Watson's TV Gig Could Extend Beyond British Open

Tom Watson, five-time winner of the British Open Golf Championship, will provide analysis for ABC's coverage of the tournament July 19 and 20 from Royal Birkdale Golf Club, site of his fifth and final Open Championship victory in 1983.

Co-anchoring the coverage are Mike Tirico and Paul Azinger.

An executive for ABC said Watson kept open the possibility of doing more golf analysis for the network, telling ABC: "Let's see how these two days go."

Producer Chris Ohlmeyer said Watson was really interested in the TV side, having hung around the editing suite four years ago for ABC's coverage of the Skins Game.

"He is taking this seriously," he told reporters Monday on a call about the Open and Watson's new role. "He is not just going to play and hop into the booth." Tirico added that Watson watched a lot of TV golf, as well.

Watson did not make his date with reporters, however, with scheduling conflicts cited as the reason for missing his first conference call as an analyst.

As a former champion, Watson will play at least the first two days of the chamionship. Then ideally, he would just make the cut, an ABC executive said, so that he would still be playing in the final rounds but would finish soon enough to be in the booth for the TV coverage of the leaders. In essence, Watson and ABC are assuming that he won't be on the leader board come Sunday.

"Imagine Kobe Bryant playing in the first half of a championship game, then coming up to the booth for the second half," Tirico said.

ABC, in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corp., will provide 11 hours of live coverage, as well as recaps in late-night for the first two rounds Thursday and Friday and highlight shows Saturday and Sunday afternoons (the live coverage is in the morning due to the time difference).

ABC and ESPN are also pulling out all of the technical stops for the coverage, which will include a first-ver aerial camera mounted on an airplane as well as super slow motion and ball tracking.

Blimps have been the aerial shot du jour for golf, but there are no blimps in the United Kingdom, coordinating producer Mike McQuade said, adding that technology had improved so that the planes could fly in gusty winds -- 40-50 miles per hour -- and still be able to get the overhead shots.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.