Thomas, Koepka grouped as both vie for No. 1 in Korea
The PGA Tour remains in Asia this week, where another star-studded field is gathered for a no-cut event. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the CJ Cup in South Korea, where Justin Thomas will look to retain his title as the tournament's lone champion with the action getting started Wednesday night for American viewers (all times ET):
7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im
Thomas won the inaugural edition of this event last year in a playoff, and he returns to defend his title with hopes of supplanting idle Dustin Johnson as world No. 1. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Koepka, who is making his first start since being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and, like Thomas, could move to world No. 1. Rounding out the group is Im, a Korean native who went wire-to-wire leading the Web.com Tour money list in 2018 and nearly won his first event as a PGA Tour member in Napa.
8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els
Leishman lost to Thomas in overtime at this event last year, but he returns to Jeju Island with plenty of momentum after dusting the field last week en route to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. Joining him will be Kim, who won the 2017 Players Championship and will have plenty of support from the Korean fans, and Els, playing this week on a sponsor invite as he continues to keep an eye on potential stars for the Presidents Cup team he will captain next year.
8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama
They're two Aussies who teamed on plenty of Presidents Cup squads and have both reached the top of the world rankings, and now they'll play together for the first two rounds in Korea. Day is making his first start since East Lake, while Scott made a rare appearance at the Japan Open last week where he tied for 50th. Rounding out the trio will be Matsuyama, another Presidents Cup fixture who tied for fourth at the Tour Championship to end last season.
8:35 p.m. Wednesday, 7:25 p.m. Thursday: Kevin Tway, Austin Cook, Xander Schauffele
Tway finished T-27 last week in Malaysia in his first start as a PGA Tour winner, having taken the trophy two weeks ago in Napa. He'll be joined in Korea by Cook, who contended throughout last week en route to a T-13 finish, and Schauffele, the former Rookie of the Year who shot 65-68 over the weekend in Kuala Lumpur.
Stock Watch: It's still Miller time
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Johnny (+10%): A polarizing figure to the end, Miller was the rare candid and uncompromising voice in the chummy world of pro golf. Paul Azinger (the reported successor) has a big seat to fill in the booth.
Marc Leishman (+8%): Few can light up a board like Leish, who went 26 under at the CIMB without breaking a sweat. With that beautiful, high fade and his streaky putter, he will continue to be a major breakthrough candidate for 2019.
Eddie Pepperell (+6%): Is there a more fun cat in all of golf? He won ugly on a nasty day at the British Masters, delivered some more money quotes afterward, and now has two Euro Tour titles (and two runners-up!) this season and a ’19 Masters invite upcoming.
Bernhard Langer (+5%): A “quiet” season is still two wins, but at age 61 he’s started to fall off the pace to catch Hale Irwin’s record 45 wins. (He’s seven back.) This is an important playoff run for Langer.
Jordan Spieth (+3%): He got that strength-of-schedule requirement out of the way early by adding the Vegas event to his calendar – the first time he’s teed it up domestically in the fall. This has been such a bizarre year, it wouldn’t surprise at all if he comes out and grabs a slump-busting W.
Shubhankar Sharma (-1%): Just 22, he still needs to learn how to win – and he will. The Sunday 74 in Mexico and closing 72 in Malaysia will be critical learning experiences for the rising star from India.
Tour tracks (-2%): What a contrast, seeing PGA Tour types tearing up a nondescript course in Malaysia (with a dozen players 19 under or better) while Justin Rose and Co. battled a firm and bouncy Walton Heath that surrendered only two 72-hole scores lower than 5 under. Hmmm.
Green-reading materials (-5%): Good luck enforcing the new rule that limits images to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards, and allows only handwritten notes from a player or caddie. The books still grind pace of play to a halt and reduce the skill involved in reading a green, so why not ban them altogether?
Tiger vs. Phil (-7%): There have been wrong turns at seemingly every corner: No fans or local kids on-site; no undercard matches; not on network TV; not under the lights; not for their own cash; no charitable aspect; not played 15 years earlier. What a missed opportunity. All of it.
