The player handed the honour of hitting the first shot in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon will be watched by more than just a posse of R&A officials and a small group of keen spectators.
For the first time in the event’s history, the opening blow in the game’s oldest major will be shown live as part of “round-the-clock coverage” by Sky Sports, the event’s new host broadcaster, on a dedicated Open Championship channel.
Paul Lawrie, the 1999 champion, performed the honour of getting the 2010 tournament under way at St Andrews, where Australian Rod Pampling struck the first blow in anger last year. Those shots were captured by photographers and wired around the world but, on this occasion in mid-July, the TV cameras will be the first with that image.
“The Open is the pre-eminent golf major and we will offer the championship the coverage it deserves,” said Barney Francis, Sky Sports’ managing director. “With a dedicated channel, we will offer viewers the complete story live from Royal Troon, from the opening tee shot to the final putt. We’re excited and honoured to be covering the event and can’t wait for it to begin.”
Sky Sports had been scheduled to broadcast the event live for the first time in 2017 after securing a reported £15 million-a-year deal with the R&A that runs until 2021. However, that was moved forward by 12 months after the BBC, which had broadcast the event live for more than 60 years, gave up its deal one year early.
The channel being dedicated to the event by the satellite broadcaster will span ten days, including live coverage of all four days’ play and practice rounds, evening highlights of each day’s play plus a “host of documentaries and shows exploring the unique allure of the Open”.
Welcoming the widespread coverage, Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, said: “The Open is a true celebration of world-class sport. We are delighted with the comprehensive and innovative coverage that Sky Sports will deliver from the build-up to the Championship at Royal Troon through to the crowning of the Champion Golfer of the Year.
“The Open holds a special place in the hearts of sports fans who appreciate the unrelenting challenge that is presented to the world’s best players and we know that Sky Sports will broadcast the championship with great insight and expertise.”
Meanwhile, senior staff at Turnberry are keen to see the Open Championship return there as soon as possible so that the world’s best players get to play the Ailsa Course following its major re-design. “Events like the Senior Open and Women’s British Open are something we’d like to be involved in again, having staged both in the recent past, but the Open is the jewel in the crown for us,” admitted Ricky Hall, the resort’s director of golf.