• Never afraid to speak his mind, Johnny Miller's snarky, shoot-from-the-hip style will of golf broadcast will be missed when he retires in February.
By Daniel Rapaport
October 15, 2018

Johnny Milller announced Monday that he’d provide his endlessly colorful commentary for one more event before calling it quits as the lead golf analyst for NBC. His 29-year broadcasting career will be a thing of the past after the 2019  Waste Management Open in Phoenix, which plays its final round on Super Bowl Sunday in February.

Miller’s shoot-from-the-hip style of commentary and willingness to harshly criticize players rubbed many the wrong way over the years. But his unapologetic honesty and disregard for convention have been a breath of fresh air on golf broadcasts, which far too often deal in chummy, cookie-cutter commentary that borders between vanilla and useless.

If a player laid up on a par 5 down the stretch when they needed to make birdie, Miller wasn’t afraid to call it a cowardly decision. If a player won a tournament with an indifferent final round—like Rickie Fowler did at the 2017 Honda Classic—Miller wouldn’t hesitate to suggest the player “learn how to finish out Sunday like a true champion.” If a player shot a record-breaking round in atypically easy conditions—like Justin Thomas did when he posted a U.S. Open-best nine-under round at the famously scoreable Erin Hills in 2017—Miller was quick to inform the viewer that his own final-round 63 to win the 1973 U.S. Open at big, bad Oakmont was the more impressive round.

Simply put, he wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, no matter who it might piss off.

A more traditional send-off for Miller would have been one of golf’s signature events. Maybe the U.S. Open, a tournament Miller’s done all he can to associate himself with by reminding us of that 63 whenever he gets the slightest opportunity, but that’s a FOX broadcast now. Perhaps the Open Championship, where he won his first major 40 years ago. Or the Tour Championship, which year after year serves as the end of the golf season and would have served as a natural ending point for Miller’s career in the booth.  

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While not one of the game’s iconic venues, TPC Scottsdale will be a perfect send-off for Miller for different reasons. First, Miller is a two-time winner of the event himself. And like Miller, the event­—which is famous for the boisterous crowd at the completely enclosed par-3 16th hole—does not care about golf convention. Calling out a player for choking was historically a no-go for announcers, but Miller didn’t care; booing is a serious faux pas at a PGA Tour event, but drunken frat bros at 16 don’t hesitate to do it if a player hits an indifferent shot. And like Miller, the event draws the ire of many purists. The social media army routinely chastises Miller for being too harsh on players; think pieces have suggested the drinking and debauchery and overall spectacle at 16 degrades the game.

One piece of news makes Miller’s retirement a bit more palatable for those of us who spend hours every weekend glued to NBC’s golf coverage: he’ll reportedly be replaced by Paul Azinger, another major winner who isn’t afraid to call it how he sees it. If the report is true, Azinger will pair with play-by-play man Dan Hicks on all of NBC’s marquee golf broadcasts, including the British Open.

You have to think Miller will be watching most of those broadcasts from wherever he chooses to enjoy his much-deserved retirement. He’s spent the last 50 years of his life on Tour, first as a player who won 25 times and more recently as the sport’s premier announcer, so golf clearly runs very deep in his veins. And you better believe he’ll be making snarky comments, perhaps to no one in particular, when someone leaves an uphill 18-footer for birdie short.

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