2023 Open Championship broadcast preview: Nick Faldo’s return, Mike Tirico’s milestone, Trey Wingo’s ‘Redzone’
HOYLAKE, England — A lot has changed for Nick Faldo since his last birthday.
One thing, it turns out, has not: He will be working at least some of golf’s major championships from the broadcast booth.
Faldo will help pitch in for NBC’s coverage of the Open at Royal Liverpool this week, NBC said in a release, a move that comes after he returned to golf broadcasting briefly for a tour around Augusta National with the British broadcaster Sky. Per NBC, Faldo will serve as an analyst for this weekend’s coverage alongside Paul Azinger and Brad Faxon, joining play-by-play men Dan Hicks, Mike Tirico, Terry Gannon and Steve Sands in the booth.
The six-time major champ could be spotted celebrating his 66th birthday around the premises at Hoylake on Tuesday morning, where he went to take the lay of the land ahead of this week’s coverage.
“Hoylake is looking good!” He tweeted. “Walked 18, checked all the green slopes.”
Much more on the birthday boy in a bit, but we’ll start today’s Open Championship Hot Mic mega-preview with another birthday of sorts — one belonging to Faldo’s NBC counterpart Mike Tirico.
Mike Tirico’s silver anniversary
Open Championship Broadcast schedule (all times eastern):
Thursday, July 20: 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (USA)
Friday, July 21: 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (USA)
Saturday, July 22: 5-7 a.m. (USA); 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, July 23: 4-7 a.m. (USA); 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC)
Sports broadcasters are like flavors of ice cream: some you like, some you don’t. But some flavors of ice cream — like, say moose tracks — are so ubiquitously enjoyable and wholly appreciated they’re beyond reproach even by most subjective standards.
Mike Tirico is moose tracks.
Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you that Tirico is among the very best in the business. Spend a few minutes really listening to him speak and you’ll understand why. Nobody in the industry is more efficient with their language, and nobody is more prepared.
“How many Opens is this for you?” He asked me from beyond the 18th fairway at Royal Liverpool on Tuesday morning.
One, I informed him.
“You’re dressed like it,” he said with a laugh. “We gotta get you some layers.”
Tirico would know. This week, he will hoist a trophy celebrating years of preparation at Royal Liverpool when he calls his 25th (!) Open Championship for network television.
“It’s been 27 years since my first,” he said. “But with the Covid year and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, I had to skip.”
It’s hard to believe Tirico has called 25 in his Open career — at least in part because of the myriad major sports broadcasts that he has called in the last quarter-century at ESPN and NBC (Super Bowls, Olympics, U.S. Opens in both golf and tennis). But after hearing him talk a little bit of Open history, there’s no doubt that at least some of his tournament prep at this point is first-person history.
“If you go back and watch the highlights from ’06, I remember one of the gentlemen at the R&A at the time referred to it as ‘biscuit brown,'” Tirico said with a chuckle before peering out at the third fairway. “It’s a lot greener now.”
Time tends to have that effect on people. We can only hope Tirico’s 25th Open is as good as his previous two here at Hoylake.
And if not, let’s at least hope there’s some ice cream to celebrate.
Trey Wingo experiments with a golf TV “Red Zone”
Broadcast schedule: Thursday and Friday, 7/20-21: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ET (Peacock)
Trey Wingo has a deeply refined taste for golf. As for his taste in potato chips?
Let’s say “still aging.”
“My good friends in the UK have some of the most powerful flavored crisps you will ever try in your life,” he told GOLF Monday. “Be adventurous, but understand: they put things together that make no sense.”
Fortunately, Wingo will not have to worry about running afoul of a Prawn-flavored chip this week. He will be back home in Connecticut, where he is stationed. But even from a few thousand miles away, he is thrilled to be back in front of the microphone at the Open, where he will help this week with Peacock’s coverage.
“My memories of calling the Open are some of the best of my life,” he said, reflecting upon a handful of years of coverage with ESPN. “It doesn’t get any more old school or traditional in terms of how deep the roots of this game go.”
It should be a fun week for Wingo, a golf sicko who taps in for occasional play-by-play action across the sport. He and Billy Ray Brown will handle hosting duties for Peacock’s All Access, a new show aimed at serving as a cross between the “Manningcast” format and the Red Zone Channel.
“I think the format gives us latitude,” he said. “We’re going to have some player interviews and some other people join us. I think it’s just an open-ended conversational style of coverage, which I’ve always enjoyed.”
In many ways, Wingo is the perfect fit for the format, which briefly slated No Laying Up‘s Chris Solomon for hosting duties for its maiden voyage at the U.S. Open. Wingo is both a golf diehard and a deeply experienced TV voice, having worked alongside NBC Golf EP of studio production Mark Loomis for years at the worldwide leader.
For a format with loads of promise, the two men make a pair well worth watching.
Faldo finds his way home
Finally, back to the birthday boy, who returns to golf TV again this weekend.
It will be strange to hear Faldo’s voice alongside Tirico and Dan Hicks in the main booth for NBC, the network opposite where he spent most of his professional career. But don’t take that to mean any sort of ill will: Faldo remains deeply close with his old CBS Golf teammates, including Ian Baker-Finch and Frank Nobilo, and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus maintains the decision to leave was all Sir Nick’s.
In some ways, though, this schedule represents the exact sort of life cadence Faldo was seeking when he retired from professional golf broadcasting last summer. He will cover two majors in 2023, but that schedule will lend him the freedom to contribute to his other business pursuits including Faldo Farm, a farmhouse and ranch he is building on 125 acres of riverfront property in Montana.
Work on that project, he said, was still “chugging right along.”
— The R&A content team has done it again. Every year the good lads and lasses over at the Royal and Ancient produce some of the most visually compelling storytelling in golf for the year, and this year is no different. (A few years ago, we chronicled the creation of “The Open for The Ages,” a super-edit of famed Open champions meant to replace the canceled 2020 tournament.) There’s so much good coming out of the tournament’s YouTube feed at Hoylake, it’s hard to keep track. Take a gander at this video of Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington’s skins game and enjoy the wonder of a content arm dedicated for an entire year to one tournament. Epic.
— I was delighted to run into Ken Brown along the range at Royal Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon, where he was doing some prep for this weekend’s coverage with the BBC. He called it a “truly lovely” gig, and that made us truly happy. It was a crying shame when his “Brownie Points” segments went the way of the FOX USGA agreement in 2020 and disappeared into the mist. The segments were some of the most innovative forms of golf TV I’d seen in quite some time. In that 2015-2020 era on American golf TV, no voice informed me more as a rapidly growing golf fan than Ken’s.
— This video from the PGA Tour of Vin Scully calling a nightmare bunker session for Rik Massengale is the sort of content I hope to dream about when I lay down at night. I am so very glad it is in this world, and I hope you watch it, too.