The Open Championship (or British Open, to those who aren’t too well-versed in the golf world) begins on Thursday, and ESPN has learned their lesson from the shambolic featured groups at The Masters earlier this year.

During Day One of coverage on Thursday, the first featured group on ESPN3 will consist of Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Hideki Matsuyama. That trio tees off at 4:33 AM eastern, a half hour after ESPN’s coverage begins bright and early at 4 AM.

Once their round is completed, the featured group feed will shift to coverage of Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar. They tee off at 9:34 AM eastern. The broadcasters for both pairings are Trey Wingo, Allen Bestwick, Tom Weiskopf, and Carl Paulson.

Spieth is the guy that everyone, from casual fans to diehards, is most interested in during this tournament, and getting him as much airtime as possible is simply the logical move for ESPN. While most on the east coast will just be waking up as he finishes his round, at least those crazy enough to wake up early for the featured group¬†coverage won’t be hung out to dry with a mediocre group. Also, ESPN deserves some kudos for not taking the easy out and giving Tiger Woods (along with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen) the featured slot. Woods’s group tees off just 20 minus after Spieth’s group.

Mickelson’s still a popular and competitive golfer, so choosing his group (along with Stenson and Kuchar, who aren’t exactly slouches) isn’t a surprise. However, teeing off just after those three is the trio of Justin Rose, Nick Faldo, and Rickie Fowler – that might be a more palatable pairing when all is said and done, but we’re probably just splitting hairs now.

[ESPN]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.