Watching Golf this Week: The U.S. Open, Philly Style

US Open MerionAre you ready for 2013 Major No. 2? The big daddy of them all? I truly can’t wait for this one to start, because I feel like we all sorta got cheated at the Masters. I mean — lost in the hubbub of the Tiger Drop Crisis was the fact that the dude was just about ready to take the lead and start stomping everyone.

And then the ball hit the pole. And went into the drink. And then the wheels came off.

As play starts today outside Philadelphia at the quirky old Merion East course (Anyone else think the logo featuring the pole-baskets looks like a freaking bloody Q-tip?) all eyes rightfully will be on Tiger Woods, and his quest for Major No. 15. Nobody else really matters right now, and nobody this year is truly playing at his level. But one thing is for sure, the “new” Tiger isn’t anything like the old — over the last year or so he has shown a tendancy to choke on the weekends at majors, something he never did before. And the rest of the guys playing? They’ve gotten better.

What does that mean for Tiger? It means his margin of error is much slimmer than it was when he was the only guy on the tour who looked like an athlete. Now there’s lots of them. He used to be by far the farthest hitter, now he’s about top average. There are new foreign foes like Graeme McDowell, who aren’t going to be intimidated by Tiger the way the U.S. Tour guys used to be. With its tight layout and wet conditions Merion is probably going to be a birdie fest, so no more rope-a-dope par fests like last year at Olympic. There’s going to be room to make shots here, so let’s get it on. Having just watched the Blackhawks beat the Bruins in triple overtime in the Stanley Cup opener, I’m ready for more drama and lore. Don’t let us down, Tiger. Or whoever wants to keep Tiger’s majorless streak going.

ESPN has your live TV Thursday and Friday, our suggestion is mute when Berman starts talking, unmute when Van Pelt has the mike. NBC gets the weekend, with lots of online viewing available at or via the U.S. Open app, which beats pants off the PGA Tour app (which still doesn’t really work on all Android phones). WatchESPN and ESPNRadio also available online.


(all times Eastern)
Thursday, June 13 — ESPN, 9 a.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m.; NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Friday, June 14 — ESPN, 9 a.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m.; NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 15 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 16 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
12 p.m. — 4 p.m., Thursday; 12 p.m. — 5 p.m, Friday. The live broadcasts are also available to subscribers on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m. — 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

This a better deal for those not living in the U.S., because it’s free internationally. Inside the U.S. you will pay (due to rights fees) $1.99 per event or $9.99 for the whole year. Gives you the CBS feed, audio version. Click here for more info and payment plans for your area.

The U.S. Open site at has live online coverage with featured groups.
Thursday groups:
7:11 a.m. – Marquee Group 1 (Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley)
1:14 p.m. – Marquee Group 2 (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott)
Friday groups:
7:44 a.m. – Marquee Group 1 (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott)
12:41 p.m. – Marquee Group 2 (Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley)

Featured groups on the weekend, TBD.

There are also mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Here’s the USGA Facebook page.


The U.S. Open Twitter feed.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend. Now leading the Wei (hah!) with Google+ Hangouts during most tourneys.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.
Matt Ginella is a former Golf Digest writer now at Golf Channel. Your guide to the best golf course reviews, evar. Plus great columnist-type commentary on a regular basis.

If you haven’t heard about good old Merion and the baskets on the flagpoles you’ve been under a rock the past week. Here’s a great lengthy takeout on Merion’s East Course from the folks at SBNation.

The Birdman! Excuse me, it was Webb Simpson, with an assist from Jim Furyk.

U.S. Open Sets Records for Online, App Viewing

We don’t have any definitive viewer numbers, but according to a press release from the USGA, the recent U.S. Open golf tournament in San Francisco attracted a record number of online viewers, especially for live online video and via mobile devices. This is hardly a surprise, since online golf viewership overall has been spiking this year, with no end in sight to the growth curve.

According to the USGA, which pioneered online coverage of golf, overall viewer visits to the U.S. Open website during the week increased 79 percent from the year-before totals, while views of live streaming video increased 210 percent from 2011. Though the USGA hasn’t provided exact numbers on page views and streaming video looks, it’s a good guess that the latter number is somewhere in the one- to two-million range, since approximately a half-million to a million folks will watch online video of a regular PGA event, according to PGA Tour reps. The U.S. Open’s website features were powered technically by IBM, which also helps produce the wonderful online experience for The Masters golf tourney.

The availability of an Android version of the USGA’s U.S. Open app helped spike visits to the mobile version of the Open website — according to the USGA, mobile website views increased 375 percent in 2012, with iPhone app downloads jumping up 44 percent from the previous year. In addition to live video the U.S. Open websites also included a live leaderboard, a photo stream and a unique feature that let you look at an interactive map of the course and see which players were on which hole. The USGA was also extremely active on Twitter, with the official U.S. Open Twitter feed providing constant scoring updates and links to feature coverage.

