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Original Issue

Hell-Brent for Heather

ABC's oft-maligned Brent Musburger hits it straight and true during the British Open

Brent Musburger at the British Open? If you listen to golf's gatekeepers, this is akin to Earl Scheib at the Louvre. These wedgeheads used to grumble when Brent hunkered down in the Butler Cabin for CBS at the Masters. So when Brent headed for the birthplace of the sport of cocktails last weekend, all the country-club types feared for golf's twin traditions of fair play and valet parking.

Well, Brent arrived in Scotland, and golf survived intact.

Whom exactly do these tee-brains want helping Jim McKay run the golf show at ABC, anyway? Gary Bender? Doogie Howser? If there's a big game on TV and Brent's on the payroll, then Brent's going to be at work. O.K., so he's not exactly the old "Big Event" Brent of his CBS glory days. He's the new "Any Event" Brent, a bit humbled by World League football and the Little League World Series but still capable of saying almost all the right things in almost all the right places.

Yes, Brent's back, meaning Brent-bashing is back in the clubhouse. But I'm standing by him. After all, if I have to watch eight hours of golf over two days, I want to hear more than Steve Melnyk saying to Bob Rosburg, "How bad's that lie he's got down there, Rossie?"

(Speaking of which, why was I watching this much golf? I have this to say to my editors: British Open, Schmitish Open. It's not our national championship, it's their national championship. Didn't the colonies break away some 200 years ago so we could avoid stuff like this? Don't get me wrong: Britain's a wonderful place to visit, particularly if you're not planning to eat. But why couldn't I write about the season's final bowling telecast on Saturday? Same network, later hour, better sport. I'll take Amleto Monacelli-Pete Weber over Nick Faldo-John Cook any day. Plus, a single bowling match is over in about the same time it takes Bern-hard Langer to decide which club to use from 205 yards away on the 17th. Not to mention, on ABC's interminable golf coverage you see only five golfers all day. And I'm tired of hearing about the weather in Scotland; the wind at Muirfield is no tougher than the windmill hole at any Putt-Putt I play.)

Brent did not trample over tradition. He didn't kick sand onto the greens. Rather, he was simply par for the course. Splitting duties with the timeless, elegant McKay, he reported energetically on the Open, with that slight bounce and hype to his voice that is pure Brent.

In fact, Brent-bashers could learn from the British. The British have their monarchy; in America, Brent is part of our broadcasting royalty. When kings and queens make appearances in the Empire, it is symbolic; similarly, when broadcasters like Brent are on hand, their presence alone gives the events more cachet. Like Fergie and Andrew, and Charles and Di, Brent has his faults, yet most common folks still embrace him, warts and all.

Better yet, when you pass in front of Brent on the screen, you don't have to bow. If you want to, you can just turn the sound down.