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US Open set up in prime position

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / June 13, 2008

Whether you're an avid golf fan or just a casual observer, there will be plenty of drama this weekend in the US Open Championship.

For the first time in the history of the event, coverage of the final two rounds will be in prime time on NBC (Channel 7). NBC will air the tournament tomorrow from 4-10 p.m., and Sunday from 3-9 p.m.

NBC host Dan Hicks said all eyes will be on Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

"It's no secret that the Phil and Tiger situation is pretty special stuff," said Hicks. "I don't think we're probably ever going to get this opportunity with the top two players in the world on their home turf with all the history here at Torrey Pines.

"[Mickelson] told me the other day that this would be the most special victory he could ever have - a US Open in his backyard. He knows that he's in the prime of his career, he knows that even if Torrey Pines gets another championship in the years to come, it won't represent his best opportunity.

"I think it's an incredible story line to be following. Of course, Tiger coming off the knee surgery, if he's able to win this thing, it may be his best Herculean effort of a career that has already had so many incredible moments. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here because there are so many other people in the field, but those are the two headliners and that's the theme that we have."

There are many players on the PGA Tour with California ties and Hicks said that connection will be explored during the early part of tomorrow's coverage.

"In our opening tease we're going to kind of illustrate the connections," said Hicks. "From Tiger, who grew up 90 minutes away, to Phil, who had the practice facility in his backyard that his dad built him, the great junior golf spirit that pervades here in San Diego with so many players in the field, not just Tiger and Phil, who have Torrey and San Diego connections. That's kind of the story line we hope to see extend all the way through Sunday."

In addition to Woods's incredible popularity, Hicks said many fans are going to tune in because Woods is coming off a two-month layoff. Whether it will factor into his play remains to be seen. Woods opened with a 1-over-par 72 yesterday, four shots off the lead.

"This course can bite you in a hurry," said Hicks. "I think for a guy to come in from his last round in the Masters, have surgery two days later, come out to the Open course, which is the longest in history and is tough to walk, nobody knows except Tiger Woods.

"The only two guys who know how the knee truly is, is his doctor and Tiger. Until we see the evidence by his play this week and this weekend, it's all a bunch of speculation. Tiger said it's not 100 percent and that is about all we know."

Hicks believes NBC's prime-time broadcast can attract more than the usual golf fans, who will be celebrating Father's Day Sunday.

"I think we're going to have a little different type of sports fan out there listening to us deep into prime time," he said. ". . . the potential is there to do a huge number because it's in prime time and because of the people involved.

"The potential is there to have one of the great television golf ratings in history."

Before and after
Comcast SportsNet's pregame coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals starts at 7:30 Sunday night. The postgame show begins at midnight . . . Game 3 of the Celtics-Lakers series earned a 9.2 rating Tuesday night, an increase of 44 percent over the 6.4 mark for Game 3 of last year's Finals between Cleveland and San Antonio . . . Look for NESN's Jerry Remy to team with Thom Brennaman for tomorrow's Red Sox-Reds game on Fox (Channel 25) at 3:30 p.m. During the pregame show at 3 p.m., Jeanne Zelasko sits with Ken Griffey Jr. to discuss his 600-home run milestone. Brennaman, a Cincinnati native who broadcasts Reds games part time during the season, said he's surprised at the lack of coverage for Griffey's achievement. "In general, Cincinnati is not a city that is about the superstars, but what is baffling is that they generally embrace their own," he said. "It is strange to me that he has not been showered with admiration, especially when you take into account not only his career, but the fact that he's the only guy of the three most recent players to reach 600 career home runs that has never been linked to steroid talk." . . . If you're a fan of college baseball, ESPN and ESPN2 are the channels to watch for the College World Series. Beginning tomorrow at 2 p.m. on ESPN, Stanford will take on Florida State, with Georgia playing Miami at 7 p.m. On Sunday, ESPN will air Fresno State vs. Rice at 2 p.m., with ESPN2 showing LSU vs. North Carolina at 7. ESPN360.com will simulcast all the telecasts . . . The next installment of TNT's NASCAR Summer Series will be Sunday at 2 p.m. with the LifeLock 400 from Michigan International Speedway.

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