Miller part of the Ryder Cup fabric
You can count on Johnny Miller to be impartial at the Ryder Cup
as an analyst for NBC Sports.
American or European, he can get under anyone’s skin.
As great as he was as a player – Miller will tell you that
himself – he only played in the Ryder Cup twice. Still, he has
managed to become a big part of the event through commentary that
is always blunt, sometimes shocking, usually accurate.
Even some of his victims agree with that.
”I like a lot of what he does,” Justin Leonard said last week.
”It can be a little too critical. I’m sure most guys on tour would
say the same thing. We don’t want anyone saying we choked. We know
we did. We just don’t want to hear anyone else say we did.”
Leonard says he is not a ”Johnny basher,” even though few
other player were bashed worse.
”My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on
television,” Miller blurted out in 1999 when Leonard and Hal
Sutton were losing a fourballs match Saturday afternoon at
That remains among the most famous of the ”Johnny moments,”
and there have been plenty over the years. Like the time he said
Craig Parry’s swing would make Ben Hogan puke. And remember, Miller
is the first analyst to introduce the word ”choke” into the golf
broadcast, a word players don’t even like hearing in
And there might be plenty of that going on this week at Celtic
Miller will be in the booth for the 10th straight Ryder Cup, and
he began warming up last week during a conference call. That’s when
he said Tiger Woods hasn’t been able to lead the team, neither has
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk has been ”less than so-so.”
It’s the Miller way. It’s all he knows.
”Not a lot of announcers are willing to let it go,” Miller
said. ”When you let it go, like in car racing when you push down
on the accelerator, you’re going to spin out a few times. The
bottom line is I’m not a careful announcer. If I have a legacy when
I retire, it’s that I really was the first announcer willing to say
a few things that make people go, ‘Wow.”’
Ian Poulter didn’t exactly say, ”Wow.” He used a British
euphemism that can’t be repeated here.
Poulter was finishing up a 69 in the third round of the BMW
Championship to stay in contention when Miller noted, ”You know,
he’s not a very good ball-striker.”
The spunky Englishman fought back on Twitter.
– ”Johnny Miller saying today I wasn’t a good ball striker I
guess I do all right for a duffer then. He talks such (nonsense) at
– ”I will have to try and win a couple of majors like him and
see if I can change his mind until then I’m happy being an
Then came another tweet, with Poulter suggesting that Miller
”choke on this.” He included a link to the European Tour website
that showed Poulter at No. 2 in the greens in regulation.
The last laugh?
Poulter has played only 12 rounds on the European Tour. In 49
rounds on the PGA Tour, he ranks 171st.
”Everybody wants to be praised,” Miller said, explaining why
players seem to have such thin skin. ”You can’t say every shot is
great. If a player gets four compliments and one criticism, they
don’t remember the positive stuff I say. I’ve never had a player
say, ‘Thanks for saying I was a heck of a sand play.’ My announcing
Miller says he has been that way his entire career – on the
course and in the booth.
He wonders if blunt criticism of himself as a player kept him
from winning more than 25 times, along with two majors. One of
those majors was the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which everyone
knows about because Miller always talks about it. He was the first
player to shoot 63 in a major.
”I was tough on myself, maybe to a fault,” Miller said. ”And
maybe I was too complimentary and too cocky when I had it going.
I’m very honest. I’m not bragging. That’s just the way I am. I
would be the first one to tell you I was choking. I also would be
the first one to tell you how great I was playing.”
Miller realizes he has annoyed players. That’s OK. He is a peer
on the golf course. He’s not a friend in the booth.
”There’s a certain respect I give them and they give me,” he
said. ”They know I have a good record and I know what I’m talking
about. It’s not my job to be overly chummy. But nobody on tour
shuns me. If I see someone coming, I don’t have to make a hard
That doesn’t mean he’s afraid to apologize.
He ran into Leonard in Dallas a few weeks after that 1999 Ryder
Cup, and Miller told him he went over the line. Johnny being
Johnny, he’s starting to wonder if his criticism is now a badge of
Remember, the day after Miller said Leonard should have stayed
home, the Texan won the decisive match by making one of the most
famous shots in Ryder Cup history, a 45-foot birdie putt on the
17th hole. And not long after his criticism of Parry’s swing at
Doral, the Australian holed a 6-iron for eagle to win in a
”It seems like when I do cross the line, that guy becomes a
hero that week,” Miller said. ”Maybe these guys should be looking
forward to me ripping them.”