Miller extends contract with NBC through 2017

By Doug FergusonOctober 14, 2014, 9:12 pm

NAPA, Calif. - In his own words, Johnny Miller doesn't think he has lost his marbles. Not all of them, anyway.

And there's a big part of him that wants to see if Tiger Woods can find his game.

Miller was the first person who dared to mention the ''C'' word (choke) in a golf telecast. As he finished his 25th year as the lead analyst for NBC Sports, he began thinking about the ''R'' word - retirement.

It didn't help that NBC lost the U.S. Open when the USGA couldn't refuse an offer from Fox that topped $1 billion. Miller also has a history of leaving on his own terms. He started scaling back his playing career in his early 40s.

''I was thinking I'm 67. I'm getting up there,'' Miller said over the weekend at Silverado, where he was the unofficial host at the Open. ''I didn't know how my marbles were going to be at that time. So far, I haven't lost too many. I'll be the first guy to quit this if I start losing it.''

Instead, he extended his deal with NBC Sport through at least 2017, with an option for another year.

That would end a year before the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach for the sixth time, and part of Miller wonders if there's a chance he can play some role on TV. It's bad enough not to be calling the shots at a U.S. Open, even worse when it's in Northern California, the roots of his Hall of Fame career.

''That would be tough to watch Pebble or Olympic Club and not be able to cover it,'' Miller said, pausing to smile before adding, ''For me. Maybe not for other people.''

Miller has annoyed plenty of people - mostly players - during his 25 years in the booth.

That list includes Woods.

It's nothing personal. It rarely is with Miller.

''The nice part about my career is I started covering him at the U.S. Amateur, and I was going to the national junior (U.S. Junior Amateur) when my sons were in it,'' he said. ''So I've covered pretty much his whole career.''

Miller was never more prescient than in a book he wrote 10 years ago, ''I Call The Shots.'' In debating both sides of whether Woods (who had eight majors in 2004) could surpass the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, he wrote that Woods was an old 28 as a child prodigy and ''I have a feeling Tiger is dead in his prime right now, and that it won't be long before the hole shrinks back to its regulation 4 1/4-inch size.''

''Like everybody else,'' Miller wrote, ''he's slowly accumulating bits of scar tissue from small disappointments and putts that burn the edge of the hole and don't fall. I'm lukewarm on the prospect of another stretch of play like he experienced in winning the Tiger Slam.''

Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since 2008, though Miller was slightly off on his timing.

A year after the book came out, Woods went on an incomparable tear until his reconstructive knee surgery in 2008. He won six majors (a career Grand Slam in 14 majors), was runner-up four times and only twice finished out of the top four.

Winning majors has been tough on Woods since the implosion in his personal life, followed by a variety of leg and back injuries. Woods has missed 25 percent of the majors dating to 2011.

''I knew he'd have a down time, sort of like I did in '78,'' Miller said. ''His personal life tumbled in. He lost a lot of mojo there, and then he's had injuries on top of that. He had a lot happen in a short amount of time. He's in an interesting place right now. I think he's going to have a second career that will be pretty good. But he's got to get it going pretty soon. I'm pulling for him big time.''

He wouldn't be surprised if Woods were to win two majors next year. He wouldn't be surprised if Woods went a seventh straight year without a major. Woods has never been more difficult to predict, especially with a talent pool in golf that is getting deeper every year.

Miller is intrigued by it all, which is not to suggest he finds this chapter in the Tiger Woods Era to be more interesting than when he was in his prime.

''It was a lot more fun when he was winning,'' Miller said. ''I don't like to see him where he is. It's one thing to tail off. He still thinks he's young. He's an old 38. I hope I'm wrong. But he's been going hard at it since he was just out of diapers, sort of like I did. He should have some good golf left in him. We forget he won five times last year. That seems like a long time ago. He's a real positive thinker - at least he is in front of you guys.''

Miller would love to see the last few years of Woods collide with the emergence of Rory McIlroy. And he hopes that it happens soon, so he can watch from a familiar place in the broadcast booth.

No doubt he will have something to say about it.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."