NBC Sports' Johnny Miller announces retirement from lead golf analyst role
2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open in February Will be Miller’s Final 18th Tower Call
On the eve of 30 years as NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst, Johnny Miller has chosen to make his final 18th tower call at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be staged from Thursday, January 31 – Sunday, February 3.
“When NBC Sports approached me 30 years ago about a move to TV, I never could have imagined how it would lead to so many lasting relationships and countless memories made alongside a team of talented friends, both in front of and behind the camera,” Miller said. “I’m forever grateful to my family for their support during this fulfilling chapter of my life. As I say farewell to the 18th tower, I look forward to spending more time alongside my wife Linda, our children, and our 24 grandchildren. Soon it will officially be Miller time.”
Miller was named lead analyst of NBC Sports’ golf broadcast team in 1990 and quickly made his mark as the game’s most candid commentator, calling some of golf’s most memorable shots for the past three decades. Garnering eight Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst,” Miller’s insight and frank approach have earned him both critical praise and viewer appreciation, as well as the respect and occasional raised eyebrow from those competing inside the ropes.
“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is simply the gold standard,” said Tommy Roy, NBC Sports’ lead golf producer. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA TOUR’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”
“Johnny Miller is the best golf analyst ever and he will be missed by millions of fans. Early in his career, he made a commitment to serve the fans by telling it like it is and for three decades he’s served those fans incredibly well,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “Whether they agree or disagree with Johnny, everyone wants to hear what he has to say. His unfiltered approach has not only been refreshing, but it’s what makes him great. He is a part of the fabric of NBC Sports, and as one of the most influential voices in golf, he will forever have a home here.”
“This truly marks the end of a broadcast era,” said Dan Hicks, NBC Sports’ play-by-play host, who – with Miller – owns the record for longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf (2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open marks 20 years). “Johnny changed the landscape of golf commentary and analysis with his unique, unfiltered and honest manner, which made for a deep connection with viewers at home. Johnny was always unpredictable, so there was never a dull moment with Johnny in the booth. To sit next to him will always remain one of the greatest honors I could ever have in this business.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF MILLER’S GOLF ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
- Golf Career:
- World Golf Hall of Fame, inducted 1998
- 1973 U.S. Open: Miller shot a 63 in the final round at Oakmont Country Club to win. This was the lowest round to win a major championship until it was tied by Henrik Stenson at The Open in 2016.
- 1976 Open Championship: Miller beat Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus at Royal Birkdale en route to being named “Champion Golfer of the Year”
- 25-time PGA TOUR winner
- 1974 Player of the Year
- U.S. Ryder Cup wins in 1975, 1981
- Three-time World Cup participant, winning in 1973, ‘75
- Two-time All-American at Brigham Young University (1967-’68)
- Gold Tee Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association (1996)
- Jack Nicklaus Golf Family of the Year Award, National Golf Foundation (1997)
- Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame inductee (2013)
- Ambassador of Golf Award, Northern Ohio Golf Charities (2014)
- Memorial Tournament Honoree (2016)
- Golf Broadcast Career:
- 29 PLAYERS Championships
- 20 U.S. Opens
- 14 Ryder Cups
- 9 Presidents Cups
- 3 Open Championships
- 2016 Rio Olympics
- First event: Bob Hope Desert Classic (January 18-21, 1990)
- Farewell event: Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2019. Miller won the Phoenix Open in back-to-back years in 1974-‘75.
- 8-time Emmy Award nominee for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst”
- In 2019, 20 consecutive years Miller has sat next to Dan Hicks, NBC Sports play-by-play host, together sharing the record for the longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf.
- Prior to Hicks, Miller’s previous broadcast partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.
- Biographical Information:
- Born and raised in San Francisco, resides in Utah
- Turned professional in 1969 after graduating from Brigham Young University
- Married to Linda Miller on Sept. 17, 1969.
- 6 children, 24 grandchildren
- Has contributed to the design of more than 30 golf courses, including Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif., host of the PGA TOUR’s Safeway Open. Miller also serves as the event’s tournament host.
Miller's one-of-a-kind style will be missed
A day after welcoming grandbaby No. 24 into the world, NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Johnny Miller carefully considered the question – why now?
