine him agreeing to being on the same network as the Masters. NBC's Johnny Miller, who for years has expressed a desire to broadcast the Masters, is under contract with the network through 2015.
One of the questions hanging is who FOX will hire to broadcast golf—baseball play-by-play man Joe Buck's name has been mentioned, with Norman and Nick Price as analysts.
What will the USGA do with its money? It seems to already have plenty of it. According to the USGA's 2012 annual report, it has $263.3 million in net assets.
Some say the USGA wants to build up a cash reserve in case it has to fight legal battles over any rules changes it might make, especially concerning equipment and specifically the golf ball. But the opinion among even the deepest insiders at the USGA is split on that, some saying it will definitely reduce the distance the ball flies and others just as adamantly saying the opposition from the PGA Tour and the PGA of America to the ban on the anchored putting stroke has scared it off.
Nager says that the USGA will not let the threat of legal action prevent it from taking a principled position.
Not to be forgotten: What does the golf fan get from the new deal?
NBC sources say the 70 hours of coverage FOX will give the USGA's big three events is half that of what NBC/GC promised.
"False in every respect," Nager says. "The only one who would know that is us since we are the only ones who have both proposals. In terms of contractual commitments for our Opens—the men's, the women's and the seniors'—FOX proposed more, and for our amateur championships FOX proposed substantially more."
The answer to what this means for golf fans will only be known once FOX starts showing golf in 2015. What we do know: Golf has a new bidder, and things will never be the same. The new USGA has ushered in a new era for golf.
CHRONOLOGY OF U.S. OPEN TV COVERAGE (Source: classicsportsmedia.blogspot.com
1954: The U.S Open is televised nationally for the first time, NBC providing the finish anchored by Lindsey Nelson.
1965: The first color broadcast occurs in the year the Open changes to a four-day format with a Sunday finish. NBC also adds an hour of the Monday playoff.
1966: ABC takes over TV rights, with Chris Schenkel as anchor and Byron Nelson as commentator.
1967: Henry Longhurst and Keith Jackson join the ABC crew.
1970: Dave Marr calls the first of his 22 consecutive U.S. Opens.
1973: LPGA founder Marilynn Smith becomes the first female commentator of a men's event.
1975: Jim McKay becomes lead announcer; ABC adds Peter Alliss and Bob Rosburg.
1977: ABC shows four hours on Sunday and covers all 18 holes of the leaders for the first time.
1982: ESPN provides the first Thursday-Friday coverage.
1985: ABC expands to 4½ hours of coverage Saturday and Sunday and adds Judy Rankin as the first female on-course reporter of a men's event.
1994: The last ABC broadcast gives the first TV coverage of the entire 18-hole Monday playoff, with ESPN doing the first 2½ hours. ABC missed the first sudden-death hole to show the O.J. Simpson arraignment.
1995: NBC takes over, with Dick Enberg and Johnny Miller, and expands weekend coverage to six hours each day.
1996: NBC adds two hours of Thursday-Friday coverage to ESPN's coverage, becoming the first network to carry parts of all four rounds of a major championship.
2001: NBC and ESPN team up to cover the entire 18-hole Monday playoff.
2006: NBC and ESPN broadcast the Open in HDTV for the first time.
2008: NBC offers prime-time East Coast weekend coverage from Torrey Pines in California.
2013: USGA ends its 20-year relationship with NBC and more than 30 years with ESPN to sell its properties to FOX and FOX Sports 1 starting in 2015.