NBC will stick with dual announcers and analysts for the US Open

NBC Sports has been without a permanent analyst in the 18th tower all year, and that’s not going to change for the U.S. Open.

The network announced its commentary team Monday: Dan Hicks and Mike Tirico will share play-by-play duties with an analyst assigned to each. The four-wide booth will have Hicks calling even-numbered holes with Brandel Chamblee and Tirico calling the odd-numbered holes with Brad Faxon.

NBC also said Roger Maltbie would return as an on-course reporter, while Gary Koch would be a booth analyst alongside Steve Sands during early coverage. The contracts of Koch and Maltbie were not renewed after 2022.

And the “Happy Hour” with Smylie Kaufman, a popular addition in which Kaufman has a set on the course Friday, will be at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina for the U.S. Open, which will be played June 13-16.

Golf traditionally has a lead announcer and an analyst. Johnny Miller was the voice of golf on NBC for nearly 30 years. He was succeeded by Paul Azinger, whose contract was not renewed after the Ryder Cup last year.

The idea of four in the booth was conceived during the Ryder Cup, and NBC has stuck with it while searching for a permanent replacement for Azinger.

“The play-by-play person should be telling you what’s happening,” said Sam Flood, NBC’s executive producer. “The why it’s happening and how it’s happening is the analyst.”

He said the depth of play-by-play personnel at NBC allows for more analysts and “opens up the opportunity for analysts to go back and forth.”

Flood also said Luke Donald, Europe’s winning Ryder Cup captain who spent 56 weeks at No. 1 in the world in 2011 and 2012, would be the analyst alongside Hicks at the British Open.

NBC plans 47 hours of live coverage from Pinehurst No. 2 through a combination of Peacock, USA Network and NBC. Other announcer-analyst partnerships for early coverage includes Terry Gannon and Notah Begay III, Rich Lerner and Curt Byrum, and Tom Abbott and Arron Oberholser.

Jim “Bones” Mackay, who recently split from his caddie duties with Justin Thomas, returns to NBC as an on-course reporter along with Kaufman, former caddie John Wood, Byrum and Paige Mackenzie.

Directing traffic is Tommy Roy, NBC’s golf producer who has been working with the revolving door of analysts since the split with Azinger: Chamblee, Faxon, Donald, Begay, Byrum, Kevin Kisner and Paul McGinley.

Roy said having twice the number in booth has not been a challenge because he feels it works well to have them take odd- and even-numbered holes.

“What’s been a little bit of a challenge for me is a new analyst week after week, because there’s a lot to teach them when they’re in this role for the first time. The good news is because we have the Olympics, we have many new analysts for these sports and I’ve been used to tutoring them.

“It’s actually been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been fresh. Those guys brought great energy.”

Kaufman’s “Happy Hour” was derived from having a set on the raucous 16th hole at the Phoenix Open alongside Kisner. The original plan was to bring in a celebrity until Roy heard a podcast with Kaufman and Kisner.

He said it was Flood’s idea to do it every Friday and call it, “Happy Hour,” building a special set and creating a logo. It started with the Florida swing and Kaufman has had players like Jordan Spieth join him after they finish their rounds.

“We love Smylie because he has this incredible relationship with the players and we think for the audience it’s been a godsend because you get to know the guys and their personalities,” Flood said. “That environment is perfect for it. The golfers have leaned in, the PGA Tour has leaned in. The USGA is excited to have us at the U.S. Open.”

Roy said he was considering the par-3 15th at Pinehurst for the set because it’s a hole “where a lot of good things can happen and a lot of bad things can happen.”

As for the four-man booth, that appears to be the plan at least through this season. The concern has been analysts talking over each other — or talking too much.

Roy did not think it diluted the value of a single analyst — Miller for all those years, just as Ken Venturi and Nick Faldo were longtime voices at CBS — and it bought NBC time.

“I’m glad we’re going down this road so that we’re 100% sure when we do name the analyst that’s going to be leading our team that it’s the right guy, instead of jumping right in and naming somebody and then maybe they didn’t pan out,” he said.

“We’re going to go through the U.S. Open and The Open Championship and then make a decision on the (FedEx Cup) playoffs, and once we get through the playoffs and the Tour Championship, then we’ll see.”


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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