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 Frys.com 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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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”