San Diego — Paul Azinger has been selected as the lead golf analyst for Fox Sports as it enters the second year of televising the U.S. Open and other USGA championships.
Fox confirmed Wednesday that Azinger is replacing Greg Norman.
Fox signed a 12-year deal with the USGA that started last year, and the first big test was the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Among the criticism of the broadcast was Norman going flat during the decisive moment when Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet on the last hole for Jordan Spieth to win his second straight major.
Azinger is a former PGA champion — he beat Norman, of all people, in a playoff at Inverness in 1993 — who led the Americans to a rare Ryder Cup victory at Valhalla in 2008. It was the only Ryder Cup the U.S. has won since 1999.
In 10 years, Azinger already has made his mark as an analyst for his candor and blunt observations.
John Entz, Fox Sports’ president for production, called Azinger “a respected and trusted voice in the golf community.”
“He has the credibility of being a major champion with a strong track record of experience in the broadcast booth,” Entz added. “He has been one of golf’s most candid and thoughtful analysts.”
The deal reunites Azinger with Fox golf producer Mark Loomis, who was at ABC Sports in 2005 when he put Azinger and Nick Faldo together in the booth with Mike Tirico.
Fox said Azinger would be in the 18th tower with lead announcer Joe Buck and analyst Brad Faxon, though Loomis said Wednesday this was not a reprisal of the Azinger-Faldo tandem. Rather, he said Faxon would serve primarily as a hole announcer who would be in the 18th tower and available for part of the dialogue when necessary.
“We don’t get to work together all year,” Loomis said, referring to Fox’s limited golf opportunities. “The one thing we found is that when people are looking at each other … the flow of conversation is easier.”
Faxon was in the booth with Buck and Norman at the U.S. Amateur and the Franklin-Templeton Shootout last year.
Azinger will work the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur. He made his U.S. Open debut as a player at Oakmont in 1983 when he missed the cut. Azinger did not play at Oakmont in 1994 as he recovered from cancer.
He won 11 times on the PGA Tour before he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his right shoulder toward the end of 1993, and he went through six months of chemotherapy. Azinger won for the final time on tour in 2000 at the Sony Open.
He spent two years with ABC in the tower until the network chose not to renew its contract with the PGA Tour. Azinger then became the lead analyst for ESPN.
The golf coverage at ESPN has dropped significantly in recent years, however. ESPN still had the opening two rounds of the Masters, but it lost out on its weekday broadcast of the U.S. Open when Fox won the USGA contract with a $1 billion offer. And while ESPN had all four days of the British Open last year, those rights now belong to NBC Sports.