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Alliss' disappointment as BBC golf coverage goes down the tube

By James Corrigan

Peter Alliss is determined to enjoy this Masters, because he doesn't know how many more on which he will be commentating. Blessedly, that isn't because the evergreen 82-year-old is counting any days; his fears are due to the latest news of the BBC's continued withdrawal from big-time golf.

The corporation will show only six days of live men's golf this year – the Saturday and Sunday of this Masters and the four rounds of The Open – after losing the weekend action from both the BMW PGA Championship and the Scottish Open. Understandably Alliss is not happy. Yet his mood is more of resignation than fury.

"It's sad. It's the end of an era. The racing has gone, the Formula One has gone and yet we still have things like the Boat Race. It's very hard to compete with someone who has seemingly unlimited funds," he said. "It's like playing poker with someone who has millions when you only have hundreds. The BBC can't compete."

Where will it end? Well, after boasting 24 days of live action seven years ago, the trend is so obviously heading in an ever-dwindling direction. Could there ever come a day when the BBC is a golfing blank? "Possibly, although as long as the Royal and Ancient want the full audience then we go through from 9am until 7.30pm for four days with no interruptions for commercials," he said.

Alliss clearly has concerns that when it is time to renegotiate with the green-jackets they may be swayed by Sky's commitment to the game. There have been criticisms of the European Tour from within the BBC for caving into Sky's demands to have exclusivity of all their events and not thinking of the bigger picture.

Alliss is rather more pragmatic. "I think the European Tour have been a little nervous which I quite understand," he said. "They are looking after their interests and I don't blame them. Sky must do 200 events a year which I think is fantastic. Golf's in good shape right now and they must be very pleased."

Of course, this Masters possesses a cast list to make any director general weep with joy. "It will be fascinating," he said. "There are high expectations – perhaps maybe too much. They are all sycophantic really. They don't sit back and look at it sensibly."

Naturally, Tiger Woods is at the epicentre of the hype. Alliss shakes his head when asked what he thinks of the work the former world No 1 has done with his new coach, Sean Foley. "How can you be the greatest player in the world for 12 years and then have lessons how to swing again?" he said. "I just don't understand. It's like Pavarotti deciding he is going to sing baritone. It is bloody ridiculous."

If that makes him sound like a Woods doubter then that is because he is. Not for him the "Tiger is back" narrative which has monopolised the golfing media since Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago.

"He came back to some form at Bay Hill but nobody pushed him. We have to see what happens to him under pressure – that is the fascination. I think it is unlikely he will return to his previous position this year. He needs to win three events this year and maybe four or five next year and then you can say he is back to his original form. The aura has gone. People used to say 'Christ, I'm playing Tiger Woods'. Now they say 'get out of the way Tiger'. It's more difficult to get back that aura as you get older. Nobody knows if he will."

Belfast Telegraph


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