Sky ready to strike deal for US Open – but only if price is right
USGA confident Winged Foot major will be on British screens Mickelson backs new world No 1 Rahm to get even better
Fears are abating that the US Open will not be screened on British television for the first time this century. However, Sky Sports is still ready to walk away from the negotiating table if the United States Golf Association insists on too high a price for the rights.
It was reported in February that the UK satellite company had yet to sign a deal with the organisers of the US’s national championship after the last five-year contract ended in 2019.
Indeed, but for the pandemic and the rescheduling of the major from June to September, many insiders believe that this year’s tournament at Winged Foot would have appeared only on a streaming website.
But then, at the end of last month, Fox Sports shocked the game by pulling out as broadcast hosts, ditching the 12-year contract halfway through, and NBC stepped in to fill the void at a reduced cost. This weakened the USGA’s position with its overseas contracts and has given Sky confidence a suitable deal will be agreed in the next fortnight.
When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, the USGA sounded optimistic. “We continue to be in conversation with them [Sky] and look to arrive at a joint resolution,” Craig Annis, the USGA’s chief brand officer, said.
That will be a relief to UK golf fans, who will remember that the last US Open at Winged Foot in 2006 produced one of the most dramatic majors in memory. Australian Geoff Ogilvy stepped through the rubble as Colin Montgomerie and then Phil Mickelson threw away what seemed almost certain victories down the 18th. The US PGA, which takes place at Harding Park in San Francisco in two weeks, will be the first major of the season.
Jon Rahm has established himself as the favourite after becoming just the second Spaniard, following Severiano Ballesteros, to top the rankings courtesy of his win at the Memorial on Sunday.
Rahm, 25, was eight shots clear at the turn but saw his lead whittled down to three with four holes remaining. He chipped in on the 16th for what appeared a birdie and that all but confirmed that he would usurp Rory McIlroy as world No1.
However, television cameras showed Rahm had moved his ball when placing his club behind it in the rough and, when he arrived at the scorer’s hut, he was told he would be hit by a two-shot penalty. No matter, Rahm was five clear anyway and accepted the sanction.
McIlroy will have the chance at next week’s World Golf Championship in Memphis to reclaim the crown, but Mickelson – who knows Rahm well, after his brother Tim first signed him up to Arizona State University as a teenager – has warned his rivals he could be there for some time.
“Jon Rahm is a remarkable talent and you’re seeing it in a game that has no weaknesses – drives it long, straight, good iron play, good wedge player, great putter,” Mickelson said. “He will only get better.”
Leader: Jon Rahm’s win lifted him to world No 1