Even though the U.S. Open live online video wasn’t very comprehensive — on Thursday and Friday the coverage followed one “marquee” group throughout its round, and on the weekend the coverage consisted of only play at two holes — it was extremely well produced, with commentators that were critically judged by many observers to be better than some of the broadcast TV talent. It’s probably a safe guess to say that next year the USGA will continue to expand live online coverage of the U.S. Open, in sync with the expanded live online views coming next season from the PGA Tour for regular events. That’s good news for golf fans, who will apparently be rewarded for finding more ways to watch.

USGA Continues Pioneering Online Coverage of U.S. Open

Eleven years ago, as the U.S. Open forged into its second century, the United States Golf Association simultaneously catapulted into new media technology.

It was only one hole with one announcer at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. But the occasion — live streaming (webcasting) — was a gateway for fans who weren’t in attendance or watching on television to still view the country’s national championship.

“The technology was there, but no one in sports at that particularly time was doing a webcast, especially at the major event like the U.S. Open,” said Bill Lacey, USGA Manager of Digital Media Development. “We had great fan appeal and that’s what led to the first webcast.

“The reason it was one hole and one announcer? It was all new to us. We were learning the technology. It was on the fly, basically. It was the USGA dipping our toes in the water.”

The first webcast, while experimental, occurred at the par-3, 175 6th hole of the 101st U.S. Open. The announcer was Roger Twibell, and the new adventure worked.

“We had about 200,000 streams, and we felt like it was an affirmation that this was something,” said Jessica Carroll, the USGA Managing Director of Information Technology and Digital Media, of the initial webcast.

Video streaming of the U.S. Open has steadily expanded since its debut. Two holes with two announcers were involved for two years, then bonus coverage on certain holes was featured.

Five years ago, “marquee” coverage of certain groups of golfers began. In 2008, for the Monday 18-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines near San Diego, Calif., the site’s live stream “broke the Internet,” according to Lacey.

“We did 650,000 concurrent streams,” he said. “And basically one of the Internet backbone providers went offline the traffic was so heavy.”

Now, online audiences for golf are big and getting bigger, with the PGA claiming a half-million to a million streams for each one of the tournaments it operates its Live@ bonus coverage. The USGA, Carroll said, is seeing similar growth in online video consumption.

“Overall, if we’re looking at the broad spectrum, it’s just a constant upstream,” she said. “I don’t remember specific numbers from last year, but this year we’re up 100 percent.”

The second and final day of online-only marquee group coverage of this year’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco is scheduled at 7:44 a.m. and 1:18 p.m. Friday (both Pacific Time). The morning time will feature the group of Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. The afternoon threesome will be Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. The online coverage is also available via the U.S. Open mobile device app, in either the Android or Apple iOS version.

It’s yet to be determined what, if any, online coverage will be over the weekend. But according to the USGA, the big online watchers are those still at their own offices during the workweek.

“Our audience is really an audience at work; they don’t have access,” said Lacey. “They’re in their offices and they can’t watch the U.S. Open. But it’s going on while they are working. We went to where they are. They’re at their desks and we stream right to their desks.”

The U.S. Open is currently the only USGA event with a webcast. And while there are no current plans for additional events, it’s inevitable with continued increased Internet viewership and the advancement of other social media applications.

“When the stream goes on, people are staying on,” said Carroll. “It’s almost like they want to spend the day with us. They really stick with it. I think that’s just kind of an interesting concept. They become part of the U.S. Open experience, even though they’re not physically here.”

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports and leisure. Visit his golf site at

Watching Golf this Week: Many Ways to Watch the U.S. Open

Why is this post a little late in delivery? Because I’ve been spending the morning watching the U.S. Open live, on a window that’s open just to the left of the one I’m typing on. I could go over to the couch and watch ESPN’s live coverage, which starts at 9 a.m. Pacific time today and Friday. But I like the online focus, which today is following the Tiger-Phil-Bubba group from start to finish.

Unlike the Masters online coverage — where you had choices of different groups or different holes — the US Open online video is one group at one time. But there are so many ways to get U.S. Open coverage, from the ESPN overload on Thursday and Friday — which is sandwiched around a couple hours of NBC coverage Thursday and Friday — that you won’t go lacking.

Since this is the first U.S. Open we’ve been able to cover live, it’s been an incredible learning experience to see a course like Olympic up close and personal. Check out our previous links for info that will help you with your viewing. We’re also big fans of the U.S. Open site itself, since it has a plethora of info (live scoring, archived video interviews, and a new feature called “Playtracker” which shows a live view of the groups on the course, with stats for each player in each group. (This would be cooler if it had a live view of where the players were on each hole, like a visual Shot Tracker. Maybe next year?)

So far, we haven’t seen many glitches with the live online video — like the Masters coverage there are intermittent stops and stalls but we’ve found that when that happens, it’s easy to just close the old window and re-open a new one. Since I had to stay home this morning for work and family reasons I wasn’t able to use my press pass to watch the golf up close and personal — but I bet I have a better seat than most press folks there, because the blanket coverage of the marquee group has been phenomenal, and I can sip coffee and sit in my comfy office chair while watching. Enjoy the great weekend of San Francisco golf!

