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From The Archive

Why golf fans loved to hate this former Super Bowl announcer

February 07, 2024
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Focus On Sport

It would be hard to find a sportscaster with a more impressive résumé than Brent Musburger. During a legendary career, he's called Super Bowls, Final Fours, NBA Finals and World Series. Heck, the man was even in "Rocky II."

But despite all of his on-screen achievements, there was one group of sports nuts that never pulled any punches—and even wound up knocking him out of the booth.

We're talking about golf fans, of course. And, boy, did they love to hate Brent. So as we approach Super Bowl LVIII, which will be called by beloved golf broadcaster Jim Nantz (Yes, we're a bit biased because Jim also writes for Golf Digest, but he's a golf institution), we took a look back at Musburger's rocky reign as ABC's play-by-play guy for golf.

(Golf Digest+ members get access to the complete Golf Digest archive dating back to 1950. Sign up here.)

In 1996, Golf Digest conducted a TV survey by reaching out to 2,000 subscribers via good, old-fashioned, regular mail. The title of the story that ran that August was "Old Favorites and a Familiar Target." That target? Musburger. And there's a bullseye and a dunk tank in the layout to hammer home the point.

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There were a total of eight "Best" and "Worst" categories touching on networks and announcers. NBC's Pat Summerall actually edged Nantz, who took over as CBS' lead golf guy in 1994, for best host (22 percent to 20 percent). But things were decidedly not close in the worst host category.

That's where Musburger, who was named ABC's golf host in 1992 and was part of CBS' Masters coverage before that, received a whopping 43 percent of the vote. Ouch. NBC's Jim Lampley was second at 6 percent. Let's just say Brent is lucky Golf Twitter wasn't around back then. Although, thanks to this survey, we got a taste of what that would have looked like.

Peter McCleery, who wrote the accompanying story and sidebar on Musburger (You can read all about "Brent bashing" as a Golf Digest+ member here), writes: Viewers keep nothing in the bag when bashing Brent. “He doesn’t understand the game,” “pompous, inane” and “to me, he doesn’t even seem to be a golfer” were typical comments. The question now is, how much longer will he be allowed to do his thing by the new owners of ABC?

That question wouldn't take long to be answered as Musburger was replaced by a 30-year-old Mike Tirico for the start of the 1997 PGA Tour season. But Musburger remained a fixture for ABC and ESPN in other sports for two more decades until leaving in 2017 to start up the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VISN), where he remains an executive and on-air personality.

Considering Musburger is the one who coined the gambler-friendly catchphrase, "You are looking live at …," Vegas was a logical destination. And he surely has a busy week on tap with Super Bowl LVIII in town, but the 84-year-old's days of calling the big game are in the past. Just not as in the past as his days of being up in the 18th tower. And that being a good thing is something that it seems most golf fans would actually agree on.