Miller-Faldo: A match not made in heaven

From left, Dan Hicks,  Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo of Golf Channel discuss the action during the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

From left, Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo of Golf Channel discuss the action during the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

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Early in Friday’s telecast of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, anchor Dan Hicks referred to the ad hoc pairing of analysts Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo as “the yin and yang of golf” – sort of like Oscar and Felix sharing the 18th tower.

If only.

If Miller and Faldo were a sit-com pairing, they would have been canceled after the second week – if they had made it out of pre-production.

As much as Hicks and co-anchor Terry Gannon tried to engage the pair, there was no spark between Miller and Faldo. They seemed to get along fine, but they didn’t have a rapport. They were individuals on the course, and they’re apparently more comfortable working solo in the booth.

For Hicks’ benefit, Miller briefly tried to play along. “I was kind of crazy like Lanny Wadkins going for every pin, and Nick was more of a cerebral, percentage golfer,” he said during the opening round. “So we have different slants on the game.”

Alas, those interesting “slants” didn’t translate to the broadcast booth. There were no memorable exchanges, no great laugh lines, and few, if any, noteworthy insights. In short, Miller and Faldo had worse chemistry than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. 

It didn’t help that Miller only worked half the time. After the pre-tournament hype, I kind of felt cheated when Miller left the set after the first 50 minutes each day and didn’t return until the top of the third hour. What’s up with that, Johnny? Faldo can’t be that insufferable. (For the record, Golf Channel executive producer Jack Graham said via email that the schedule was arranged to keep Miller fresh, and that Miller worked about the same amount as he does on a typical NBC telecast.)

If you’re going to bring together golf’s two most recognizable analysts, don’t short-sell us. In fact, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to try an experiment: leave the two men alone in the booth for an hour, with no anchor, and let them just talk golf as play unfolds. That’s no knock on Hicks or Gannon, both of whom do good work. But if you’re going to arrange a shotgun marriage between Miller and Faldo, then turn ’em loose. Let them, and hopefully the viewers, have some fun. If it doesn’t work, who cares? Everybody was watching the NFL playoffs over the weekend anyway.

There was perhaps a telling exchange between the pair during the first round. Miller had two large sheets of statistics in front of him while Faldo had just his coffee cup. Faldo found it terribly amusing that Miller came on set with notes. Rightly or wrongly, it was a reminder that Faldo sometimes seems to be winging it rather than doing his homework. 

It’s a pity the Miller-Faldo pairing failed to achieve liftoff because, watching from home, I sensed an undeniable energy on the set at the start of the week. Maybe it was the extraordinary Maui setting, or perhaps the crew was rejuvenated after that whopping three-week offseason, but there was some good stuff early in the week.

Faldo, Miller, Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo appeared on Thursday’s two-hour “Opening Drive” to preview the tournament and the season. Interestingly, Miller appeared separately, in a short conversation with Gannon. I assume this just reflected more parameters on Miller’s schedule, but it sort of had a diva-like quality – as if he didn’t want to share the set with the other analysts. I’m sure I’m reading too much into that.

On the whole, I think Chamblee and Nobilo make more interesting points than Miller and Faldo, though the latter obviously have bigger network platforms. Nobilo, in particular, has gotten markedly better over the past year, perhaps reflecting increased comfort in his role. (My only advice to Nobilo has to do with fashion: Frank, ditch the pinstripes when you’re not wearing a tie. It’s incongruous. When I saw you on Thursday, I had a flashback to Nixon wearing wingtips on the beach.) 

Inevitably the season-opening conversation started with Tiger Woods. Nobilo offered what I feel certain will be this season’s lone reference to the idiot savant Chauncey Gardiner from the 1979 movie “Being There.” “The road is finally clear,” Nobilo quoted Gardiner as saying, meaning that Woods – finally healthy and with a more settled personal life – is ready for a big 2012. (I’m not familiar with that line from the movie, but hey, Nobilo was on a roll.) When Woods won the Chevron World Challenge in December, Nobilo said, “It was like for the first time, he could put his chin up and say, 'I’m still Tiger Woods.' ”

Faldo countered, “There’s still baggage there. . . . It’s whether you can play without regret as well – go forward and be free.” 

Miller sounds like he’s buying Woods’ stock: “His bad shots are really quite good, a lot like the years 2000, 2001, where when he misses a fairway, it’s just barely in the rough.”

That show had some of the best exchanges of the week. Too bad that didn’t carry over into the tournament.

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