After nearly three decades calling shots with his unvarnished and unapologetic style, Miller announced on Tuesday that he will call his last tournament in January at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s the perfect swansong for Miller, whose dominance in Arizona during his playing days earned him the nickname, the "Desert Fox.”
“The call of being there for my grandkids to teach them how to golf and fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller said from his home in Napa, Calif. “The parents are trying to make a living and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I’m a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”
Miller’s voice has been the soundtrack to some of the game’s greatest moments for 29 years - since he took over as the network’s lead analyst - and his unfiltered take created an immediate standard.
During his first event in the booth, Miller called the final moments of the 1990 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with his good friend and frequent partner Peter Jacobsen clinging to a one-stroke lead.
“I said he had the perfect lie, downhill and over water, that he could choke on,” Miller recalled. “He was my partner in the team championships, we had been friends forever and he didn’t talk to me for a long time after that.”
It was a blunt style that was very much new to golf at the time. Prior to Miller the norms of broadcasting golf tournaments required a kid-glove approach, but before making it through his first 72 holes Miller had already uncorked the first of many “choke” comments.
Miller’s approach to broadcasting was born from the same competitive drive that lifted him to 25 PGA Tour titles and two major championships, and he’s as comfortable with his no-holds-barred approach now at 71 as he was when he started in 1990.
“I’m sort of a golfing version of [NBA analyst] Charles Barkley, it’s what people want,” Miller laughed. “The players don’t like it, but my father always told me that when I’m raising my kids you need four parts confidence and inspiring, but that one time you need to trim the bush a little bit.”
Jacobsen wouldn’t be the last player to endure one of Miller’s blunt assessments. During the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Miller’s take of Rocco Mediate’s performance in the playoff was that he “wilted.”
Miller’s assessments were as educated and nuanced as they were pointed, but that didn’t mean they were always easy.
“Every time I’d see [Mediate] it would be in the airport. It was about two years after that U.S. Open, he was like, ‘Can you believe Tiger [Woods] made that putt?’” Miller said. “I had said [Mediate] ‘looked like the guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool,’ which wasn’t very nice. But he said he understood.”
And because of Miller’s unique style and aptitude for the game a generation of golf fans better understood what it was like to feel the pressure at the game’s highest level with a title on the line.
It was never about embarrassing players or creating talking points; it was simply the only way Miller knew how to play the game and what separated good players from great ones.
“It’s the greatest game to choke on,” Miller said. “If people want to shy away from that they are missing the whole point of the game. It’s the ultimate game to expose your nerves. The fact no one went there before me I never understood.”
For Miller, having the best seat in the house for nearly 30 years only reinforced what he learned as an accomplished player. Although he concedes now that he’s softened slightly over the years, having been the man who put so many historic performances in context has left more highlight reel moments than he can remember.
There was the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in South Carolina that the U.S. team won by a point.
“I’d never been involved in anything that was that thrilling,” he recalled. “The finish was crazy, the fans were nuts. That course was perfect to prove if you can handle pressure or not.”
He fondly recalls his first U.S. Open in the booth in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills and, of course, the ’08 championship at Torrey Pines was special for so many reasons.
But pressed for his favorite tournament as an analyst, Miller’s mind goes to the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which Woods won by 15 strokes.
“That was the best golf he ever played,” he said. “But that’s like asking me which one of my grandchildren I love the most. There’s a lot of good ones.”
Miller will miss the booth and the people he’s worked with like Dan Hicks and NBC Sports and Golf Channel producer Tommy Roy, but he admits that the job has changed.
“The technology, social media is part of the new world we live in. There’s just so much coverage now. It’s getting crazy,” he said. “What’s in the future of how much coverage there will be? The Ryder Cup this year you get to the booth in the dark and leave in the dark. That’s the new Ryder Cup norm. It’s not a 71-year-old’s job.”
Miller offered one final assessment for his replacement as the lead analyst and it was no surprise that his answer was unblinkingly straightforward.
“When I’m back east I hear 50 times a day, ‘Johnny, keep telling it like it is.’ That’s what the gallery wants,” Miller said. “They crave that you don’t patty-cake it. You have to have the fortitude to call it like you see it. The public can feel it. They know when you’re being honest.”
After nearly 30 years of unfiltered honesty, Johnny would know.