New seven-year deal keeps PGA Tour on Sky Sports

Jimmy Walker, right, during the final round at Pebble Beach. Picture: AP
Jimmy Walker, right, during the final round at Pebble Beach. Picture: AP
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COVERAGE of the PGA Tour will remain on Sky Sports until at least 2022 after the channel signed a new seven-year- deal with the Florida-based organisation.

The announcement quashed rumours that the US circuit could become the next battleground between Sky Sports and BT Sport after the latter successfully muscled in on football rights, first securing a significant stake in the English Premier League coverage then capturing the prestigious Champions League rights at great cost.

Announcing the new deal, Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: “Sky Sports is the home of golf, with more of the best coverage of the best players competing in the best events than anywhere else. This new agreement with the PGA Tour is huge for us, enabling us to guarantee our viewers long term US golf coverage for the next decade.”

The new deal, which extends Sky’s partnership with the PGA Tour into its 30th year, albeit broken by a spell when the contract was lost to Setanata Sports, covers 32 live PGA Tour events per season, including The Players Championship, the season-ending FedEx Cup Play-Offs and the next four Presidents Cup matches.

“Sky is the pre-eminent sports network in the United Kingdom and has been a valued broadcast partner of the PGA Tour,” said commissioner Tim Finchem. “The Tour and Sky strongly believe in the value of our existing relationship and are excited about the future, a future that includes compelling new content that is tailor- made for tournament telecasts in the UK.”

One player looking as though he could feature prominently on that coverage is Jimmy Walker, who led by as many as six shots on Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before he had to make a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a two-over 74 and a one-shot victory over Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner. “It’s drama, man,” Walker said on the 18th green. “It was too much for me.”

But it was a familiar outcome for Walker, a 35-year-old Texan who only four months ago was regarded as one of the best players to have never won on the PGA Tour. This was his third win of the PGA Tour season, a streak that began in October about an hour away at the Open.

Walker, now world No 24, joined some exclusive company. He is only the fourth player in the last 20 years to win three times in his first eight starts to a season. The others are Tiger Woods (who has done it eight times), Phil Mickelson and David Duval. Walker finished on 11-under 277 and earned $1.188 million, expanding his lead in the Ryder Cup standings to more than $1 million over Mickelson in second place. The Ryder Cup is based on PGA Tour earnings, though there are still four majors (which count double), three World Golf Championships and The Players Championship remaining.

For now, the stars are aligned for Walker better than anything he sees through his high- powered telescope. “I just go out and play golf,” Walker said. “This is what I want to do and I’ve worked really hard to do it, to be here, and to be in this position and it’s really cool.”

Graeme McDowell, returning to Pebble Beach for the first time since his US Open title in 2010, closed with a 67, happy with a week in which he would have settled for just knocking some rust off his game before heading to Riviera, venue for the Northern Trust Open, this week.

Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie chalked up a top ten in his first 2014 appearance on the Champions Tour. Rounds of 67, 70 and 67 for a five-under total saw him finish joint-tenth in the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound in Boca Raton, Florida. Helped by an opening 60, former Scottish Open champion Michael Allen claimed the title after beating Duffy Walforf in a play-off after they’d tied on 18-under-par.