More than 3m fewer people watched the Open on Sky this weekend than on the BBC last year

Joe Hall
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145th Open Championship - Day Four
Stenson's triumph was viewed by a peak audience of just 1.1m (Source: Getty)

The first year of the Open Championship coverage on Sky endured a 77 per cent drop in viewing figures compared to the final broadcast on the BBC a year ago.

Read more: I was destined to win Open Championship, claims victorious Henrik Stenson

Last year's peak TV audience of 4.7m plunged to 1.1m last weekend despite the dramatic final day of action between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, since heralded as one of the best days of golf the major has ever seen.

Prior to Zach Johnson's triumph last year, the BBC pulled in 5.5m viewers for Rory McIlroy's win in 2014 and 3.4m for Mickelson's victory at Muirfield in 2013.

Even the BBC's highlights show on Sunday evening reached a larger audience of 1.5m than Sky's live coverage.

The BBC had the rights to show the Open for a final time this year after Sky secured a five-year deal starting from 2017, but gave them up a year early as part of an organisation-wide cost cutting drive.

It had previously broadcast every edition of the event since 1955.

Event organiser the R&A has repeatedly denied accusations that taking the Open away from free-to-air television will lock out a generation of potential fans and negatively impact participation figures.

There has been suggestion that golf's participation numbers could suffer a similar fate to cricket's, which have dropped by nearly 20 per cent since the ECB sold rights to Sky Sports in 2006.

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