Punch Shot: Player of the Year in 2015?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 5, 2015, 2:00 pm

Tiger Woods dominated in 2013. Rory McIlroy ruled 2014. Who will be the 2015 PGA Tour Player of the Year? GolfChannel.com's writers weigh in.


I’d love to step out on a limb here. I’d love to make some off-the-wall prediction, then be able to gloat about it nine months from now.

But sorry, I just can’t do it. I’m picking Rory McIlroy to win another PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

I could sit here and break down all the reasons – he drives the ball like some sort of Byron Nelson/Greg Norman hybrid; his mid-iron trajectory is the equivalent of most players’ sand wedges; and, oh yeah, he makes plenty of big putts.

You knew all of that already, though.

Just as you know that while the best player often doesn’t win on a given week, talent always prevails over the span of an entire season.

McIlroy will always be streaky. He’ll miss a few cuts this year. And he might not repeat that summer stretch which led to the year’s final two major titles. But he’s the world’s best player right now. That will be enough to land him this award for a third time in four years.

It certainly won’t be his last, either.


It’s tempting to go cute here: Maybe Bubba Watson will build off his best-ever year, or Jordan Spieth will become a household name in his third season on Tour, or Tiger Woods will remind everyone who is still No. 1.

But chances are, we’re looking at another year of Rory McIlroy claiming the top spot.

We’ve already seen that McIlroy is prone to peaks and valleys in his career (2012-2013), but this time feels different. He’s more confident than he’s ever been on the course, he’s comfortable with his equipment and who he is off the course, and he seems destined to build on his memorable 2014 campaign.  

If Rory can skate through the first few months of the season relatively unscathed – no prolonged court-case drama, no breakdown at Augusta – then he should author another multiple-win season and perhaps a major, too. (Hello, St. Andrews.) On a parity-filled tour that has never been stronger and deeper, that should be more than enough to earn POY honors.


Observers say that nasty lawsuit will keep him from properly preparing for the year’s first major.

Historians will point out the familiar ebb and flow of his young career and his reliance on that nuclear driver to dominate – you know the drill: live by the long ball, die by the long ball.

But unless Bernhard Langer finds a fountain of youth that passes World Anti-Doping Agency scrutiny, Rory McIlroy is the easy favorite to collect his second consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year title this season.

While an argument could be made for others to secure the Jack Nicklaus Award, the world No. 1’s play to close out 2014 leaves little room for devil’s advocacy.

Although McIlroy’s ongoing legal row with his former management company may occupy some of his time in the spring, the Northern Irishman has proven himself as adept at compartmentalizing (see Wozniacki, Caroline, 2014) as he is with a 460cc driver in his hands.

Nor does it seem likely McIlroy will lapse into another lull like he did in 2013 when he failed to win on the PGA Tour and didn’t seriously contend in any of the year’s major championships.

The Ulsterman’s 2014 was simply too dominant, too textbook to expect anything other than a repeat performance in 2015.


Rory McIlroy’s legal dispute with his former management company complicates the question, but if Las Vegas were laying odds he would still be the overwhelming favorite to win PGA Tour Player of the Year for the third time in four years.

With a trial scheduled to start in February, McIlroy, 25, will have some more distractions to contend with as he gets himself ready for the new year. There’s no telling how the suit will unfold and how it will affect him, but McIlroy found his stride through all the distractions this past year and won four times around the world, including two majors.

He’s growing up on and off the course navigating challenges large and small. Through all this there’s the formidable possibility that he grows even stronger mentally and emotionally stiff-arming challenges on his way to a career grand slam and a special place in history.

The bet here is his heart and talent keeps prevailing.


The Rory Era continues in 2015.

McIlroy enters the new year as the undisputed top player in golf, with two of 2014's four biggest trophies on his mantle. With an equipment change and relationship turmoil in the rear-view mirror, expect the Ulsterman to continue to put distance between himself and the rest of the game’s best.

Sure, there will be challenges. Tiger Woods will undoubtedly be better this year than last, as will Phil Mickelson. But when McIlroy is playing at a high level, he is nearly unbeatable regardless of venue. While off-the-course issues will continue in 2015 with his legal action with Horizon, McIlroy has proven in the past an ability to put such issues aside and thrive inside the ropes. Expect a repeat of that in 2015, as well as a repeat for McIlroy as the PGA Tour’s top man.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."

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Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

''And it was worth it.''

Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.

Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years

And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

It wasn't all bad.

Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

And that's just what Woods did.

McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

He leaves behind a style all his own.

Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

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CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

Key stats:

 This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

• 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit

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Els eyeing potential Prez Cup players at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:55 pm

Ernie Els is teeing it up this week in South Korea as a player, but he's also retaining the perspective of a captain.

While the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia is still more than a year away, Els has already begun the process of keeping tabs on potential players who could factor on his International squad that will face an American contingent captained by Tiger Woods. Els played in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and this week received one of eight sponsor exemptions into the limited-field CJ Cup on Jeju Island.

Els played a Tuesday practice round with Presidents Cup veteran and Branden Grace and India's Shubankhar Sharma, who held a share of the 54-hole lead last week in Malaysia.

"It's going to be a very diverse team the way things are shaping up already," Els told reporters. "We've got another year to go, so we're going to have an interesting new group of players that's going to probably make the team."

In addition to keeping tabs on Grace and Sharma, Els will play the first two rounds with Australia's Marc Leishman and South Korea's Si Woo Kim. Then there's Sungjae Im, a native of Jeju Island who led the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire last season.

"There's so many Korean youngsters here this week, so I'm going to really see how they perform," Els said. "Still a long way to go, but these guys, the young guys are going to be really the core of our team."

Els, who will turn 49 on Wednesday, made only five cuts in 15 PGA Tour starts last season, with his best result a T-30 finish at the Valero Texas Open. While it's increasingly likely that his unexpected triumph at the 2012 Open will end up being his final worldwide victory, he's eager to tackle a new challenge in the coming months by putting together the squad that he hopes can end the International losing skid in the biennial matches.

"The U.S. team is a well-oiled team. They play Ryder Cups together, they obviously play very well in the Presidents Cups against us, so they're a very mature team," Els said. "We are going to be a young team, inexperienced. But that doesn't scare me because I know the course very well down in Melbourne, I've played it many, many times. I feel I have a very good game plan to play the golf course strategy-wise and I'm going to share that with my players."