With Setanta filing for bankruptcy, PGA Tour goes dark in UK

By Doug Ferguson, AP
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PGA Tour looking for TV partner for Britain

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — The PGA Tour is broadcast to more than 230 countries in 35 languages with a maximum reach of just under 600 million homes. For the moment, it has gone dark in an important part of the world.

Irish-based Setanta Sports, which had broadcast rights to the PGA Tour among other sports in Britain, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday and said it will soon stop broadcasting to customers in Britain.

Setanta’s contract with the PGA Tour started in 2007 and was to expire in 2012.

“The PGA Tour is disappointed that Setanta has gone into administration,” the PGA Tour said in a statement, referring to the British term for bankruptcy. “Our main focus going forward will be to immediately and aggressively explore all options that will ensure that the PGA Tour will continue to be made available on television in the U.K.”

Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said Setanta would be off the air Tuesday night, meaning the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., would not be televised in Britain this week until the tour can replace Setanta.

Sky Sports previously had the PGA Tour rights for Britain, and it continues to broadcast the majors and the World Golf Championships through an agreement with the European Tour. Other options for the PGA Tour could include Eurosport and ESPN, which now has a presence in Europe to television Premier League soccer, among other things.

ESPN has not televised the PGA Tour in the United States since 2006, except for the majors.

“I don’t think we’re going to be off long,” Votaw said. “We think we have a valuable product, an attractive product. We have a lot of international players, including players from the U.K., and it’s shown in prime time.”

Votaw declined to say how much Setanta paid for PGA Tour broadcast rights, only that it was a “lucrative agreement.” He said it had paid the tour for its first 2½ years.

BUSY CHAMP: The most hectic time for any major champion — except for Tiger Woods, who has done this 14 times — are the two days after winning, and Lucas Glover is no exception.

He was atop the Empire State Building (104th floor, not the antenna) on Tuesday, and had an appearance planned with David Letterman. There were a number of TV appearances during his whirlwind stop through the Big Apple.

Glover, however, will stay even busier inside the ropes.

He had planned to play this week at the Travelers Championship, and winning the U.S. Open over five days was not going to change that. Tournament officials asked if he would play in the pro-am Wednesday, and Glover wouldn’t even back out of that.

“That would give me a break on Tuesday, and they’re doing everything they can to bring me there,” he said. “I like the tournament, I like the course and I’m playing well. Why not play there?”

He also will stick with the AT&T National at Congressional next week, mainly because “that’s one of our biggest sponsors.”

A week off after that? Nope.

“I’ve been playing the John Deere Classic since my rookie season, and Clair has been very good to me,” he said, referring to tournament director Clair Peterson.

As for the following week? Glover grinned.

“I think this gets me in the British Open,” he said, which follows the John Deere Classic.

That would be five straight weeks, starting with his U.S. Open victory. Maybe by then, he’ll have come down from the clouds.

BETHPAGE BANTER: Every player seemed to have stories of comments they heard from the New York gallery during the U.S. Open, and most of them could not be repeated.

Rory McIlroy still couldn’t believe what he saw Saturday evening before starting the third round.

He was on the 10th tee with Anthony Kim, the gallery chanting and shouting. Kim teed off, and the USGA official announced McIlroy.

“They started chanting, ‘Rory, Rory, Rory, Rory,’ so I can’t tee off for about five minutes,” he said. “While I am waiting, I see this guy out of the right corner of my eye. He walks about 5 yards, throws up because he has had so much to drink, and then he runs back to the ropes and starts shouting again. Now that is a loyal supporter.”

LOW SCORES: Bethpage Black surely was not the beast it was in 2002, not with so much rain on a course that already was saturated. Some of the highlights will come in handy for those wanting an immediate change in grooves next year, with balls spinning back on shots from the deep rough to soft greens.

The tally at the end of four rounds over five days: 60 rounds in the 60s, the third-most in the U.S. Open.

The leader remains Olympia Fields in 2003, where rain pounded the course south of Chicago all week and it didn’t get firm until the final round, when Jim Furyk shot 72 and still tied the U.S. Open scoring record at 272. There were 83 rounds in the 60s that week.

Next is 76 rounds in the 60s at Baltusrol in 1993, where Lee Janzen also tied the 72-hole scoring record.

DIVOTS: Tiger Woods is tournament host of the AT&T National next week at Congressional, which is Washington Redskins territory. Yet he will be playing the pro-am Wednesday with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Other sports figures in the pro-am are Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, receiver Antwaan Randle El and Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. … Ron Green Sr. has been selected to receive the Memorial Golf Journalism Award for 2010. Green, a columnist for The Charlotte Observer, has covered the Masters for the last 53 years and has written a book, “Shouting at Amen Corner.” He previously was honored by the PGA of America with its Lifetime Achievement Award. … Attendance for the U.S. Open was 277,534 over five days in the rain, about 10,000 fewer than in 2002. That ranks fourth all-time behind 2005 (Pinehurst No. 2), 2008 (Torrey Pines) and 2002 (Bethpage Black).

STAT OF THE WEEK: Phil Mickelson and Ross Fisher are the only players to finish under par in both majors this year.

FINAL WORD: “I also got the horrible end of the draw last year at Royal Birkdale. But (Padraig) Harrington played in the group behind me, and he won the British Open.” — Geoff Ogilvy on players complaining about getting the worst of the weather at Bethpage Black.

will not be displayed