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TVWeek's Deputy Editor Chris Pursell is exploring the billion dollar business of sports media. Every week he will deliver the latest insights as well as a fresh perspective along with interviews with the biggest personalities in the business.

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Q&A: Golf Champ, Broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch

July 11, 2008 6:45 PM

As we head into MLB’s mid-summer classic, as well as the British Open and Espys next week, national sports ratings continue to heat up

Baseball on Fox jumped to its best score of the season at a 3.0/8 for the always entertaining Red Sox/Yankees and Cubs/Cardinals games. That score marks the networks’ best national rating for the sport since June 2 of 1997.

NBC, meanwhile, earned a 3.5/10 on Sunday for the terrific Wimbledon final, possible one the best matches ever played. That score was good enough for a 30% improvement over last year’s final, which earned a 2.7/8 in the five set epic. Late in the fifth and final set, ratings only grew and peaked at a 4.7/11.


As mentioned above, TNT is readying for this year’s British Open Championship, from the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England. For the sixth consecutive year, the network will present 28 hours of coverage throughout the four days of the tournament held from July 17-20. With Tiger injured and out of the picture, golf fans will have the opportunity to see who will take advantage of his absence to claim the crown.

Special features on this year’s TNT telecast will include:

Total Vision: Super slow-motion gives the TV analysts the opportunity to break down the details of players’ swings.

Golf Trak: Cutting-edge virtual technology allows viewers to follow the flight of the ball.

Memories of the Royal Birkdale: Ian Baker-Finch recalls his solo major win that took place at the historic course in 1991.

The Story of Red Rum: Jim Huber provides an essay on legendary racehorse Red Rum who trained in Southport and stands as the only three-time Grand National winner in history.

Tiger at the U.S. Open: Jim Huber reflects on Tiger Woods’ riveting win at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Joining the broadcast crew this year will be former British Open Champion winner Ian Baker-Finch, who won in 1991. In addition to the championship, he also boasts a broadcast resume that includes a run on ABC Sports from 1998 until 2006, as well as a run on CBS Sports.

Pressbox had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Baker-Finch about who to watch for with Tiger gone, as well as the captivating U.S. Open playoff and his plans to return to the tour.

Pressbox: The first question has to be what will be the effect this year without Tiger Woods in the mix?

Mr. Baker-Finch: This is going to open up the field for everyone else. Tiger would have been a 2-1 or 3-2 favorite but with him gone, its Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia on top at 13-1. That’s a perfect example of how open it is right now.

There will be 20 guys with a chance to win that wouldn’t have had that chance with Tiger playing. So now is the time for these guys to step up to the plate because the opportunity is there.

On the other side of the coin, however, is that there are a handful of big names who actually feel more pressure because if they don’t win with Tiger gone, its going to look bad for them.
One guy who could really shine is Anthony Kim, who has to be gaining a lot of confidence and has the chance to create an outstanding career. In Tiger’s absence, he’s already won at two venues. He’s an example of a good young player who could take advantage of Tiger’s situation.

Pressbox: What is it about the British Open that makes it a favorite of the tour?

Mr. Baker-Finch: I think it’s the best of the Open venues, frankly. It’s a beautiful, well-designed layout with spectacular sand dunes and intricate designs that sweep between them. That’s how I would design a golf course myself because no matter what hole you’re on, you feel like it’s the only hole out there. The green settings are so perfect, and the holes flow in all different directions. Its captivating.

Pressbox: What was in your head watching Tiger’s comeback in the U.S. Open playoff?

Mr. Baker-Finch: Frankly, it only adds to the legend of Tiger because it was a phenomenal feat of will, heart, courage, strength and athleticism. It was an outstanding performance by both players.

Pressbox: When you cover the sport, do you get the itch to get back on the green professionally?

Mr. Baker-Finch: I don’t miss playing it. I’m a TV guy now. I still love the game, of course, and I still play well. But I definitely am aware that I don’t play well enough to keep up with these guys anymore. I have no delusions and I have a great job that allows me to stay in touch with the game and its players. I’m still out there, not competing of course, but still part of the show and under the big top.

Broadcasting is an ideal fit for me when it was time for me to look for some other avenues of my career and I’m very happy to by officially working for TNT now. The have a terrific team and I look forward to sharing some memories on the broadcast.

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