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A very 'open Open'

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Paul Davies | 09:17 UK time, Wednesday, 16 July 2008

When the field of 156 players line up for the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale they will not be haunted by the presence of Tiger Woods. The world number one underwent surgery on his knee after heroically winning the US Open, despite being in severe pain, and is ruled out of The Open and probably for the rest of the year.

Various people keep asking me how this will affect the viewing figures and the honest truth is 'not massively'! Whilst there is talk of audiences dropping by up to 30% in America we do have evidence that when Tiger is not in contention, say at the Masters or the Open (both BBC events), then interest is not diminished. Tiger's record in majors speaks for itself and having won three out of the eight Opens this century would have been the overwhelming favourite, but his absence throws the field wide open!

There will be great interest to see if there might be a home winner. Royal Birkdale is the only course on the Open rota that has never had a European Champion, previous winners include Peter Thomson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Mark O'Meara.

Having come third at the US Open, Lee Westwood is amongst the favourites as is last year's winner Padraig Harrington although news on Tuesday that he is suffering from a wrist injury could hamper his defence. But for those who have spent the last month or so enjoying our coverage of the European football championship and Wimbledon, how about last year's runner up Sergio Garcia adding to the success of the Spanish football team and Rafael Nadal?

Live coverage starts on Thursday and, as with all our big events, there will be no shortage of ways for you to catch up with the action. More than 38 hours will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Two, all teed up with an Open preview on Wednesday night at 11.20 on BBC Two.


Gary Lineker and Hazel Irvine will be fronting our TV output with expert commentary and analysis from Peter Alliss, Ken Brown, Andrew Cotter, Wayne Grady, Sam Torrance and Mark James. Our regular on-course team of Paul Eales, Maureen Madill and Phil Parkin will be treading the fairways, with Shane O'Donoghue reporting from the driving range. The action gets underway at 0900 on Thursday morning on BBC Two and big names out early include Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Harrington, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie.

There will also be comprehensive coverage provided on BBC interactive, via the red button, where viewers will be able to access a live leaderboard, keep up to date with all the latest Open news with interviews and comment, as well as the option to watch holes 16, 17 and 18 as players reach the climax of their rounds. Following live coverage, a highlights loop will run throughout the night and golf fans can also follow all the action online at

In anticipation for the 2008 Open all but two of Royal Birkdale's holes have been altered. The course is only 155 yards longer than it was when the course last hosted the event ten years ago, but the focus has been on tightening up the holes. This has been achieved by the addition of 20 new bunkers and significant mounding on seven greens. But the most significant change is undoubtedly the introduction of a severely undulating green on the 572-yard par 5 17th.

Our technical spec has also been 'tweaked' since 1998. This year we will be using 62 cameras to provide the host coverage including a tethered blimp, a 72m hoist, six radio cameras, two jibs and a Segway. With over 100 miles of cable being used our riggers have been at work for several weeks. The main TV compound is the size of two football pitches, accommodating broadcasters from around the world, using 1.2 megawatts of power, enough to run an entire village.

John Inverdale and Mark Pougatch will present Radio 5 Live listeners with more coverage of the Open than ever before. Iain Carter heads up the commentary team along with Andrew Coltart, Bernard Gallagher, Jay Townsend and Mark Roe. 5 Live Breakfast will come from the course on Thursday and Friday and listen out for a special preview show this Wednesday when Russell Fuller will host a panel of big names from the world of golf.

We are always grateful to receive your feedback and I will be particularly keen to hear your thoughts on some of our new graphics and technology which will give us unique shot data, ball flight information as well as the ability to locate ball positions over real aerial footage.

I hope you enjoy the coverage.


  • Comment number 1.

    I thought you might be providing more of an insight as to the favourites for this years open. However all we get is one extended advert, why not "BBC Open Coverage" far more accurate based on the content.

  • Comment number 2.

    Do you think that you could mix up the radio and tv commentators in the future. Not just with golf but with all sports including football.

    It'd be nice to hear Bernard Gallagher on tv just like it'd be nice to hear Sam Torrance on radio. Its always the same team every year and whilst they are good it can get a bit dull after a few decades or so.

    In football it would be great to hear Chris Waddle as a tv co-commentator instead of Mark Bright for example or Lawro.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Since this in on the Sports Editors' blog, and that tends to focus on the BBC coverage, leaving coverage of the actual events and competitors to the presenters' and correspondents' blogs, I hardly think it is fair to criticise this piece for focussing on the BBC coverage.

    I do, however, echo the desire to see more crossover of personnel between TV and radio although it does have to be acknowledged that the two are very different skills (given that you have the advantage of being able to see the action for yourself on TV and therefore need much less description) I can see why being good at one does not automatically mean you will be good at the other.

    I can't imagine Alan Green commentating on TV football coverage for example, and was always disappointed with John Motson on the radio, although I thought he was great on TV.

  • Comment number 6.

    Why no HD coverage?

    The Masters looked great in HD this year, as did the Euros.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    All the new cameras and tech stuff sounds great, but why is thee no HD coverage ?

  • Comment number 9.

    A couple of years ago the BBC offered an option via the red button where viewers could follow a group of players through the entire 18 holes. I thought this was a great feature. Any chance of doing it again?

  • Comment number 10.

    A bit different to the usual complaints Paul but is the commentary team not a bit too small?

    Only 3 on-course commentators isn't many! Is there perhaps some people who will be involved in the coverage but not listed hear?

