Golf is not an ESPN staple, yet there are several reasons to expect its British Open coverage to shine this week.
Even before a shot has been hit in earnest the sports network got it right. It moved its Thursday and Friday start times up a half-hour to 4:30 a.m. (EDT). This was done to allow viewers (early risers, at least) to see the rounds of Tiger Woods (a 4:42 a.m. tee time on Thursday) and Phil Mickelson (4:31 a.m. tee time on Friday) in their entirety.
It's easier to do, of course, when it is the sole American television producer of the event. The Open is the only tournament that ESPN exclusively televises. It does the Masters, but only until CBS takes over. Same with the U.S. Open and NBC.
ESPN will televise 36 hours of tournament play live over four days. Afternoon and prime time encore showings up the number of hours to 72.
"The biggest thing that has changed," Mike McQuade, vice president production for ESPN, said, "is that ESPN has taken ownership of the Open Championship. That's the best way to put it. And we've invested in such, every way possible -- announcers, cameras, audio. That means controlling our own destiny.