While there are no majors in the first quarter of the year, it's still one of the deepest and most anticipated stretches of the schedule. The venues of the west coast swing are the best of the year and the pre-Masters prep of the Florida swing typically draws the biggest names in the game. This should be the biggest Sunday of all before Augusta.
No one is stupid enough to argue that the World Golf Championships are anything close to a major. They're a PGA Tour event, which does not have the rights to any of the majors, contrivance. But the cash, guaranteed because there's no cut, and the world rankings points are enough to keep the top players consistently committed to this series. The annual stop at Doral is one of the biggest non-majors of the year and every single heavyweight is here this year.
Almost all those big names are in contention with 18 more holes to play, led by Rory McIlroy. The two-time WGC winner zipped past Adam Scott in the third round, flipping a two-shot deficit to a one-shot lead in the first five holes on Saturday. When he's on, Rory is the most exciting player to watch in the world and he's had almost all of it working the last two days. Chasing him are Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson, among others.
Those famous faces and this event are a pretty perfect set up for NBC, which will have the final round coverage. The Florida swing is NBC's strongest stretch of their golf season and Doral is the marquee event within that swing. They have bigger tourneys later in the year, but these six weeks are their most significant sustained stretch of golf. The payoffs of the switch from CBS to NBC were immediate last week at the Honda Classic. I often thought CBS was getting unfairly blasted on the west coast swing. The broadcasts weren't great but the critiques seemed too intense and unanimous. The contrast, however, was so apparent last week with NBC. There was so much more golf shown and the golf audiences, at least on Twitter, seemed appeased. This week has been strong again, and Terry Gannon, whether intentionally or unintentionally, went out of his way to note they had shown 60 of the 66 golfers in the field on Thursday.
Golf Channel and NBC will split the final round coverage, which doesn't mean much in terms of a transition. There are a few new faces and talent switched in for the NBC portion, but it's essentially the same operation and network under the Comcast umbrella. That means there's not that irritating 30-minute blackout period we get when Golf Channel splits the coverage with CBS. We'll have an uninterrupted broadcast from Noon until 6 p.m. ET, which is an expanded amount. The final pairing, McIlroy and Scott, do not go off until just before 2 p.m. and expect to see their every shot.
This is a nice Sunday for golf to get a little shine. Football has long passed and March Madness has not yet started in full. The big names are here and they're playing well and this is an event and course that has a little wider resonance. If you're unable to watch on TV, there will be a simulcast stream up and running all afternoon and PGA TOUR Live will have a separate featured holes broadcast the entire day. Here are all your media options for Sunday's final round:
Sunday's final-round coverage
Noon to 2 p.m. -- Golf Channel
2 to 6 p.m. -- NBC
Noon to 6 p.m. -- Golf Channel/NBC Sports LiveExtra simulcast stream
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- PGA Tour Live featured holes stream (No subscription required)
1 to 6 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)
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