Miller part of the Ryder Cup fabric

By Doug FergusonSeptember 28, 2010, 9:35 pm

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – You can count on Johnny Miller to be impartial at the Ryder Cup as an analyst for NBC Sports.

American or European, he can get under anyone’s skin.

As great as he was as a player – Miller will tell you that himself – he only played in the Ryder Cup twice. Still, he has managed to become a big part of the event through commentary that is always blunt, sometimes shocking, usually accurate.

Even some of his victims agree with that.

“I like a lot of what he does,” Justin Leonard said last week. “It can be a little too critical. I’m sure most guys on tour would say the same thing. We don’t want anyone saying we choked. We know we did. We just don’t want to hear anyone else say we did.”

Leonard says he is not a “Johnny basher,” even though few other player were bashed worse.

“My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television,” Miller blurted out in 1999 when Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match Saturday afternoon at Brookline.

That remains among the most famous of the “Johnny moments,” and there have been plenty over the years. Like the time he said Craig Parry’s swing would make Ben Hogan puke. And remember, Miller is the first analyst to introduce the word “choke” into the golf broadcast, a word players don’t even like hearing in conversation.

And there might be plenty of that going on this week at Celtic Manor.

Miller will be in the booth for the 10th straight Ryder Cup, and he began warming up last week during a conference call. That’s when he said Tiger Woods hasn’t been able to lead the team, neither has Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk has been “less than so-so.”

It’s the Miller way. It’s all he knows.

“Not a lot of announcers are willing to let it go,” Miller said. “When you let it go, like in car racing when you push down on the accelerator, you’re going to spin out a few times. The bottom line is I’m not a careful announcer. If I have a legacy when I retire, it’s that I really was the first announcer willing to say a few things that make people go, ‘Wow.”’

Ian Poulter didn’t exactly say, “Wow.” He used a British euphemism that can’t be repeated here.

Poulter was finishing up a 69 in the third round of the BMW Championship to stay in contention when Miller noted, “You know, he’s not a very good ball-striker.”

The spunky Englishman fought back on Twitter.

– “Johnny Miller saying today I wasn’t a good ball striker I guess I do alright for a duffer then. He talks such (nonsense) at times.”

– “I will have to try and win a couple of majors like him and see if I can change his mind until then I’m happy being a overrated duffer.”

Then came another tweet, with Poulter suggesting that Miller “choke on this.” He included a link to the European Tour website that showed Poulter at No. 2 in the greens in regulation.

The last laugh?

Not really.

Poulter has played only 12 rounds on the European Tour. In 49 rounds on the PGA Tour, he ranks 171st.

“Everybody wants to be praised,” Miller said, explaining why players seem to have such thin skin. “You can’t say every shot is great. If a player gets four compliments and one criticism, they don’t remember the positive stuff I say. I’ve never had a player say, ‘Thanks for saying I was a heck of a sand play.’ My announcing is real.”

Miller says he has been that way his entire career – on the course and in the booth.

He wonders if blunt criticism of himself as a player kept him from winning more than 25 times, along with two majors. One of those majors was the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which everyone knows about because Miller always talks about it. He was the first player to shoot 63 in a major.

“I was tough on myself, maybe to a fault,” Miller said. “And maybe I was too complimentary and too cocky when I had it going. I’m very honest. I’m not bragging. That’s just the way I am. I would be the first one to tell you I was choking. I also would be the first one to tell you how great I was playing.”

Miller realizes he has annoyed players. That’s OK. He is a peer on the golf course. He’s not a friend in the booth.

“There’s a certain respect I give them and they give me,” he said. “They know I have a good record and I know what I’m talking about. It’s not my job to be overly chummy. But nobody on tour shuns me. If I see someone coming, I don’t have to make a hard left.”

That doesn’t mean he’s afraid to apologize.

He ran into Leonard in Dallas a few weeks after that 1999 Ryder Cup, and Miller told him he went over the line. Johnny being Johnny, he’s starting to wonder if his criticism is now a badge of honor.

Remember, the day after Miller said Leonard should have stayed home, the Texan won the decisive match by making one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history, a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. And not long after his criticism of Parry’s swing at Doral, the Australian holed a 6-iron for eagle to win in a sudden-death playoff.

“It seems like when I do cross the line, that guy becomes a hero that week,” Miller said. “Maybe these guys should be looking forward to me ripping them.”

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."