Exclusive: BT make move to take The Masters from Sky
Sky’s grip on major golf could be weakened yet further as The Daily Telegraph has discovered that BT is in talks with Augusta as it tries to wrest full coverage of the Masters. The BBC is due to confirm that it has secured the live rights for next month’s US PGA Championship, after the PGA of America’s contract with Sky ended and negotiations for a renewal broke down. Yet while that is an embarrassment to Sky, particularly after it launched its dedicated golf channel two weeks ago, if BT did convince the Augusta green jackets to switch allegiance that would represent a much more foreboding scenario. Sky has been the UK’s host channel for the Masters since 2011, in a shared agreement which allows the BBC to show the final two rounds live. The contract is believed to already be up and talks between Sky and Augusta are apparently in an impasse because of finances. BT sees this as the ideal avenue to enter golf, but there are nervous faces not only at Sky but also the European Tour. Without Sky’s backing the Tour would not operate its present guise, if at all, and the last thing the powers that be at Wentworth HQ would want is for Murdoch Towers to become disillusioned with the sport and walk away. Sky showed live coverage of last week's Open Championship Credit: mark robinson Yet any sense of ingratitude on Sky’s behalf would be totally understandable, especially with rumours circulating that the USGA, which runs the US Open, is ready to look elsewhere in the quest for bigger viewing figures when its deal runs out in 2018. Sky has been a brilliant and loyal broadcaster of golf, showing blanket coverage of the European Tour and PGA Tour, and has stuck with the sport despite the falling participation levels and the concern about the professional game after the downfall of Tiger Woods. After screening the US PGA since 1992, it will, of course, be disappointed not to show Jordan Spieth’s shot at history in Charlotte in two weeks’ time, as the Texan, who turns 24 on Thursday, attempts to replace Tiger Woods as the youngest player to complete the career grand slam. The five golfers to have won a career grand slam - and the 12 three-major winners, including Jordan Spieth Spieth’s extraordinary win in the Open at Royal Birkdale on Sunday has sent the game into fever pitch. Many are expecting Rory McIlroy to respond to Spieth’s new standing on a Quail Hollow course where he has won twice, which only adds to the intrigue at the year’s final major. The BBC is certain to attain the UK’s biggest viewing figures of the 2017 majors and it will be interesting to see if the PGA of America is influenced by the audience when deciding on future coverage. Matt Kuchar will obviously be a popular pick at Quail Hollow after running Spieth so close on the Southport links. The 39-year-old jumps straight back on to the horse by playing in this week’s Canadian Open in an Ontario field also including world No 1 Dustin Johnson and England’s Ian Poulter.