Jay Townsend is in Madrid, Spain for this week’s Bankia Madrid Masters. Michael Hoey defeated fellow Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Hoey led by 3 entering the final round and managed to hold off a charging Rory McIlroy who was 7 under through 11 holes. Hoey has shown himself to be an impressive player who deserved this win. McIlroy missed a birdie putt on 12 in the final round and it seemed to Jay that Rory began to question his putting following that miss and the resulting uncertainty on the greens led to pars all the way in which no one thought he would do. It is amazing considering how small the country of Northern Ireland is to have the top 3 finishers at St. Andrews to go with Major Champions in 3 of the last 7 Majors. You can only expect more from Northern Irish players after these strong performances. Graeme McDowell, who finished runner-up last week, has struggled in 2011 for the most part but Jay feels encouraged after seeing McDowell’s performance and thinks that the good play will continue and that he will win before 2011 is over. Lee Westwood went all orange on Sunday and Jay wished that he had erased that image from his mind it was so awful. Jay speculated that Lee had to have lost a bet to wear something like that in the final round at St. Andrews. Lee tweeted that he will never wear that outfit again which is a relief. There are a number of contenders for Golfer of the Year on the European Tour and sentimentally he thinks that Thomas Bjorn is the pick but he thinks the favorite is Luke Donald although he will have to continue to play well for two more months if he is going to secure that honor.
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.
Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.
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.
Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019
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.
Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff
Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.
The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.
Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.
Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.
He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.
There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.
In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.
So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.
The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.
Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.
When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.
Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.
Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.
Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.
“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.
This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.
The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.
It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.
“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.
Pay per view does that.
“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.
If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.
Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.