Golfweek has learned from multiple sources that Brad Faxon and Smylie Kaufman will join the NBC Sports and Golf Channel announce team beginning in 2023.
Golfweek was first to report that Gary Koch, 69, and Roger Maltbie, 71, wouldn’t be returning for next season. The network told Maltbie and Koch the decision was made to “refresh” the team for the future.
Faxon, 61, won eight times on the PGA Tour and twice on PGA Tour Champions and is renowned for his putting stroke. He still works with Rory McIlroy as a putting coach. He broke into the TV business in 2010 with NBC Sports, doing seven events before shifting to competing on the senior tour wheh he turned 50.
He was the lead golf analyst for Fox Sports for five years when the network held the rights to USGA events including the U.S. Open. Since NBC reacquired those package of events, Faxon has provided analysis for Sky Sports, the subscription-based channel in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which along with NBC and Golf Channel are owned by Comcast.
Faxon is expected to take over one of the tower assignments and will contribute to various ancillary programming such as the popular “Live From” show at majors. Faxon declined to comment.
Rory McIlroy and Brad Faxon at a practice round ahead of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images)
Kaufman, 31, played at LSU and won the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in 2015 and played in the final group of the 2016 Masters, but has struggled with his game in recent years and no longer is an exempt player. He worked for ESPN and contributed to coverage of the PGA Championship and NBC’s Peacock coverage of the U.S. Open, as well as the U.S. Junior and a handful of fall events for the Golf Channel.
Kaufman is expected to be an on-course analyst and viewed as a direct response to CBS’s hiring of Colt Knost, who went from a part-time role last year to a full-time gig this season.
Former Golf Channel host Gary Williams said of Kaufman on his podcast “5 Clubs,” that Kaufman has a savant-like ability to talk like himself and give a thought in 12 seconds.
“Is it my path forever? I don’t know,” Kaufman told Williams of doing TV. “But for right now it seems to be what I enjoy doing. We’ll see. I think right now it seems to be the way I’m headed.”
Kaufman didn’t respond to phone or text messages.
Golfweek has also learned that Curt Byrum is in line to be elevated to the top PGA Tour team and work in the “super tower,” assuming the spot of David Feherty, who left to join LIV Golf in late July, and that Justin Leonard will scale back his TV role as he focuses full time on the senior circuit.
Byrum, 63, won the 1989 Hardee’s Classic on the PGA Tour, and has served as an analyst with Golf Channel since 2001. When Golf Channel and NBC merged, Byrum was the one Golf Channel analyst to be bumped immediately up to NBC.
“He’s both underrated and underappreciated,” said one NBC Sports veteran, who was not at liberty to speak on the hirings because details still were being finalized.
When reached on the phone, Byrum said that his current contract expires in December and he’s “thrown his hat in the ring but nothing confirmed as of yet.”
Leonard, 50, has spent the last few years as an analyst and contributor to “Live From.” But the former British Open champion, who last played as many as 13 Tour events in 2015-16, has made the decision to play full-time on the Champions Tour. Last year, he played his PGA Tour swansong at the Valero Texas Open and made four starts on the Champions Tour after turning 50, with a best result of T-14 at Furyk & Friends. Leonard may make a few cameo appearances with NBC, such as at the Ryder Cup. Notah Begay III, who also turned 50 earlier this year and played twice on the Champions Tour, is expected to build his playing schedule around his TV role.
An NBC Sports spokesman responded by saying, “We’re focused on celebrating Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch at the PNC Championship later this month and will be announcing any additional changes to our lineup early in the new year.”
NBC is expected to announce the hirings shortly, but may wait until after the PNC Championship, which ends Dec. 18, out of respect for Koch, who will be doing his last event.
NBC is following in the footsteps of CBS, which in late 2019 cut ties with Peter Kostis and Gary McCord as part of a youth movement in its announcing crew. Nick Faldo, 65, retired in August and The Eye promoted Trevor Immelman, who turns 43 on Dec. 16, to the top analyst position next to Jim Nantz.