Golf Channel explains lack of live golf coverage to frustrated fans
A sketchy weather forecast led the PGA Tour to push up Sunday tee times for the final round of the Workday Charity Open. But some golf fans were dismayed when, partway through the final round, the live coverage suddenly cut off.
Golf Channel aired the first two hours of the broadcast, from 9-11 a.m. ET, and the coverage got off to a rollicking start. Third-round leader Justin Thomas lost his advantage with two early bogeys, playing partner Viktor Hovland took the lead and then Collin Morikawa took it for himself with a near-ace followed by an eagle. But as the final group played the par-5 7th hole, Golf Channel’s Whit Watson signed off, directing TV viewers to CBS’ coverage, which would take over on tape delay at — 3 p.m.
Golf fans are used to dealing with the “coverage gap” that often interrupts the action midway through final rounds as coverage shifts from Golf Channel to CBS. But that’s generally limited to 15 or so minutes (unless a springtime Big Ten basketball game goes to overtime). In this case, fans’ only options to continue watching live golf were to head to cbssports.com for online streaming or pgatour.com to watch “featured groups,” which didn’t include the leaders.
Golf Channel/NBC Sports Executive Producer Molly Solomon took to Twitter to explain her company’s side, as Golf Channel continued to provide updates and analysis (but not live broadcast coverage) via Golf Central before switching to other programming, including a Feherty interview with Thomas.
“Feel compelled to explain TV rights to all those rabid golf fans,” she wrote. “Golf Channel has rights to the weekend lead-in coverage which is comprised of 2 hours before network coverage begins.
“Golf Channel was live from 9-11 AM and CBS is currently streaming live coverage on multiple sites. They will have tape-delayed coverage at 3 PM. Golf Channel doesn’t have rights to current window. Hence, Golf Central keeping you updated.”
Golf Channel’s main account retweeted the messages.
In other words, Golf Channel had little choice but to cede its coverage to the Tour’s other broadcast partners — in this case, CBS and the Tour itself.
Golf has always been relatively unique in the way its lengthy final-round broadcasts often switch networks, but it’s rare for other major sports to only televise a tape-delayed version of competition. Golf’s broadcast networks have always had to contend with shifting schedules, whether that means a tournament is rain-delayed (often leading to a re-broadcast from the previous year) or tee times are shifted around (as they were on Sunday). But the easy availability of live scoring combined with the ubiquity of live betting and daily fantasy has only increased the demand to show the tournament’s conclusion in real time.
With tense back-and-forth coming down the stretch, plenty of golf fans tuned in to cbssports.com to stream the finale. Others continued to express their frustration on social media. A third, less-online contingent undoubtedly waited to flip on CBS’ coverage until 3 p.m., where they could watch blissfully unaware that the tournament had concluded some 60 minutes earlier.