Azinger sees wide-open Open

July 21, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Big names, little names, any names - who knows who will end up atop the British Open leader board? ABC analyst Paul Azinger said it could be anyone.

"As a result of the course being so fast, it has become a wide-open tournament," Azinger said in a conference call Wednesday.

The way the heat has baked Royal Liverpool's fairways negates the usual advantage of golf's power hitters.

"This is a shorter hitter's big chance to win a major," Azinger said.

Asked to compare the British Open course to any on the PGA Tour, Azinger said: "We don't play that many courses on tour that are brown and racetrack-y. If I did [name one], the superintendent would probably get fired."

(Quick thought: I always wanted my lawn to look like a golf course. After seeing Royal Liverpool on television yesterday, I can now say that it does.)

Tomorrow and Sunday, Azinger will work with host Mike Tirico, who is filling the same role on TNT's coverage of the first two rounds yesterday and today, subbing for Ernie Johnson, who is undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

TNT executive producer Jeff Behnke told USA Today this week that getting Tirico on his network wasn't a hassle. After Behnke asked ABC/ESPN's permission, he received the go-ahead "within an hour."

Searchin'

In the July 17 issue of Sports Illustrated, Steve Rushin took note of information now available at Google.com (google.com/trends), which will list Top 10 cities for most searches of whatever search terms you care to enter. So if you want to know which city has the most people looking up "guacamole," this is the Web page for you. (By the way, it's San Diego.)

When it comes to our local teams, there are no real surprises. "Baltimore Orioles" and "Baltimore Ravens" produce lists of cities and towns in the immediate area, though two places among top searchers for Orioles might be expected to be solidly in the Washington Nationals' camp - McLean, Va., and Lanham.

But what about some individuals?

Ray Lewis: No. 7 among the cities looking up the Ravens linebacker was Pittsburgh. Those Steelers fans trying to find some dirt? By the same token, Baltimore was sixth on the list for Ben Roethlisberger.

Cal Ripken: Right behind first-place Baltimore is Lexington, Ky. The New York Yankees' stronghold of Newark, N.J., is 10th.

Miguel Tejada: Santo Domingo in his home country of the Dominican Republic comes in far ahead of Baltimore (which actually is third, also behind Mexico City). No. 7 on the list is Boston, likely reflecting the hopes of Red Sox fans for a trade for the Orioles shortstop.

Barbaro: Baltimore surprisingly doesn't make the Top 10, headed by Louisville, Ky., where the injured colt won the Kentucky Derby. Denver at No. 7?

Brian Billick: The Ravens coach's full name doesn't register enough to produce a list, but just his last name brings up three - Baltimore, Washington and New York.

Then again, "Ray Frager" comes up with zero. However, in a satisfying result, so does "Peter Schmuck."

Medium is message

The launch of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's Triple X radio mini-network this week was accompanied by a bit of hand-wringing. Some may worry about a team owner controlling the message about his team by owning media outlets.

However, those inclined to wring their hands should have been doing so for quite some time. Clubs long have exerted influence over broadcasts tied to the team, even without owning the radio station. The clubs control the rights, after all. A popular announcer can be out of a job because management finds him too critical.

And when a station loses the rights to, say, an NFL team, then it can start saying how its coverage will be "uncensored."

Coleman resurfaces

Speaking of Washington radio, former WBAL Radio sports guy Jerry Coleman reports he has landed at D.C.'s all-sports WTEM (980 AM) as the Redskins reporter. He expects a big adjustment in dealing with another kind of coaching personality. "It'll be a lot different covering Joe Gibbs instead of Brian Billick," Coleman said. ...

OLN has reached a deal to televise the Cal Ripken World Series for 2006 and 2007. This year's telecasts from Aberdeen will be Aug. 18 through 20.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

TOP-RATED SPORTS

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for July 12-18 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Orioles-Rangers 7/16 13 4.7

Orioles-Rangers 7/15 13 4.2

Sports Unlimited 7/16 45 4.1

Orioles-A's 7/17 CSN 3.2

WWE Raw-a 7/17 USA 3.0

Orioles-A's-b 7/18 CSN 2.7

Senior golf 7/16 13 2.5

WWE Raw-c 7/17 USA 2.4

Orioles-Rangers 7/13 CSN 2.4

Orioles-A's 7/18 CSN 2.3

a-10 to 11 p.m., b-7 to 8 p.m., c-9 to 10 p.m. [Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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