6 takeaways from NBC’s coverage of a U.S. Open thriller

bryson dechambeau celebrates at the us open

Bryson DeChambeau cheers at the U.S. Open.

Darren Riehl

Welcome back to another extended edition of the Hot Mic Newsletter, GOLF’s weekly send covering all things golf media from me, James Colgan. This week, we’re talking NBC’s up-and-down U.S. Open. As always, if you’d like to be the first to receive exclusive insights like these directly from me, click the link here to subscribe to our free newsletter send.


Bryson DeChambeau’s putt fell into the center of the hole and a sigh of relief came from NBC Sports brass.

The U.S. Open was over, and NBC survived an epic finish mostly without a hitch, covering the late-stage drama between Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy in a way that satisfied even some of the most jaded viewers. On a week in which NBC entered on the hot seat, it exited with one of the best national championships in recent memory, rewarded for its investment in golf with what was sure to be a massive set of TV ratings.

After a tough year in the golf TV biz, NBC had scored a much-needed victory. Sure, a playoff would’ve been better, but it was hard to quibble.

It got better on Tuesday morning, when the latest batch of ratings data showed exactly what many expected: NBC had delivered 5.9 million average viewers on Sunday afternoon, an average audience for the event’s last five years but a big one for an event unaided by the West Coast’s primetime viewing slots.

But what did the U.S. Open mean for the network writ large? And was the rest of the week as successful as Sunday evening? We dig into it all below.

6 lessons from NBC’s U.S. Open coverage

1. The ratings were good

Like, very good. And don’t think audience size doesn’t matter, because if it didn’t, the networks wouldn’t bother reporting these numbers in the first place.

NBC delivering 5.9 million average viewers on Sunday wasn’t quite as big as Wyndham Clark’s triumph last June in Los Angeles (6.3 million), but it was large enough to stem off any of the more cataclysmic concerns facing the state of golf on television. After a year in which falling ratings have become the talk of every stakeholder in the industry, Bryson and Rory proved that two stars locked in a battle for major championship glory is still enough to draw the attention of a significant TV audience. That’s a win for the USGA, NBC and advertisers.

2. Some parts of the product *were* better

I was surprised when NBC Sports chief Sam Flood told the Hot Mic of his plan to shift NBC’s resources toward the network’s biggest golf events last month. But Flood showed those efforts weren’t just talk at Pinehurst No. 2, where the network delivered easily its most engaging telecast of the year.

USGA CEO Mike Whan was delivering a little bluster when he said NBC’s telecast of the U.S. Open was larger than the Super Bowl (true, but largely due to the considerably larger production footprint for golf tournaments). Still, his point spoke to a larger theme: NBC was invested in the product at Pinehurst, and the improvements from last year were notable — more cameras, better graphics, an improved on-course commentating team and the more established nature of the odd-even structure.

3. But … the pressure showed

I was surprised by Flood’s words last month because they made life hard on NBC. By stating his desire to see NBC knock its biggest events out of the park, Flood raised the stakes on the quality of NBC’s broadcast during the U.S. Open and Open Championship in 2024, and that’s a scary bet.

On Saturday afternoon — when NBC’s trucks briefly lost leaderboards, graphics and audio connection with the lead groups — we saw why. A routine (if unfortunate) technical failure became a referendum on NBC’s handling of golf in 2024, with many blaming the issues on the network’s supposed unpreparedness for golf telecasts.

It seems Flood is not done tinkering with the NBC product (evident if only by his decision not to hire a full-time lead analyst), but the network is learning firsthand that golf fans won’t have much patience for growing pains.

4. Brandel Chamblee looked (and sounded) comfortable in lead chair

We can disagree about whether Brandel Chamblee was too critical of LIV Golf to earn NBC’s lead golf analyst job (I think it’s part of the gig to be critical), but I thought the Live From voice looked and sounded like he belonged on NBC’s telecast.

I would have liked to hear a more pointed style of analysis from him throughout the weekend, particularly in the aftermath of Rory McIlroy’s missed four-footer that cost him the tournament on the 72nd hole, but I thought Chamblee did nothing to hurt his candidacy at Pinehurst.

5. The graphics work deserves praise

Not sure I’ve seen a better in-tournament production element this year than NBC’s “effective green size” graphics throughout Pinehurst week. Nothing flashy, but they were a simple way to improve the viewing experience and educate viewers. One of the small bells and whistles that can take a broadcast from boring to better, and at a venue as subtle as Pinehurst No. 2, they most certainly made the telecast better.

6. The commercials were … OK

We have heard a lot in recent years about NBC and the USGA’s decision to eliminate interruptions throughout the U.S. Open telecast. The final form of those changes seemed to take shape this year, with both network and governing body agreeing to remove at least 2 minutes per hour of “house ads” (or self-promotional advertisements) throughout the week’s coverage.

Golf fans mocked the change when it was announced, and for good reason, but the tweaks did result in a less intrusive product this year, as intrepid SBJ reporter Josh Carpenter reported on Sunday.

Of course, almost an hour of commercials during a seven-hour telecast that included one full commercial-free hour is … suboptimal. But considering the utter onslaught that joined some previous years’ telecasts, we’ll chalk this one up as a marginal win for the viewers. Future reductions should still be considered a significant priority — particularly as the USGA begins negotiating its next round of rights deals.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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