PGA Tour on ABC

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The PGA Tour on ABC
Abc pga logo.jpg.gif
Created by ABC Sports
Starring See list of commentators
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes N/A
Running time 180 minutes or until tournament ends
Original channel ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
Original run 1962 – 2009
External links

PGA Tour on ABC was a television program that broadcast the main professional golf tours on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network.[1][2] ABC broadcast the PGA Tour from 1966 until 2006.[3] From 1962[4] through 2009, ABC was the broadcast home of The Open Championship.

Coverage History[edit]


ABC's Wide World of Sports began televising the Open Championship in 1962, the PGA Championship in 1965, and the U.S. Open in 1966. Chris Schenkel and Byron Nelson were the initial hosts.


In 1975, Jim McKay and Dave Marr became the lead broadcast team. Also that year, Bob Rosburg joined as the first ever on-course reporter, and Peter Alliss joined as a co-anchor.


Beginning in 1982, ABC adopted its most well known format of the Wide World of Sports era. The broadcast operated using anchor teams, in which an anchor and an analyst would call all of the action from the tower at 18, and the teams would rotate after about a half-hour. Meanwhile, the three on-course reporters, which included Judy Rankin and Ed Sneed in addition to Rosburg, would be utilized when prompted by the anchor team. McKay and Marr would be the lead team, with Jack Whitaker and Alliss as the second team. Occasionally, Rosburg or Whitaker would host if McKay could not be there, and Roger Twibell would take over the second team. After his 1986 Masters win, Jack Nicklaus would appear on ABC after the end of his round and become an analyst for the rest of the telecast.


In 1990, Twibell took over as lead anchor, with Marr as his analyst. Alliss became sole anchor of the second anchor team. During this period, ABC began to pick up the rights to several non-major PGA Tour events, mostly important events such as The Memorial Tournament and The Tour Championship. 1990 would also be ABC's final PGA Championship.


In 1992, Brent Musburger, who had been heavily criticized for his hosting of golf at CBS, took over as host. Marr was dismissed from the network, while Twibell was reassigned to ESPN's golf coverage, though he occasionally hosted on ABC for a few lesser tournaments. The format was also reorganized to more emphasize the on-course reporters. Steve Melnyk moved over from CBS to become lead analyst. However, Alliss would anchor for stretches during the telecast. Beyond the team in the booth, all of ABC's other voices were on the course, including Rankin, Rosburg and newcomer Mark Rolfing.

In 1993, ABC used Peter Jacobsen as lead analyst. Jacobsen returned to playing in 1994 and Melnyk returned to the lead analyst position.

ABC continued to hold rights to select PGA Tour events, with the schedule increasing slightly in the 1995 TV deal, but still mostly emphasizing the important events only. The network lost US Open rights following an ugly split from the USGA in 1994.

Nicklaus held his position of entering the booth during major championship telecasts through this era.


After facing much criticism of its golf coverage, especially Nicklaus' involvement and Musburger's perceived lack of knowledge of the game, ABC decided to completely overhaul its golf coverage. The telecasts were made over as far as visual presentation, becoming more in line with cable partner ESPN. The format for the coverage became more standard and in line with the other networks, featuring a lead anchor team, announcers assigned to individual holes, and on-course reporters.

Mike Tirico became the host, with Curtis Strange as lead analyst. Melnyk, Alliss, and Ian Baker-Finch became hole announcers, while Rosburg, Rankin and Rolfing were the primary on-course reporters.

ABC continued its renewed commitment to golf with a new TV contract in 1999 in which the network picked up many events, including the entire fall season and two of the new World Golf Championships events. ABC partnered with ESPN on much of its coverage with ESPN showing early rounds of ABC events, in addition to its own schedule. The ABC team would work the cable telecasts in these cases.

To compensate the extra telecasts, ABC added several members to its team. Rolfing left to return to NBC and was replaced by Billy Ray Brown. Gary Smith and Mark McCumber (who had worked for the network part time in 1998) also joined as on-course reporters. Tirico and Strange worked every event, however the other cast members generally took weeks off to keep fresh.

McCumber left after 1999, Smith left after 2002, and Rosburg began to drastically cut his schedule in 2003. For 2003, Melnyk became an on-course reporter to replace Smith. Brandel Chamblee replaced Melnyk as a hole announcer.

In 2002, ABC renewed its contract with the PGA Tour through 2006, keeping a similar schedule.


