Golf on TV: Retiring Johnny Miller earns accolades from younger Tour stars

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 20: NBC commenators Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks appear on set during the second round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 20, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Golf on TV: Retiring Johnny Miller earns accolades from younger Tour stars

Golf on TV: Retiring Johnny Miller earns accolades from younger Tour stars

Digital Edition

Golf on TV: Retiring Johnny Miller earns accolades from younger Tour stars

By

SAN DIEGO – This week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open will mark the end of an era.

Longtime NBC/Golf Channel broadcaster and former pro Johnny Miller is signing off after 29 years with the network, Phoenix a fitting final stop considering he won back-to-back titles there in 1974-75.

Golf fans won’t be the only ones taking notice.

“I think Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller are pretty iconic,” Tony Finau said. “Whether you like him or not, it’s an iconic sound, and if you’re a sports fan and golf fan you’re going to miss the sound of them doing what they do. … Some people love him, some people hate him. I’m one of the ones that loves him, so I’m gonna miss him.”

Finau grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and as a young player idolized Miller, who was an All-American at BYU and went on to win 25 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1973 U.S. Open with that historic 63 at Oakmont in the final round.

Those Utah ties didn’t save Finau from the same brutal honesty Miller has become known for on the air. After Finau missed an important putt on the final hole of the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie, he quickly got word of Miller’s description.

“I think that was a nervous stroke.”

Finau views Miller as an ambassador for Utah golf and an iconic player, so he’s one of those on Tour who wasn’t put off by Miller’s candid commentary.

“When you’ve won as many tournaments as he has and had the success he has, he’s just trying to speak the truth. So you can’t take it personal,” Finau said. “I’m totally fine with it.”

Rory McIlroy offered a similar take, despite taking a few shots from Miller over the years. Miller criticized McIlroy for working out too much and said more than once that he was too “ripped” for golf and hurt his career in the process.

“I’m 160 pounds. I think he looked at me with a magnifying glass for a couple of years,” McIlroy said with a laugh.

McIlroy has fired back at critics on multiple occasions, including Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. But as he left San Diego after a T-5 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, he said he usually understood where Miller was coming from.

“I didn’t witness it first hand, but I guess that stretch of golf he played in the ’70s was pretty phenomenal,” McIlroy said. “That’s why if Johnny criticizes me or other players, he’s been there, he’s done that, and that criticism is fair game to me because he’s been such a good player.”

Still, McIlroy has taken a few jabs at Miller on Twitter, including after Rickie Fowler’s 2017 Honda Classic victory. Fowler won by four shots but finished bogey-bogey, prompting Miller to say he didn’t finish Sunday “like a true champion.”

That certainly caught Fowler’s attention. It wasn’t the first time he disagreed with Miller, but he always respected the way Miller handled the aftermath.

“He’s been great to me off camera,” Fowler said. “He knows he’s said some things that may have come off the wrong way that I may not have liked, and some fans may not have liked, but he’s come up to me after the fact and apologized, owned up to it. Maybe said that’s not how he meant for it to come across. That says a lot about him as someone who’s not necessarily hiding behind a camera.”

Miller’s comments also have been welcomed as an equalizer on golf broadcasts that rarely stray from a cheery, positive tone. And however contentious his relationship with players grew at times, it sounds as if most have come to a mutual understanding as Miller prepares for his final send-off in Phoenix.

“He spoke his mind and gave his opinion,” Fowler said. “If you don’t like his opinion, so be it, but he’s been awesome. If it was something that crossed the line, he came to me and said sorry. Nothing but respect for him. He was giving his opinion on the way things were, and you can’t blame someone for that.” Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home