In a move to establish credibility with golf fans, it appears Fox will hire Paul Azinger as its analyst for the U.S. Open and other USGA events in 2016 and beyond. It comes ten days after Fox let Greg Norman go after a poor performance at Chambers Bay in the network’s first year as USGA rightsholder.
Golf Digest reports that Azinger will sign a multi-year contract and a source tells Awful Announcing it could happen as early as today. Azinger has been affiliated with ESPN/ABC dating back to 2004 when he worked PGA Tour events as well as the Open Championship and ESPN’s weekday coverage of the U.S. Open through 2014. When ESPN lost the PGA Tour, Azinger remained with the Worldwide Leader to call the Open with Mike Tirico. But with ESPN opting out of its last year of its contract to air the Open Championship this year and thus allowing NBC/Golf Channel to take over, Azinger became a free agent.
Azinger will not only partner with Joe Buck on the U.S. Open at Oakmont this year, he’ll also work the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Women’s Open. This will not only make for a better fit for Fox, but it provides the network with an experienced analyst on America’s national golf championship.
Fox’s golf producer Mark Loomis is familiar with Azinger as he was the man behind the decision to bring Zinger to ABC and team him with Nick Faldo in 2004 and make them along with Tirico one of golf’s better broadcast tandems in the mid-aughts.
The knock on Norman last year was not only his inexperience as an analyst, but his lack of knowledge on golfers, his disinterest in the booth plus his tendency to disappear at key moments. But now with Azinger about to come on-board with Fox, there’s the potential for Azinger to really become Fox’s version of Johnny Miller. When Norman was hired, Fox had promoted him as its version of Miller, but instead of being candid, he ended up being wishy-washy in the booth when moments called for honesty.
Azinger may not go as far as Miller to say “choke,” but he is willing to call out poor play when it is warranted. It appears that Fox is ready move on from having Greg Norman in the booth and by bringing Azinger on board, it’s hoping that it will gain some much needed traction with golf fans.
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