After 2003, Rosburg retired, while Melnyk and Chamblee left. Baker-Finch and Alliss remained hole announcers in 2004, while ESPN's Andy North joined Brown and Rankin as an on-course reporter.

Strange left due to a contract dispute in June 2004, and was replaced as lead analyst for the rest of the season mostly by Baker-Finch, who also was lead analyst for ESPN during this time. For the rest of the season, ABC tried several players as analysts alongside Baker-Finch, including Hal Sutton and Fred Couples. Nick Faldo worked The Open Championship and caught the eye of ABC producers. It was announced before the 2004 Tour Championship that Faldo and Paul Azinger would become the lead analysts starting at the 2004 Tour Championship. The two had formerly been playing rivals and had gone head to head in both The Open Championship and the Ryder Cup. This pairing was met with wide praise and acclaim by critics.

With Faldo and Azinger on board, Baker-Finch moved back to a hole announcer role. The rest of the team remained intact, with the addition of Terry Gannon as an occasional host or hole announcer.

In the spring of 2006, Judy Rankin began a battle with breast cancer. She was replaced by ESPN's Bill Kratzert as an on-course reporter.

It was announced in early 2006 that both ESPN and ABC had lost their rights to the PGA Tour after the season. Mike Tirico was given the position as lead announcer for Monday Night Football. He left the golf team following the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. Gannon took over as lead host for the remainder of ABC's final season.

Also at the Deutsche Bank event, ABC Sports was rebranded as ESPN on ABC, with ESPN graphics being used on the ABC telecast.

ABC's final PGA Tour-sanctioned event was the unofficial Target World Challenge, hosted by Tiger Woods. Rankin returned from her medical leave and Rosburg came out of retirement to work as on-course reporters for the final telecast.


In 2007, ESPN and ABC covered just the first two rounds of the US Open and the final two rounds of the Open Championship. Baker-Finch and Faldo both moved to CBS, while Brown moved to the Golf Channel. North, Kratzert and a fully healthy Rankin became the on-on course reporters for both ESPN and ABC. For the ABC telecasts of the Open, the 2006 booth team made a special return, including CBS's Faldo. Gannon and Alliss called holes for the telecast.


In 2008, ESPN reorganized its golf coverage, gaining rights to The Masters, and all coverage across both ESPN and ABC being identical except for Masters telecasts which were produced by CBS.

Additionally, ABC telecasts did not use the experimental scoring banner that ESPN's telecasts used across the top of the screen in 2008 and 2009.

Faldo did not return and was not replaced, thus Tirico and Azinger became the lead booth announcers. Curtis Strange returned to the network, joining Gannon and Tom Weiskopf as a hole announcer. North, Rankin and Kratzert remained on-course reporters. Alliss became an analyst for holes that Gannon was assigned to.

ABC's final live telecast was the 2009 Open Championship, in which Tom Watson nearly won the championship at the age of 59. Watson had worked for ABC as a guest analyst at the previous year's Open and had been scheduled to do so again.


ESPN moved all live golf coverage to cable in 2010, with ABC screening a three hour encore presentation in the traditional golf timeslot of 3-6 pm eastern time on the same day, for the Open Championship only. ESPN reorganized the coverage team that year with several additions and changes, but Tirico and Azinger remain the lead announcers to the present day. For more on ESPN's golf coverage since 2010, see Golf on ESPN.

Coverage Overview[edit]

As previously mentioned, ABC had televised the British Open since 1962. From 1966-1994, the network broadcast the U.S. Open.[5] In 1991, coverage of the Skins Game[6] moved to ABC Sports, after NBC got the rights to Notre Dame football. They also covered the Sunday singles of the Ryder Cup in 1975 (with Jim McKay as the lead commentator), 1979, 1983, and 1987 (in 1987, ABC covered approximately 2.5 hours each on Saturday as well as Sunday), the PGA Championship from 1965-1990[7] and LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship from 19912005.

From 1999-2002 and 2004-2006, ABC broadcast the Bob Hope Classic. CBS covered the Bob Hope Classic in 2003 due to ABC's involvement with Super Bowl XXXVII. Prior to 2007, USA and ESPN/ABC consistently covered all four courses used for the event, with the primary camera crew covering PGA West, but live coverage still emanating from the other courses. However, when Golf Channel took over coverage, the network only assigned live coverage to PGA West (both the Palmer and Nicklaus courses). All other courses used did not receive live coverage at all, with an hourly highlights package sent in and played, but none of it live. This has been the approach consistently taken by Golf Channel in regards to tournaments with multiple courses, including the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Walt Disney World Golf Classic.


