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ESPN’s PGA Championship Current Deal Debut Kicks Off to Rave Reviews, Viewership Milestones

SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie salutes the team behind the overwhelmingly well-received four days from Harding Park

ESPN’s 11-year-deal-commencing coverage of this past weekend’s 102nd PGA Championship came with not only the scrutiny of a new media partnership’s first event, but it also served as the most prestigious one to be contested since sports began returning earlier this summer.

The results were nothing short of eye-popping as ESPN’s live coverage from TPC Harding Park in San Francisco finished as cable’s most-viewed edition of the event in 10 years.

“We truly enjoyed the chance to bring you the PGA Championship,” tweeted Scott Van Pelt Sunday afternoon. “Great to have the opportunity to be at Harding Park and bring you a big time event. Been too long.”

True that, SVP. True that. Among the many plaudits for various elements of the coverage. . .

. . . the “Featured Groups” offering from ESPN+. was among the most universally well-received aspects. One team for “Featured Groups” consisted of SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie, joined by Curtis Strange and on-course reporter Jane Crafter – “joined” in this sense meant all three were in different states and only one was at TPC Harding Park.

“We often hear and use the term ‘teamwork’ when dealing with event production, but it’s never been truer than after what we just pulled off for the PGA Championship,” said Barrie, who worked the event from Bristol, Conn. “Under normal circumstances, Curtis and I would’ve loved to have been at Harding Park, but it just wasn’t doable. So, under the guidance of Vice President, Production Mike McQuade and senior managing producer Bryan Jaroch, we put on featured groups from all over the country, and it was a feat we should be incredibly proud of.

“Our team was literally spread throughout different zip codes,” said Barrie, half of the
The Matty & The Caddie podcast. “Curtis was at his home in North Carolina. I was in Bristol. Jane was our course reporter at TPC Harding Park. Our producer, Tim Sullivan, along with our director Derek Mobley were in the production truck in San Francisco. If all of these people weren’t brilliant at their jobs, this doesn’t happen. I’m just fortunate enough they let me tag along.

Jane was all over the course providing FootJoys on the ground insight, and all Curtis and I had to do was not screw it up! The chemistry evolved over the hours, and it was just fun to be apart of. Curtis, being a two-time U.S. Open champion, is so good at explaining things for all viewers to understand.”

Barrie said: “Two of my favorite parts: When Justin Thomas hit his brilliant tee shot on the short Par 4 16th on Friday, Curtis literally jumped out of his chair with excitement when describing it. All I could do was laugh. Also, Jane, while giving us great information, often played mediator when Curtis and I would get into one of our’ discussions’.”

Andy Hall contributed to this post.

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