Punch Shot: Who's the British Open favorite?

By Jason SobelJuly 12, 2013, 8:12 pm

With Tiger Woods coming off an elbow injury and several recent major winners playing with sky-high confidence, is there a clear-cut favorite for next week's Open Championship? GolfChannel.com debates who will be the man to beat at Muirfield.


By JASON SOBEL

I've often maintained that Tiger Woods is the prohibitive favorite every time he tees it up. While the oddsmakers apparently agree with that sentiment going into next week's Open Championship, I'll go with Adam Scott instead.

The rationale is in the numbers. Since the beginning of 2011, Scott has played 10 majors and finished top 25 in eight of them. He has one win, of course, and could've, should've, would've had another at this tournament one year ago.

The fact is, nobody seems better prepared for majors these days than the reigning Masters champion.

This is also a matter, though, of process of elimination. Woods is dealing with an injured elbow. Rory McIlroy is suffering through a disappointing season. Justin Rose will be hard-pressed to go back to back. Phil Mickelson never plays his best golf overseas.

That leaves Scott as the pre-tournament favorite, which should mean absolutely nothing. If there's anything we've learned from so many recent majors where Woods was installed in that position, being the pre-tournament favorite doesn't mean much once the tournament actually starts. 


By RYAN LAVNER

There isn’t one, not a prohibitive favorite, at least. When’s the last time we could say that? A compelling argument could be made for five to 10 players, but each would be a flawed choice.

Forced to choose, however, any discussion must start with these three players:

• Co-favorite: Tiger Woods. Reason for caution: He’s rusty, not having played an event since the U.S. Open because of a balky elbow. Oh, and he also has that five-pound weight – his major-less drought, in pounds – strapped to his forehead.

• Co-favorite: Graeme McDowell. Reason for caution: He has three wins in his last eight worldwide starts. He also has five MCs over that stretch. So which G-Mac shows up at Muirfield?

• Co-favorite: Ernie Els. Reason for caution: You could argue that the Big Easy won at Lytham only because a.) Adam Scott collapsed; and b.) He miraculously brushed in putts with the belly putter.

But, you know, you could also add Lee Westwood to this list, since the Open is the major that least requires perfection on the greens, or Brandt Snedeker, who fits the mold of the next winner in this year of breakthrough major winners, or Adam Scott, looking to exact revenge on the major he lost last year.

This year, no pre-tournament favorite is no problem.


By REX HOGGARD

The betting houses say this is Tiger Woods’ Open Championship to win or lose, while sentimental types consider Graeme McDowell the man to beat. But both picks have awkward second sentences.

For Woods it is the elbow injury that forced him to miss the AT&T National, while G-Mac has endured almost as many valleys as peaks this season – winning three times around the globe, including last week’s French Open, and missing twice as many cuts.

Which leaves only Ernie Els, the defending champion and the last man to claim the claret jug at Muirfield.

The Big Easy seems to have everything on his side: a game that is rounding into shape at just the right moment, his health and a favorable history at the East Lothian gem.

Els won the BMW International Open with, of all things, a nearly flawless putter. Always considered one of the game’s top ball-strikers, the South African is taking new life from the belly putter for however long he’s allowed to use it.

He also seemed to team with karma last time around. In 2002, the last time the Open was played a Muirfield, Els teed off in one of the last groups on Saturday, was spared the worst of a storm that produced eight rounds in the 80s and survived a four-man playoff for his first Open title.

When picking a favorite, Els delivers the trifecta – good karma, good play and good timing.


By WILL GRAY

Let's face it. Whether he's at full strength or playing with one arm (or one leg), Tiger Woods will be the odds-on favorite at every major in which he plays for the forseeable future – a position that he certainly deserves at next week's British Open.

In this unprecedented era of parity, there exists a large pool of logical contenders, deriving a single 'favorite' from which can be difficult. Major champions such as Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els appear to be rounding into form, but the former has displayed consistency issues this season and the latter must deal with the heavy burden of trying to hoist the claret jug in consecutive years.

Each of the newest major champions, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, appears as likely as ever to contend, but choosing who will play better among the two is tough enough, let alone tabbing one of them as the pre-tournament favorite over the other 155 participants. And while the game boasts a deep stable of talent still in search of a maiden major win, top-ranked players such as Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Luke Donald likely must first follow in the footsteps of Scott and Rose before earning the role of favorite.

So we are left with Woods to lead the field, and with great reason. He has won this event three times prior, and tied for third just a year ago. Though injury kept him from defending his title at Congressional or teeing it up at Greenbrier, he has won four (four!) times already this season – including against an elite field at TPC Sawgrass, where his ailment apparently originated. Woods has earned his spot atop the world rankings with dominant play this season, and despite struggling in his last two starts he deserves to be installed as the favorite at Muirfield next week.


By RANDALL MELL

The elbow injury makes Tiger Woods suspect as a favorite.

The last time we saw him, he was shaking out pain after dozens of shots at the U.S. Open. With his sluggish form there and at the Memorial and with his withdrawal from the AT&T National, who really knows where his game is at? As much as his four victories this season may warrant it, he doesn’t go to Muirfield looking like a true favorite.

The view here is that Adam Scott and Justin Rose are the men to beat. They’re my co-favorites with their confidence high going to a championship where they have special motivation to prevail. Scott, winner of the Masters in April, looked like he had the British Open wrapped up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year before bogeying the final four holes. Rose, winner of the U.S. Open last month, introduced himself to the world tying for fourth as an amateur in the ’98 British Open at Royal Birkdale before turning pro and missing his first 21 cuts.

Scott and Rose have the confidence, form and momentum to help them win an event that ties up loose ends in their British Open histories.

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NBC Sports' Johnny Miller announces retirement from lead golf analyst role

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 16, 2018, 12:40 pm

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.
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Miller's one-of-a-kind style will be missed

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2018, 12:00 pm

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.”


Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years


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.

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “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 was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “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.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.