NBC to take over as British Open broadcaster from ESPN a year early

NBC Sports Group and ESPN have agreed to transition the U.S. broadcasting rights for the British Open a year early, with NBC and Golf Channel taking over coverage next year.

In June, the R&A announced it had signed a 12-year deal with NBC Sports Group to air the game's oldest major, as well the Senior British Open and Ricoh Women's British Open. In a similar competitive process, U.K.-based Sky Sports earned the international broadcast rights, taking over for long-time partner, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). With Sky set to take over in 2017, like NBC and Golf Channel, the BBC agreed to a buy out of its final year of coverage, making possible the early switchover from ESPN to NBC and Golf Channel.

"We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with Peter Dawson and the R&A and it has been our distinct honor to be their partner," said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president for programming and production. "The Open is a unique treasure but given the impending change in rights ownership we were open to having them move forward with NBC. We wish them all the best in the future."

The 2016 Open at Royal Troon will mark NBC's return as a major broadcaster, replacing the U.S. Open, whose broadcasting rights the Peacock lost to Fox Sports as part of a 12-year deal with the USGA announced in 2014. Golf Channel will also air live coverage of the British Open, marking the first time the network has aired a men's major championship.

The announcement brings an official end to the 53-year relationship between the R&A and ESPN and its parent company ABC, which had aired the British Open in some fashion since 1962. ESPN took over all four rounds of the Open in 2010, airing the championship in high definition for the first time and eventually offering an original broadcast which rarely relied on BBC cameras.

The NBC golf team, including Johnny Miller and newly signed David Feherty, will be on the call at Royal Troon in July.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.