The British Open used to be the only major golf championship where ESPN/ABC held broadcast rights, but they now play in part in coverage of each of the first three majors of the season. But unlike the Masters and U.S. Open, the worldwide leader will be the only network carrying the Open Championship, running coverage for all four rounds solely on ESPN.
The Open Championship is the most unique major in golf for several reasons -- the landscape, the links-style layouts on the rota, the 142-year ancient history dating back to the creation of the game, and the middle-of-the-night coverage every July. Tee times on Thursday will begin before 7 a.m. local time, the first group going off No. 1 at 6:32 a.m. or 1:32 a.m. ET. The midsummer month provides almost 17 hours of daylight for golf, so the R&A can send all groups off No.1 and don't have to hustle to send two waves off split tees. As a result, there will be players out on the course for more than 14 hours in the first two rounds.
ESPN will not come on the air right at the crack of dawn in Gullane, but they are scheduled to provide 11 hours of live coverage on Thursday. The broadcast will begin in the States at 4 a.m. ET and is scheduled to run until 3 p.m., although the final groups could still be out on the course. Keep in mind that the R&A is reluctant to pull the players off the course for bad weather, with the wind and rain as much a part of the setup as the hole locations and rough height. It's supposed to be uncharacteristically sunny and smooth for most of the week, but even if something does kick up, it will have to be extreme in order for play to be halted. So expect ESPN's coverage to run relatively uninterrupted for those 11 hours, which will encompass all of Tiger Woods' first round beginning at 9:45 a.m.
Here are all your coverage options for Thursday's opening round:
Thursday's first round live coverage
4 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Live coverage on ESPN
2:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. -- @TheOpen Live show on ESPN3
4 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Live coverage on ESPN3
7 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Live coverage on ESPN Radio