NBC's Johnny Miller Retiring In '19, To Be Replaced By Paul Azinger
Johnny Miller is "walking away" as the lead golf announcer for NBC/Golf Channel after spending the last 29 years in the role, the last of which was a "one-year deal that took him" through '18, according to Alex Myers of GOLF DIGEST. Miller had been "toying with retirement for the past few years" and gave "serious thought to making his final event" the '17 Open Championship. Although Miller leaves "open the possibility that he 'might poke his head in' from time to time, he's decided his last official (and only remaining) event will be next year's Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be broadcast on NBC with CBS having the rights to Super Bowl LIII." Miller said it was his idea to make the Phoenix stop his last, noting, "I was not going to announce this during the playoff events or the Ryder Cup, because it would have been selfish to do that and take away from those events. I was always known as the 'Desert Fox.' My best golf ... came in the desert" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 10/15).
SETTING THE BAR HIGH: The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote Miller figures to be a "tough act to follow, in part because of his longevity, mainly because no other golf announcer said what he saw without worrying what the players might think of him." Miller said, "People are starving for honesty and the real deal. I don’t do it on purpose. That’s the way I view golf" (AP, 10/15). SI.com's Daniel Rapaport noted 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" (SI.com, 10/15). Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard called Miller the "voice of a generation." Hoggard: "Not only was his voice important to the public for those that watched the game through the TV, but it was important to the players themselves." Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz said Miller is the "greatest golf commentator ever." His gift was that he "really got to the heart of the matter better than any other commentator." Diaz: "The heart of the matter for him was how a player handles pressure. He thought that's what separates the best players from the other guys. ... He always wondered about himself, 'What didn't I have? What was the thing?'" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/16).
NEXT MAN UP: GOLFWEEK's Forecaddie reported Miller "will be replaced" by Fox Sports' Paul Azinger in the lead analyst chair. Azinger will "remain on Fox Sports broadcasts of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open while taking the NBC seat." It is a move that may have been "inspired by Alex Rodriguez’s split time on ESPN and Fox baseball coverage this year." In Azinger, NBC/Golf Channel is "getting the one voice in the game with comparable wisdom and ability to launch a hot-take in effortless fashion." Azinger "shares Miller’s knowledge of the swing, course setup and an innate ability to unleash criticism." Like Miller, Azinger is "never afraid to suggest a player may be feeling the pressure" (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/15). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes like Miller, Azinger is "bold and can be choppy in his delivery." That candor has "worked for both, in part because both shifted to the booth after accomplished, though flawed, playing careers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/16). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand cites sources as saying that Azinger "very likely will be NBC’s lead analyst, but David Duval, Justin Leonard and David Feherty have received consideration." Azinger would "reunite with NBC’s Mike Tirico on golf." The duo "worked together on the British Open when it was and they were at ABC/ESPN." Marchand notes Miller "leaves behind a legacy that Azinger or whomever replaces him will have to do with a level of fearlessness" (N.Y. POST, 10/16).