Sky Sports will exclusively broadcast The Open Championship live from 2017 after signing a five-year deal with the R&A.
It means there will be no live mens' golf on the BBC from 2017 – something many players feel strongly about.
World No.1 Rory McIlroy, who defends the Claret Jug at St Andrews this summer, said: “I guess it’s just the way it’s going. Money talks, you know.
“It’s a shame The Open is not going to be on terrestrial television. Sky is expensive and a lot of people can’t afford it. It would have been nice if they could have come to some sort of resolution.”
England’s Lee Westwood was even stronger in his criticism, saying: “It’s very disappointing, even though I can appreciate how much Sky have done for the European Tour, and how much they’ve done for the game of golf.
“But look at the viewing figures for Sky, compared to the BBC, you have to question it when the number of golfers in Britain is dwindling. I can’t believe The Open isn’t protected as one of the crown jewels [sporting events such as the Olympics, the FA Cup Final and Wimbledon that are of such national importance they must be on free-to-air TV] – that is an absolute disgrace.”
Sky Sports will show all four days' play in their entirety across TV, online, tablet and mobile devices. We understand the BBC will get a weekend highlights package, similar to its coverage of the Ryder Cup.
Sky says its reported £10m per year to get the rights will let the R&A “make a ground-breaking investment in grassroots golf, and work with Sky Sports to excite and engage viewers through the innovative coverage.”
“The Open is the world’s pre-eminent golf championship and we are committed to taking coverage of the event to new level,” said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis.
“We offer something for every sports fan and this exciting agreement for The Open means our customers can now enjoy all four Majors live. Sky Sports has a passion for golf that has spanned two decades, offering unrivalled commitment, airtime and promotion as well as year-round innovative coverage.
“We look forward to working with The R&A to entertain and engage new and existing golf fans through our multi-platform coverage and also at the grassroots level via Sky Academy.”
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of The R&A, added: “We believe this is the best result for The Open and for golf. The way people consume live sport is changing significantly and this new agreement ensures fans have a range of options for enjoying the Championship on television and through digital channels.
“Sky Sports has an excellent track record in covering golf across its platforms and has become the home of live golf coverage over recent years. We are very much looking forward to working with them to develop and enhance the coverage of The Open.”
The new rights agreement also offers Sky Sports viewers exclusively live coverage of the Walker Cup in 2019 at Royal Liverpool.