Here’s where to follow the action:


(all times Eastern)


Thursday, June 14 — ESPN, 12 p.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m. NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Friday, June 15 — ESPN, 12 p.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m. NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 16 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 17 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m.

Radio this week is via the U.S. Open app, or the U.S. Open website.
1 p.m. — 7 p.m., Thursday-Sunday

See above. Live online at, Thursday and Friday, following a “marquee group” in the morning and afternoon. Morning tee times around 7:30 a.m., afternoon tee times around 1

No shot tracker this week — hard to believe, but true.

The USGA is doing a great job with its Facebook page. Like.

US Open — The official Twitter feed for the championship is active and great, with lots of links, live info. Add it to your feed now.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer — go back in his timeline this week for some great videos showing the holes on the Olympic course. Maybe the top golf Twitterer out there, especially when it comes to analysis/insight.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend. Works hard and long every day, and also has great insider views, via Instagrams.

If you haven’t had your fill of Olympic info, you’ve been on another planet. So far the overall view we like best was the Sunday special in the San Francisco Chronicle, where beat writer Ron Kroichick interviewed Ken Venturi for a hole-by-hole breakdown of the course. The official Open website also has an extensive hole by hole page with flyby views, etc. etc.

Rory McIlroy, the boy wonder.

The columnists and writers at the San Franciso Chronicle do golf right.

1. Jason Dufner, 1,735 points
2. Hunter Mahan, 1,477 points
3. Tiger Woods, 1,404
4. Zach Johnson, 1,386
5. Bubba Watson, 1,372

See the full standings for the FedEx Cup points list.

1. Luke Donald; 2. Rory McIlroy; 3. Lee Westwood; 4. Tiger Woods; 5. Bubba Watson.
See the official World Golf Ranking list.

Tiger Doesn’t Like Fans With Cell Phones, Either

Tiger Woods offered an unsolicited opinion on fans with cellular phones, telling ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi that if the Tiger-Phil-Bubba pairing was done in a regular tour event — where fans are allowed to have cell phones this year — “it would have been brutal.”

Rinaldi, who we think interviewed Tiger after his mass press conference Tuesday (we saw Rinaldi waiting for Tiger outside the press tent, and Tiger is in the blue sweater/blue shirt he wore to that press conferece), asks Tiger about the marquee pairing of himself, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, a trio certain to attract the balance of the gallery at the Olympic Club during Thursday and Friday rounds.

If you watch the video (which is under the USGA auspice, and not ESPN even though ESPN’s Rinaldi is doing the interview) Tiger says the pairing should be “fun, a lot of fun,” and then adds the caveat which is a non-subtle dig at the PGA’s cell-phone friendly policy.

“It’s something I don’t think we all would enjoy that much in a regular tour event, with the new camera policy,” Woods said. “It would have been brutal. But here they’re not allowed in, so this will be a fun pairing.”

After overzealous cell-phone fans bothered Mickelson at the recent Memorial tour stop, the issue has come to the forefront — with even the USGA saying they are looking at allowing cell phones on course during tournament days, though not this week. Perhaps the PGA and the USGA need to look overseas to the British Open, where there is a clear, smart and civil list of guidelines that should probably eliminate 99 percent of problems.

For us colonists, it might help to have really big signs near tee boxes and greens, saying “turn your damn phone off” or something to help people remember. And in the meantime, the pros who are playing a game for millions of dollars of other peoples’ money should remember that it is the fans, and the sponsors who want to reach golf fans, who line their pockets — so maybe the golfers, who text like madmen on the course when they are practicing, can cut normal folks some slack.

Early Thursday U.S. Open Coverage of Tiger-Phil-Bubba Group Only Available Online

Getting psyched to watch the incredible first-round pairing of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson Thursday at the U.S. Open? If so you better have an Internet connection or a smartphone with a good cell signal, because the first 90 minutes of that group’s play will only be available online or through the USGA’s mobile app.

Though there’s going to be a ton of regular TV coverage of the Open this week, first from ESPN on Thursday and Friday and then NBC on the weekend, it’s kind of cool that the somewhat staid USGA (an organization that bans cell phones on the course during tournament play) is highlighting its digital chops in this manner.

Starting a 7:33 a.m. Pacific time from the No. 9 tee at the Olympic Club, you can watch Tiger, Phil and Bubba only at or via the U.S. Open Golf Championship app, which is available for iPhones and iPads and Android devices. The live online TV at the Open is powered technically by IBM, the same folks who are the technical brains behind the Masters’ excellent online coverage.

“Mobile is an increasingly strategic part of our marketing strategy,” said Joe Goode, managing director of communications for the USGA. “It’s an interesting group and for the first round and the apps will be the only way to watch the first 90 minutes.”

The online coverage of the marquee group will continue throughout their round, so you can keep watching online if you can’t get to a TV screen when ESPN comes on live at 9 a.m.