Photo: Golfweek

After five years as NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst, Paul Azinger’s time at the network ended in November. And the 63-year-old was reportedly surprised by the sudden decision.

Azinger recently revealed to Golfweek that he’s not missing the stress and pressure of being a golf analyst, though he harbors frustrations about his exit from NBC Sports. Despite enjoying his newfound free time, he expressed discontent over how his departure unfolded, hinting as much about the situation in the tell-all interview.

Azinger said that a potential snag emerged in negotiations between him and NBC Sports despite reaching an apparent agreement on the duration and schedule of a one-year extension. The sticking point reportedly involved the offered compensation, which was lower than Azinger’s previous pay. In response, Azinger proposed aligning his contract renewal with that of lead announcer Dan Hicks, whose contract expires in late 2024.

Here’s how that played out:

“Dan and I already had talked about it. I was ready to keep going. I thought I was gonna go for about five more years to be honest,” Azinger said. “I thought I would do at least one more year and then sign a four-year deal. They made the offer, my agent said ‘no, we’ll counteroffer the next day.’ And they said, ‘Sorry, we’re moving on.’

“You know, it wasn’t a conversation with me, like, ‘What do you need Zinger? What do we need to do? Here’s our situation. You know, this is why we need you to accept this deal.’ There was no reason, it just was it’s complicated, it’s complicated. I was like, ‘How complicated can it be, bud?’ It’s money.

“For me to be able to do NBC was the greatest opportunity and blessing. I was the lead analyst at ABC, at ESPN, and at NBC and that was awesome. I’ve had two full careers and it was a great run. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to do NBC. I wish it could have ended up better for me. I was ready to keep going and I thought we were negotiating in good faith.”

Azinger was particularly unhappy with NBC Sports executive vice president & president of production Sam Flood’s handling of his negotiations. Flood took over day-to-day oversight of Golf Channel production in August, replacing Mark Loomis.

“Sam Flood came in and was just, you know, just an a-hole about it,” recalls Azinger. “All we were doing was making a counteroffer, and they said, ‘No, that was take it or leave.’ And I said, ‘Sam, was that presented to us as take it or leave it?’ ‘It’s complicated, Zinger,’ he said. I talked to him for 23-24 minutes and every time I would ask him a question, it would be like, ‘Are you upset or something?’ We had [the parameters of a deal] done. Are we not supposed to negotiate with you? And he wouldn’t say anything. And it was like, ‘Nope, we’re moving on.’ There was never anything like ‘Zinger, this is all we can do. This is our best shot.’

“My poor manager, he’s sitting there like, ‘What happened?’ That’s how it went down. We just wish it would have ended differently because, honestly, I’m kind of happy it ended.”

As NBC/Golf Channel hasn’t solidified a permanent replacement for Azinger, the network has been experimenting with various analysts throughout the season. This has included rotating established commentators like Brandel Chamblee and Paul McGinley, alongside even current PGA Tour players like Luke Donald.

Frustrated by NBC/Golf Channel budget cuts, Azinger took a jab at their financial priorities.

He voiced his belief that cost-cutting overshadowed quality, evidenced by eliminated equipment like drones, consolidated booths, and the inability to capture certain shots. He further predicted that this trend would continue, with resources primarily focused on the financially lucrative Players Championship.

As for who he thinks his replacement should be, Azinger threw a curveball.

He surprisingly suggested Charles Barkley as a potential replacement, highlighting his ability to connect with athletes facing pressure, a valuable quality for any analyst, not just TNT’s Inside the NBA star. However, he acknowledged the reality of the situation, recognizing that Barkley’s likely higher salary wouldn’t fit NBC/Golf Channel’s current cost-cutting focus,

And Barkley likely has enough on his plate as is.


About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.