During the third round of the 1997 Tour Championship (November 1, 1997), ABC employees staged a one-day boycott due to an employee being disciplined for drawing an obscene cartoon of Disney chairman Michael Eisner (Disney had recently purchased ABC). ABC showed final round coverage of the 1996 Tour Championship in the broadcast window.[8] In 2004, ABC cut away from the final round of the Buick Classic PGA Tour golf tournament at 7 p.m. ET to show a rerun of America's Funniest Home Videos. Three players were involved in a sudden-death shootout when ABC signed off.[9] Again, this was only in the Eastern and Central time zones; West Coast viewers stuck with ABC until the end.

Monday Night Golf[edit]

From 1999-2005, ABC broadcast Monday Night Golf, a series of seven match play golf challenge matches that all involved World Number 1 Tiger Woods. It marked the first time that live golf had been shown in prime time during the week in the United States.[10] Monday Night Golf proved to be an initial success, drawing more viewers than the final round of the U.S. Open,[11] and being second only to the final round of the Masters Tournament in terms of golf broadcasts.[12] Ratings increased significantly for the second match,[13] but they declined rapidly after that,[14][15] and the event was finally cancelled after the 2005 edition.

ESPN in the picture[edit]

Following the 2009 British Open, ABC's sister network ESPN would have exclusive US rights to The Open Championship. This marked the first time in the television era that a major championship will not be aired on one of the country's major over-the-air broadcast networks. ABC still airs a condensed recording of ESPN's coverage of the third and fourth rounds at 3:00PM, titled The Open Championship Today. ABC also reairs the final rounds of the Senior British Open Championship and Women's British Open.


Theme music[edit]

Beginning in the mid-1970s, ABC Sports used Barry White's "Love's Theme" as the opening theme music for its live golf coverage. This theme was finally retired midway through 1997 with the reorganization of ABC's golf coverage.

From 1997-1999 a new generic sports theme was used through the broadcasts. However, a distinct separate theme would close the broadcasts.

From the WGC event at the end of 1999 through the 2003 season, another theme was introduced which was more heroic sounding than the previous music. The closing music from 1997 was retained to end broadcasts during this period. Additionally, The Open Championship had its own distinct theme during this period.

From 2004-2006, a theme composed by Nonstop Music was used for all events, including The Open Championship. ABC Sports was rebranded as ESPN on ABC in time for the 2006 Deutsche Bank Championship. This called for the rebranding of ABC Sports broadcasts as ESPN programs including graphics and theme music. While golf did use ESPN graphics, the networks kept their separate theme songs through the end of the season (and ABC's contract).

In 2007, remaining golf telecasts on ABC began using ESPN's golf themes composed by Bob Christianson. In 2008 and 2009, for The Open Championship, the ESPN golf theme was used, but with bagpipes playing the main melody. ABC's live coverage of golf ended after 2009, however their replays of ESPN's weekend telecasts use the R&A theme song composed by Nonstop Music in 2010.


  1. ^ Google Search - Golf on ABC
  2. ^ Google Search - PGA Tour on ABC
  3. ^ "2006 PGA Tour Schedule". GolfLink. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "History of British Open on US TV (1962-present)". Classic Sports TV and Media. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "History of US Open golf TV coverage (1954-present)". Classic Sports TV and Media. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Nov 6, 1992 - ... ``Getting an undefeated BC is the first big surprise we've had in two years, says NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol. ... ABC has extended golf's Skins Game contract for three years. ... With ESPN's 1.0 rating since the first game, the NHL has hardly added fans since the sport did a ...
  7. ^ "History of PGA Championship TV coverage (1958-present)". Classic Sports TV and Media. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Labor dispute disruptions of sports on TV
  9. ^ ABC cuts away from Buick Classic playoff
  10. ^ Brown, Clifton (May 11, 1999). "A Woods-Duval Match In Prime Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  11. ^ "Prime-Time Golf Shootout Is a Ratings Success". Los Angeles Times. August 4, 1999. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  12. ^ "Woods to take on Garcia in Match-Play showdown". RTÉ. March 23, 2000. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  13. ^ Bonk, Thomas (August 2, 2004). "Tonight's Match Has Commercial Appeal for Some". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  14. ^ "Monday Night Golf not going anywhere". Sporting News. July 29, 2003. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  15. ^ "Battle at the Bridges goes through ratings collapse". USA Today. August 3, 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 

External links[edit]