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NBC TAKES U.S. OPEN GOLF AWAY FROM ABC

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Johnny Miller is in. Brent Musburger is out. And NBC finally has its first major golf championship.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Golf Association's executive committee approved a contract with NBC, taking the U.S. Open golf tournament away from ABC after nearly three decades."We believe we're at the top of our game now and certainly the equal of anybody else doing golf on TV today," NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol said in a conference call.

"We wanted the national championships of golf desperately. They are the most prestigious events in our country."

ABC will televise its 29th and final U.S. Open on June 18-19 at Oakmont in Pittsburgh, and leading its coverage will be Musburger, roundly criticized by pros and mavens alike for being a golf outsider.

Next year's Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., falls in the 100th year of the sponsoring USGA and will give NBC a showcase for Miller, considered by many the top golf announcer in the business right now.

"Quite frankly, I don't believe if this opportunity had come up four or five years ago that we would have been ready for it," said Ebersol, who changed NBC's entire golf production team two years ago. "We've worked very hard to bring golf up to the level it is today, and I credit two people - Johnny Miller and Tommy Roy, our executive producer."

ABC still has the British Open, while CBS holds exclusive U.S. rights to the Masters and PGA Championship. Before acquiring the U.S. Open, NBC's top golf events were the Tournament Players Championship and biennial Ryder Cup team competition. NBC was the first U.S. Open TV carrier in 1954.

"We bid aggressively and were disappointed to lose it," ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel said. "But this corporation is guided by sound business principles, and we couldn't justify losing any money on the event."

Details of the package were not announced, but past USGA president and television rights negotiator Frank Tatum confirmed that NBC made the higher bid.

"We don't make deals to lose money, either," Ebersol said.