    For example John Hawksworth was excellent at the PGA championships, I really hope he will be part of the team.

    And I'm really dissapointed that Dougie Donnelly has been left out the team, no olympics for Dougie either, two of the too few places I ever got to enjoy Dougie on the box both gone!

    Still looking forward to the coverage and I will be there myself on Friday, should be a good weekend.

  • Comment number 11.

    Shame no HD Pity Sky can not broadcast it. BBC are letting the side down

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Excellent news - if I could watch it ... yet again I'm getting the "Cannot be displayed in your territory" message. But if I'm sitting in central London, and I pay my license fee why am I still not allowed to watch it online?

    I know you are using IP technology to ensure that non-UK users are not allowed to watch it, but surely it's not on to have UK users like myself barred from accessing the content.

  • Comment number 14.

    why no tv coverage of Ian Poulter, one of the GB leaders ...lots of Westwood, Casey, Rose, etc ... but no Poulter

  • Comment number 15.

    Open coverage so far APPALLING!!! Hardly any shots of tee shots off the first which is proving very difficult. In fact no tee shots at all! ENDLESS shots of the same golfers including Curtis having a mare. The best golfers in the World and we are seeing Harrington and Westwood to a sickening extent. We are being told of good shots, a chip in by Goosen whilst watching 2 foot putts! If this coverage is going all over the World I shudder to think of the impact on the BBC reputation. PLEASE BBC GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER QUICKLY!! SHOW US MORE PEOPLE AND MORE GOLF!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was watching today as Justin Rose borrowed a ball mark on one of the greens.

    Is this against the rules.
    can you let me know this ruleing.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks to your commentator on BBC2 who today (18 July) pulled up his colleague for making a dubious comment about the Trinidad and Tobagoan's headgear.

    Why is it that sports commentaries often these days attract rude interjections? It seems to be taken, mistakenly in my view, to be clever to be 'macho' and rude.

    You ask we bloggers to be friendly. The same certainly should apply to all commentators. Or simply don't employ them again.

    Better less commentary, or even silence, than bad manners, please.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

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  • Comment number 23.

    Aren't the rules of golf ridiculous? You are deemed to have moved the ball if the wind blows it! You may have addressed it but you haven't touched it, it's the wind! No wonder I gave up playing.

  • Comment number 24.

    David Shield II, #10, I'm glad I'm not the only one. From being one of the best presenters on the BBC rota, poor old Dougie was sidelined to the practice area (where, to be fair, he managed to get some good interviews) and the weightlifting and curling at Olympic Games, to nothing. While presenters with less talent and more inane chat get promoted to plum roles.

    I'd also like to hear a few different voices - while Cotter, Torrance, Allis and Brown are very good, I find Mark James a bit grating at times. Bernard Gallacher would be a good replacement now and again (but then I've been hoping to hear more of Michael Stich on TV during Wimbledon and that never happens so I won't hold my breath).

    However, the most annoying thing is having all these cameras at the event and missing the action! Loads of talk about balls moving and why the play was held up but unless I missed it, there wasn't a shot of Kim's ball moving... just endless chat about what might have happened.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is anyone else getting fed-up of the radio commentators mentioning Greg Normans age!!! I cannot see why this is such an issue. Greg should be being praised by them not questioning his ability and age in almost every sentance, when he's on the course. This seems to be one commentator in particular who isn't a professional golfer!!! Greg should be able to play well in these condiftions being the older competitor he has the skill and knowledge and experience to play in these conditions.I think the Commentator(s) owe Greg Norman a big apology at the end of this event, if not before.

  • Comment number 26.

    Harrington to win look out for Ross fISHER

  • Comment number 27.

    What is it with the BBC?

    You have the rights to a major sporting event be it the Open or Wimbledon and let you shove live coverage on to BBCi in favour of endless talking heads!

    I feel really sorry for those without digital tv (there are still people who don't have Satellite/Cable and can't receive Freeview you know).

    Show the stuff you've paid the money for...the sport!!!

    Next year with the F1 are you (on the main channel) going to talk through the first 2 qualifying sessions and only join the top 10 shootout!?

  • Comment number 28.

    Why are some caddies wearing red and some yellow outer vests. What is the difference?

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Coverage at Birkdale today (Sunday) was advertised as beginning at 11:00. Why did we have to suffer an hour of 'talking heads' before actual footage was shown?

  • Comment number 31.

    As if the constant chatter when there's live action going on isn't enough we now have adverts for new drama serials!

    Just show the golf!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Am very much enjoying the knowledgeable and informative commentary from the team – particularly Peter Alliss, Ken Brown and Maureen Madill - they seem to understand effortlessly what golfers want to hear ... and when to be silent. Like Rodaire and hank kingsley am worried that a lot of "celebrity" rubbish is creeping in - whoever's in charge - we want action! You may say you are trying to reach a wider audience but you will lose the more important true aficionados ... they leave their clubhouse fed up with too many minutes of chit chat (I don't count proper golf discussion), revenue goes down and the club is closer to the slippery slope!
    Listen to the grand Prix coverage - people talking yes, but the action stays on!

  • Comment number 33.

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  • Comment number 34.

    All over and Harrington a worthy winner - Poulton was so nearly there, exciting and showing so much potential (to be realised in the Autumn!?)- Norman a true gentleman and still a potent force.

    But the purpose of this comment to say I thought the technical and graphics stuff was superb - even a bit underused. Great to see the trajectory and the camera shots showed how tough the course was. Brilliant!

  • Comment number 35.

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