Joe Buck is back to golf in another major tournament, this time the PGA Championship with ESPN. He’ll be sharing his space with the likes of Fred Couples and Charles Barkley, and Peyton and Eli Manning are sure to drop by.
Buck is leading what amounts to a “ManningCast” next week in Southern Hills.
ESPN, which owns the weekday rights to the PGA Championship with extensive coverage on ESPN+, says the alternate telecast will be produced in conjunction with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions.
Buck, who previously led US Open coverage when he was on Fox Sports from 2015 to 2019, will host the show with ESPN’s Michael Collins. The Mannings will be a guest at some point in the tournament, and other guests include Couples and Barkley, Troy Aikman, Josh Allen and actor Jon Hamm.
The ManningCast received strong reviews on “Monday Night Football” last year.
“We loved doing ‘Monday Night Football’ with ESPN and the whole Omaha team is looking forward to producing alternative shows that celebrate other sports,” said Peyton Manning. “As one of golf’s majors, the PGA Championship is a perfect place to make our first for golf and we look forward to working with Joe, Michael and all of ESPN’s golf team. “
The alternative TV show will air four hours a day during all four rounds. It will air from 1-2 p.m. EDT Thursday and Friday during the final hour of live coverage on ESPN+, then switch to ESPN2 for the final three hours (while coverage will switch to ESPN). On weekends, Buck & Co. will air from 9-10 a.m. on ESPN (live coverage is on ESPN+), then switch to ESPN+ as live coverage switches to ESPN until 1 p.m.
CBS Sports has the final six hours of the weekend telecast.
The ManningCast earlier this year extended its deal with “Monday Night Football” to add a fourth year through 2024. ESPN is in the third year of an 11-year deal to televise the PGA Championship.
The Wells Fargo Championship had its weakest field since the tournament began in 2003, with Max Homa earning 44 points for his win, down from 60 a year ago.
Was it the one-time move to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm because the traditional venue, Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, is hosting the Presidents Cup later this year?
Or are players still trying to find a schedule with the PGA Championship now in its third year of play in May?
Until this year, the fewest ranking points awarded to the winner at Wells Fargo were 50 on three occasions: 2014 (a year after the greens were a weather-related wreck); 2017 (held at Eagle Point as the PGA was in Quail Hollow) and 2019 (the first year of the PGA Championship moving to May).
The Wells Fargo winner received 60 points last year, and maybe it was about the location – the PGA Championship was at Kiawah Island, about 225 miles from Quail.
Next year the PGA Championship will be held at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.
The last two weeks of the PGA Tour have featured only one top-15 player – Jon Rahm at the Mexican Open (he won) and Rory McIlroy at Wells Fargo (fifth place). The two will only have played once between the majors.
The PGA Championship is next week and AT&T Byron Nelson has four of the top 10 and six of the top 15 players, starting with world No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler (who is from Dallas).
Meanwhile, none of the top 15 players in the world will have played more than twice in the five weeks between the majors. Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama take on AT&T Byron Nelson this week, their first competition since the Masters.
It will be telling to see what kind of field Wells Fargo draws to Quail Hollow next year, and whether the less-than-stellar field is more about TPC Potomac or more about May.
US OPEN UPDATE
Now that the PGA Championship field is set, the exemptions for the US Open are getting closer. Any player in the top 60 in the world rankings after the PGA Championship will not have to go through qualifying.
It made for a small consolation prize for Keegan Bradley after his second-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship. Bradley moved up 20 spots to No. 44 and is a lock to stay in the top 60 and avoid qualifying.
Among those not in the top 60 and running out of time are Lee Westwood (#64) and Bubba Watson (#66). Watson has played in every US Open since 2011.
The top 60 in the world rankings on June 6 – Monday of US Open week – are also exempt.
PATH TO THE LPGA
The LPGA Tour will no longer allow college players to retain their amateur status and compete in the final stage of Tour qualifying.
The LPGA in 2018 allowed college players to participate in the Q Series – eight rounds over two weeks – and if they got LPGA cards, to wait until July to become a member. This allowed them to complete their college education or the spring semester. Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi are two examples.
Starting this year, college players can still go through the early stages of Q-school, but they should turn pro if they make it to the Q-Series and try to earn a map.
Ricki Lasky, head of tourism and operations for the LPGA, said it was a level playing field. The LPGA made its decision after feedback from LPGA players and the college community.
Players who have already turned pro don’t have another college semester to fall back on if they don’t pass, a freedom that college players might have.
Key to the decision is allowing college players in the early stages. Anyone reaching the final stage (Q-Series) is assured of Epson Tour status. This would allow them to compete on the development circuit and start earning money for an LPGA card.
“Ensuring that all competitors have made the same choice to be a professional player elevates Q-Series competition and creates the most appropriate options for athletes at different stages of their careers,” Lasky said.
Kevin Kisner and his wife, Brittany, received the Augusta University President’s Award for their philanthropic support of Georgia Children’s Hospital. They pledged $5.3 million to help establish a center for pediatric development, behavioral health and wellness. … SH Kim has earned enough points on the Korn Ferry Tour to ensure the 23-year-old South Korean will have a PGA Tour card next season. Carl Yuan of China is the only other player to reach this level this year. … The Constellation Furyk & Friends tournament debuted on the PGA Tour Champions by raising $1.7 million for local charities. … Wells Fargo Championship winner Max Homa is the first player to win a PGA Tour regular event twice at different courses since Brandt Snedeker at the Wyndham Championship in 2007 at Forest Oaks and 2018 at Sedgefield. Homa won at Quail Hollow in 2019 and at TPC Potomac this year. … Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg, Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett and Oklahoma State’s Eugenio Chacarra are the three finalists for the Ben Hogan Award for the top college golfer in the nation. The winner will be announced May 23 and will receive a bye the following year for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial.
STATS OF THE WEEK
The last five Southern Hills Grand Champions are part of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“I just think if I keep putting myself in those positions, hopefully I’ll convert one.” – Keegan Bradley, who has failed to convert his last four 54-hole PGA Tour leads.
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