While soccer fans have been targeting Fox as it prepares to air World Cup events next year, one other sport that gets its debut with the network will be golf. And as soccer fans have been vocal about Fox’s efforts with the beautiful game, so have golf fans regarding their sport.
Fox will air the U.S. Open and other USGA events in a 12-year deal that was signed last June. To get ready for golf, Fox had Joe Buck and Greg Norman do a rehearsal covering this year’s U.S. Open, which was the last for ESPN and NBC. And this Saturday, Buck and Norman will cover Fox’s first in-house production of a PGA Tour event, the final round of the Shark Shootout live from Naples, FL.
It will give golf audiences a preview of how Fox will approach the sport and hence, the U.S. Open. Not only will Buck and Norman call the event from the 18th green, but you’ll see other members of the Fox golf team including Brad Faxon who will stationed at the 17th hole, Steve Flesch who will be assigned to the 16th hole, with Scott McCarron and swing instructor E.A. Tischler will be on-course reporters. Holly Sonders, who was lured to Fox from Golf Channel, will not be part of this event and she will make her Fox golf debut during the Open.
Golf Channel will handle the first two rounds which will be a Scramble and Alternate Shot format, then Fox will come in for the final round which will be Better Ball.
This isn’t the first time that Fox has had golf. Fox Sports Net simulcast Golf Channel’s early round PGA telecasts between 1999 and 2002 to expand the audience for the events, but they were Golf Channel productions and made no mention of Fox.
Then in 2011, Fox Sports Net aired an unofficial money PGA Tour event, the CVS Caremark Charity Classic, but did not renew its rights for the tournament.
But overall, Fox’s presence with golf has been minimal until now. And as golf fans are rather nervous about how Fox will handle their sport, having known quantities such as Norman, Faxon and McCarron should temper their uneasiness.
Golf fans have railed against Chris Berman for his calls of the U.S. Open over the years and have now set their target on Buck as he will call all four rounds of our national golf tournament. But as Fox knows, fans will have itchy trigger fingers on social media if there’s even one small misstep in their coverage, the network does have the opportunity to get some kinks out this weekend with the Shark Shootout.
We will be watching.