Johnny Miller to Hand Over the Microphone to Paul Azinger
JOHNNY MILLER, who has been both one of the best and one of the most outspoken golf commentators, is to retire in February. But don’t worry because the man who is expected to replace him, Paul Azinger, is regarded by many as being even better. He has already been working the microphone for a number of years and made the transition from course to TV studio like a duck to water. And, just like Miller, he is not afraid to call it like he sees it.
Miller is 71 and had decided that the time has come to walk away while he is still on top of his game. There are several others who could learn a lesson from him. It means that Miller will retire after making his living from golf for 50 years.
"It just seemed like a nice round number,” he said. "I've been on for 50 years with no break. I have just had my 24th grandchild yesterday. All my friends were retiring, and it got to the point where I was like, 'Hey, how come I’m not retiring?' It’s been a great run. I’ve done everything I can do announcing wise."
Miller spent 29 years working for NBC and the Golf Channel, and quickly established himself as one of the best in the business, not afraid to criticise players when the need arose - and he gained their respect because he had been there and done it all himself in a glorious career. He revealed that he seriously considered making his final event the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, where Miller won his second and final major in 1976. It is safe to say that he will be missed, although he has said that he might come back for the odd tournament if asked to do so. Officially, his final tournament will be the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he is sure to be given a raucous send-off by the noisiest - and largest - crowd in golf.
"It was my idea," Miller said of making the Phoenix Open his final event. "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, besides that final round at Oakmont [at the 1973 US Open], came in the desert, especially in 1975 when I won by 14 shots in Phoenix and by nine shots in Tucson. I was playing at a level of golf those two weeks as good or better than I’ve ever seen anyone hit the ball.
"I’m going to miss everybody a lot, especially when I see them doing the tournaments I did. That’s going to be the hardest part," Miller said. "Dan [Hicks] and I have gotten really close. He's such a good guy and really good at what he does. Dan and Gil Capps [NBC/Golf Channel's head of editorial research] make it like a safety net. Dan is so good that even if I have a brain cramp, he can fill in for me. The team is so good. All the guys out there, Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie, they're just a super team.”
Miller was named lead analyst of NBC Sports’ golf broadcast team in 1990 and quickly made his mark as the game’s most candid commentator, calling some of golf’s most memorable shots for the past three decades. Garnering eight Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst,” Miller’s insight and frank approach have earned him both critical praise and viewer appreciation, as well as the respect and occasional raised eyebrow from those competing inside the ropes.
“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is simply the gold standard,” said Tommy Roy, NBC Sports’ lead golf producer. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA TOUR’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”
“Johnny Miller is the best golf analyst ever and he will be missed by millions of fans. Early in his career, he made a commitment to serve the fans by telling it like it is and for three decades he’s served those fans incredibly well,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “Whether they agree or disagree with Johnny, everyone wants to hear what he has to say. His unfiltered approach has not only been refreshing, but it’s what makes him great. He is a part of the fabric of NBC Sports, and as one of the most influential voices in golf, he will forever have a home here.”
“This truly marks the end of a broadcast era,” said Dan Hicks, NBC Sports’ play-by-play host. “Johnny changed the landscape of golf commentary and analysis with his unique, unfiltered and honest manner, which made for a deep connection with viewers at home. Johnny was always unpredictable, so there was never a dull moment with Johnny in the booth. To sit next to him will always remain one of the greatest honors I could ever have in this business.”
Azinger, 58, is the current lead analyst for Fox Sports' coverage of the US Open and US Women's Open. Like Miller, he played golf at the highest level, as well as captaining the US to victory in the Ryder Cup. He knows the game inside out, has a razor-sharp wit and, again like Miller, has no qualms about criticising players or questioning their decisions.
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