The PGA Tour’s schedule of major championships typically sticks to spring and summer ,to avoid a weekend collision course with the NFL. Postponement related to the coronavirus pandemic will change that in 2020.
Although the 149th Open Championship, also known as the British Open is canceled, the PGA Championship, U.S. Open and the Masters all have official new dates. Moving the PGA Championship to August 6-9 (TPC Park, San Francisco) is no big deal, given that, before moving to mid-May in 2019, that tournament was played in mid-August.
But now the U.S. Open (Winged Foot, New York) and Masters (Augusta National) will be played past-Labor Day, both finishing on NFL Sundays in the fall. That brings up a couple of interesting broadcast challenges, given both majors’ final rounds air on the two networks with Sunday afternoon NFL rights:
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U.S. Open vs. Week 2 NFL
The U.S. Open, whose television rights belong to Fox Sports, will take place from Sept. 17-20. Joe Buck is the lead golf announcer — as well as the main NFL and MLB man for Fox — so it will be similar to when he calls the World Series in October, with Troy Aikman being re-partnered with Thom Brennaman or another top in-house play-by-play man. That also means Buck has a conflict for staying on the call for “Thursday Night Football” after the first round earlier that week, unless the Giants or Jets were hosting the game and he wanted to attempt covering both.
For Saturday’s third round, Fox will likely avoid competition from a massive Week 3 college football game between SEC rivals Georgia and Alabama, which figures to be played in primetime.
For Sunday, this would likely mean that Fox doesn’t carry a national 4:25 p.m. ET NFL games that Sunday, with CBS having a marquee game with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo going head-to-head with Buck and Paul Azinger with the closing action at Winged Foot. With FS1, Fox has an easy pivot option for U.S Open coverage during the 1 p.m. ET NFL games.
Masters vs. Week 10 NFL
The Masters, which would have aired on CBS this week to finish early evening on Easter Sunday, is now slated to be played from Nov. 12-15. Unlike Buck, Nantz’s other main gigs — March Madness and golf —don’t usually have a conflict with NFL games. This means Romo will need to work his magic with a replacement partner on the 15th.
As for the SEC on CBS that Saturday, their game of choice likely will be moved to nighttime. It would make sense to have either South Carolina-LSU or Tennessee-Georgia in nearby Athens air after the sun sets on the third round of the Masters.
As for Sunday — given the ratings of the Masters — airing the early final-round coverage on CBS Sports Network doesn’t seem like the best option for CBS. There’s the potential of moving the co-leader pairing tee time to earlier in the day to finish by 4:25 p.m. ET, and not have any 1 p.m. ET NFL games air on CBS.
Going deeper into the NFL and college football into unfamiliar conflict makes the PGA Tour’s major adjustment more of an issue for CBS than Fox. Many viewers used to Sunday football or Sunday golf being separate will need to enter new multiple-screen territory in the fall.
However you slice it — or pass it — the conflicts are good problems to have, and bring rare special doubleheaders at a time when it will be difficult to not want to overdose on televised sports.
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