Lee Westwood has added his voice to the outcry at the BBC’s attitude to the Women’s Open here this week, declaring that the TV highlights from Royal Troon have been consigned “to the graveyard shift”.
The majority of BBC2’s coverage of the first female major of the season will be broadcast after midnight, with the final-round wrap-up starting at 11.55pm.
At least fans who do not subscribe to Sky Sports - which screens all four days live - will be able to use the red button to watch the hour-long programme at 9pm on Sunday.
But, unlike last year, in the first three rounds this, according to Tuesday's published listings, will not be an option. That is because the BBC has elected instead to feature the World Seniors Snooker Championship on the red-button platform. This has left Westwood, among many, baffled, if not appalled.
“I can’t actually believe it - that is really disappointing,” Westwood said when contacted by Telegraph Sport. “I know BBC TV has been turning its back on golf for years - this is first time in 55 years that it will not screen one day of live golf from any event, anywhere - but if you have the rights to one of the biggest events, in global terms, that will happen in Britain this summer, then why not put on the highlights at a watchable time, not after the graveyard shift has started?
“It’s an insult and it makes no sense as there are loads of the British up there in the rankings [Charley Hull, Bronte Law, Georgia Hall and Jodi Ewart Shadoff are all in the world’s top 60]. They clearly deserve better.”
By speaking out, Westwood is following the lead of countryman Justin Rose, another former world No 1, who in the midst of the pandemic in June stepped up and did his bit to help out Britain’s female professionals by setting up the Rose Ladies Series, an eight-strong mini circuit that gave players such as Charley Hull and Georgia Hall somewhere to play.
Essentially, Rose was answering the long-made call for a big-name male golfer to stand up for their women counterparts in their fight for greater recognition to address the huge disparity at the elite end of the sport. “It was great what Justin and Kate [Rose’s wife] did with their series and I agree that it is time the men do whatever they can to share the spotlight,” Westwood said. “But things like these BBC highlights going out so late does the cause no good whatsoever.”
Kate Rose concurs, but is hopeful the corporation can still make a late u-turn, and it is understood that the BBC will announce a climb-down on Wednesday with the news that the highlights will appear earlier on the red button for the first three days, once the veterans’ snooker event concludes at 10pm.
"It is incredibly disappointing that the BBC is planning to screen the country’s premiere female golf tournament at such a late time that very few adults will stay up to watch it, let alone children - tomorrow’s potential stars,” she said. “The BBC is doing such a fine job promoting women in sports that it would be incredibly depressing to see women in golf overlooked in this way.
“Once it has been pointed out that this week is actually Women and Girls in Golf Week, I have every faith that the BBC will correct this oversight. Given the recent success of the Rose Ladies Series, it is increasingly clear that proper TV coverage is essential to reflect the enormous surge in interest that the game of golf has attracted this summer.
“BBC 1, BBC 2 and BBC 4 seem to show endless repeats and it begs the question why the BBC seems to be so unwilling to show a prime women's sport event at an hour when people actually wish to watch it?”
The BBC maintains its commitment to the sport despite its budget cuts, but Meg Maclaren, the Englishwoman who goes for her first major success here on the Ayrshire coast, sums up the general despondency.
“It is depressing,” the two-time Ladies European Tour winner, said. “This is one of the greatest opportunities women’s golf has been given to shine a light in what’s been an incredibly dark time. There are only positives to come out of bringing that to an engaged and ready audience and to continue to find excuses when there really aren’t any is yet another slap in the face for women’s golf.”