Phil Mickelson’s three-shot win in the British Open yesterday helped give ESPN its highest final-round rating for the event since it moved to cable. ESPN earned a 3.6 overnight Nielsen rating from 8:00am-1:30pm ET for Mickelson’s come-from-behind win, up 10% from a 3.3 for Ernie Els’ win last year. While it is the highest mark in the four years since the tournament went solely to cable, yesterday’s rating remains below the 3.9 overnight the final round in ’09 got on ABC. Saturday’s third-round coverage drew a 3.1 overnight rating, up slightly from a 3.0 overnight in ’12 (THE DAILY).
CHAMPION NETWORK OF THE YEAR? GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann wrote the "first 33 hours or so of ESPN’s coverage were often exasperating," but the final four hours "were exhilarating." Kaufmann: "There were moments on Sunday morning when I literally caught myself holding my breath ... because I was so enthralled by the coverage and the drama that was playing out. ... I was mesmerized by the final few hours of coverage." Kaufmann added he "really respected the discipline that ESPN showed in its handling of Tiger Woods’ final round." When Woods slipped to 2-over-par, ESPN "kept its focus on those who had passed him." Meanwhile, the net's microphones "picked up Woods yelling a profanity on No. 5," and anchor Mike Tirico "handled this deftly." He said, “We hear that all too often ... unfortunately" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/21). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote ESPN's Tirico and Scott Van Pelt and ESPN Radio's Bob Wischusen "did sensational work during the tournament." When ESPN "sends a professional host ... to an event and the host opts to make the broadcast about the event and not about the host, they get a great broadcast" (SI.com, 7/21). SPORTS ON EARTH's Peter Richmond wrote ESPN's coverage "turned out to be uncluttered, unhistrionic and altogether … professional." The net "pretty much allowed the sport to speak for itself." The "biggest disappointment" was the "absence of the one graphic any major needs: a leaderboard box throughout the round, tucked into an upper corner." But for the "most part, we were given huge chunks of graphic-free golf, for once, blessed stretches when the screen was entirely absent of anything but players." On-course reporters Judy Rankin and Dottie Pepper's analysis "was terse and enlightening" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 7/21).
TIGER WATCH CONTINUES: GOLF DIGEST's John Strege wrote Woods on Saturday played an "imprecise shot at the second hole causing him to vocally express his displeasure in a manner frowned upon by network television executives." ESPN's Paul Azinger said, "Tiger's either unaware the microphone is there or he doesn't care." ESPN's Sean McDonough replied, "Clearly, he doesn't care, Paul, because you have to be a fool to not be aware there are microphones everywhere" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 7/20). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Azinger "abandons his candor -- and sacrifices our respect -- the moment" Woods appears. Azinger during ESPN's coverage Thursday and Friday "dove south the moment Woods teed off." Mushnick: "The Tiger-centric telecasts -- even throughout majors -- long ago became transparently ridiculous, even before Woods proved he is not the most fabulous guy in the world" (N.Y. POST, 7/22). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes, "Mickelson gets the win and 10 per cent of the media coverage -- while 90 per cent goes to Tiger Woods and the relentlessly self-promoting Lindsey Vonn" (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/22).
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS: The N.Y. POST's Mushnick notes after a three-putt from Lee Westwood, ESPN’s Curtis Strange "borrowed from tennis to call it 'an unforced error.'” Mushnick: "There are forced errors in golf?" Then there was Azinger’s "observation Zach Johnson 'has a commitment to impact.' Who in the field didn’t?" (N.Y. POST, 7/22).