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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan

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

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