For all the marbles

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2011, 11:15 pm

ATLANTA – Let the projections and prognostications end.

With apologies to colleague Steve Sands and his over-stimulated Magic Marker, it’s time to crown a champion or three. No more scenarios, no more math, no more qualified claims of clarity here at the Question Mark Open.

On Sunday at East Lake the guessing ends and the golf will finally decide who will win the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship and probably the Player of Year Award, not to mention who will land the final spots at this year’s Presidents Cup.

For everyone who has had their fill of FedEx Cup projections, closure awaits and not a moment too soon. To be honest, the revolving door of possibilities has become tiresome.

Consider that on Saturday at the PGA Tour’s finale there were no fewer than five players who were “projected” to win the FedEx Cup at various stages. There hasn’t been speculation like that since Wall Street was scared straight in 2008.

For purposes of context, Webb Simpson is currently pegged for the $10 million payday and is tied for 15th at the Tour Championship. For Aaron Baddeley, your Round 3 frontrunner, to move into the $10M club Congress would need to agree on . . . well, anything and R.E.M. would need to reunite. Or something like that.

Actually, after Simpson, Luke Donald seems the most likely contender to win the FedEx Cup. He entered the week fourth on the points list, is currently tied for fifth place and could possibly cash the big ticket with as little as a third-place finish.

Go figure – the guy who has made a fortune with a parade of top 10s needs a top 10 to make another fortune.

More importantly, Donald also could shore up his chances to win golf’s version of the E.G.O.T, the entertainment industry’s Grand Slam for anyone who wins an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. For the Englishman, a win would likely secure the FedEx Cup and Tour money title and he is closing on the European Tour’s Race for Dubai crown and Order of Merit.

Luke Donald disease never looked so good.

Not that any of the hopefuls are talking $10 million in front of the microphone. That would be bad form and fairly poor psychology. But know this: The thought of winning the FedEx Cup hangs over East Lake like a blimp flashing dollar signs.

“On the front nine he turned to me and said, ‘I’ve never hit so many bad shots in my life. Playing for $10 million is hard,’” said one caddie of the dollar demons chasing players in Atlanta.

Steve Stricker, who is not among the contenders for the FedEx Cup crown but came off the course feeling like $1 million thanks to a cortisone shot earlier in the week, figured anyone who was playing for the FedEx Cup was thinking about it.

“I don’t think there’s any way they won’t be thinking about it,” Stricker said. “It’s 10 times as much as we normally play for. That’s huge.”

But then while 29 other players may be rounding East Lake on Sunday with visions of differed annuities racing through their minds, Baddeley is grinding away for a spot in a pro bono exhibition on the other side of the globe.

On Monday the Australian got a call from International Presidents Cup captain Greg Norman, who said simply, “I’m watching.” On Saturday Baddeley 3.0 had a message of his own for the Shark – Can you see me now?

Baddeley is tied with Hunter Mahan at 9 under following an eventful 64 that included seven pars and plenty of subtext. He has 18 more holes to impress Norman enough to make him one of his two captain’s picks on Tuesday.

Others can play for the cash; Baddeley is in it for country and captain.

“My main focus right now is to try and impress Greg,” he said.

Bill Haas can relate. He was making a similar statement to U.S. captain Fred Couples until stumbling down the stretch to a bogey/double-bogey finish. If conventional wisdom holds, Captain America’s choices for his final pick are down to Haas, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker. And right now that’s how they stand on the leaderboard.

Tuesday promises to be a big day for Couples. No, not because his final pick is due. That’s the day Stricker will undergo an MRI on his ailing neck in Wisconsin that will tell him if he will be healthy enough to play in November at Royal Melbourne. Truth is, Couples’ pick will be decided Sunday afternoon at East Lake.

As will the Tour Championship, FedEx Cup and the Player of the Year race, a neat finale that ends the non-stop predictions. By sundown ShotLink computers across the property will go silent, calculations completed and champions crowned. For all those who have had their fill of projections, it promises to be a Super Sunday by any measure.


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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.