Well, that didn’t take long.
Just two weeks after NBC Golf parted ways with longtime voices Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch, the network has apparently hired their replacements. According to a Golfweek report, NBC will hire Smylie Kaufman and Brad Faxon on a full-time basis to fill the roles vacated by Maltbie and Koch, respectively, while longtime broadcaster Curt Byrum will be promoted to the role vacated by David Feherty’s departure to LIV Golf.
Kaufman, who joined NBC on a part-time basis in the middle of the 2022 season, will go full-time to fill the role vacated by Maltbie. His hiring should not come as a surprise to golf viewers, particularly those who raved over his performance on NBC’s USGA championship coverage and ESPN’s PGA Championship coverage in 2022.
In truth, the largest question surrounding his capacity to handle a full-time broadcasting role had to do with his desire to continue a playing career. The former PGA Tour pro is an exciting mix of youth (just 31 years old) and experience, quickly becoming the youngest face on NBC’s on-air broadcast team. Having played professionally for some seven years and maintaining close friendships with a host of top-tier players, he is a natural fit for the role of on-course reporter, where the most skilled commentators are able to leverage their relationships to convey real-time information to the viewers at home.
Faxon joins the booth after having served in a variety of roles for NBC and Golf Channel since the conclusion of his playing career in 2010. In 2015, he left the network to become the No. 2 analyst for Fox Sports’ USGA coverage, where he earned a reputation as one of the network’s most well-regarded golf voices. Faxon left North American airwaves after Fox’s decision to sell off its USGA broadcast rights to NBC in 2020, dropping its golf coverage in the midst of a 13-year, $1.1 billion agreement. In the years since, Faxon has been a regular contributor on both SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and Sky Sports’ golf coverage, in addition to his work as a PGA Tour putting guru. (Sky and NBC are both owned by Comcast but operated as separate entities.)
Byrum is the outlier among the new additions, having served as an NBC and Golf Channel analyst in a variety of roles for the last two decades. Now in his 21st season with Golf Channel, Byrum has covered the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Olympics for NBC and Golf Channel, lending his experience as a 15-year PGA Tour pro on a variety of platforms.
On the whole, the decisions mark the latest in a ripple of changes for the network that’s been a paradigm of consistency over the last decade. While rival CBS has watched its broadcast undergo an overhaul that included the departure of longtime broadcasters Gary McCord and Peter Kostis and the retirements of decades-long producer Lance Barrow and lead analyst Nick Faldo, the pillars of NBC’s broadcast have remained largely unchanged since Johnny Miller’s retirement in 2018. Lead producer Tommy Roy, play-by-play broadcaster Dan Hicks, interviewers Steve Sands and Mark Rolfing and essayist Jimmy Roberts have formed backbone of the production for some time now.
Byrum, Faxon and Kaufman will join newer additions like Kathryn Tappen, Paul Azinger and John Wood in helping to form the future of the NBC A-Team — a group that suddenly looks much different than it has in a long while.
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