ESPN happy to put own stamp on British Open; legendary Alliss returns

It’s been five years since I covered my last British Open. And I truly miss it, more so than anything else I covered in 27 years at the Chicago Tribune.

I loved everything about being over for the Open Championship (the proper name). There’s nothing like quirkiness of links golf. In fact, everything about the experience was quirky; from the food (yes to brown sauce) to the ridiculously small showers to summer temperatures in the 40s and 50s with a damp chill that goes right through you.

I’ll definitely be watching ESPN’s coverage, although I can’t say I’ll be awake for the opening shot Thursday. Network coverage begins at 4:30 a.m. (ET), meaning night owls on the West Coast can tune before they go to sleep.

In previous years, ESPN and ABC had to rely mainly on the BBC for its coverage. Again, think quirky, as the BBC pace is much slower.

Mike Tirico likened the experience to “playing with rented clubs.” If you’re a golfer, you know what that means.

However, ESPN has had its own cameras in place since 2009; the BBC will be available to supplement anything that gets missed. It has made a huge difference in the production.

I had a chance to talk to Mike McQuade, ESPN’s vice-president for event production, about covering the tournament and having 81-year-old legend Peter Alliss back as a contributor.

On the difference between ESPN and BBC coverage:

We cover golf differently than the way the BBC does it, from where the camera angles are to the storylines. It’s an American broadcast. It moves quicker. The big difference will be on Thursday and Friday. There are so many more storylines. While they might want to focus on some Englishman trying to make the cut, we’d rather focus on Phil Mickelson.

On the difference between covering a PGA Tour event in the states and a British Open:

Besides the fact that when it rains everyone is wearing a black rain suit and a hat and you can’t tell anybody from anybody, that’s a big problem.

The wind is always an issue.  Trying to follow the ball in conditions like that is an issue.  Telling Andy North he’s got to walk in the rain for eight hours could be an issue.

I think at this point we’re sort of used to that.  I think the one thing that we’ve tried to do to sort of overcome all of this is this Flight Tracker that we’ve used the last couple of years, and this year I think it’s on six different holes, that really allows the viewer to ‑‑ if the skies are gray and it is tough to follow a ball in gray and white skies, the tracker will at least give you a sense of where the ball is headed and the direction it’s going in.

On Peter Alliss being part of the telecast:

In our mind, he symbolizes the Open Championship. He’s been a part of it for the better part of 60 years. When you have someone that iconic, it goes without saying you take advantage of it. He offers perspective and insights that I think our guys may not be as quick to grasp on to. That’s a good thing. It makes us better.

Here’s Andy North on Alliss.

Peter is one of those few individuals that you come across in life that if you open up the New York telephone book and had him read six or seven pages you’d be enthralled by it.  He is one of those gifted people that is so much fun to be around, and Curtis (Strange) and I have the great opportunity to work the week following the Open Championship at the Senior British Open Championship.  It is a riot.





One thought on “ESPN happy to put own stamp on British Open; legendary Alliss returns

  1. As usual, the ESPN coverage was horrible. I kept the sound muted for the entire tournament. And the quick cuts from shot to shot are just jarring to watch. I must prefer the quirky, slower pace of the BBC. And please for the love of God, no more essays!

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