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NBC - mainly Johnny Miller - survives carnage at Oakmont

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Even though this year's U.S. Open at Oakmont had its fair share of drama, even going down to the wire when Tiger Woods missed his long, birdie putt to give Argentinean golfer Angel Cabrera the win, it wasn't as wild as last year's, when everybody, it seemed, was imploding.

Johnny Miller
Johnny Miller: The funniest, most candid voice in golf broadcasting.
Johnny Miller

This year at Oakmont Country Club, the implosions were staggered, throughout the week and especially throughout Sunday.

NBC did an excellent job of covering the carnage. By excellent coverage, I mean Johnny Miller.

Miller is the second best analyst in all of sports, behind only Charles Barkley. Neither cares a whit for either TV critics or players, some of whom, especially in Barkley's case, they played with. They are both brutally candid, only Barkley is funnier.

It's harder to be funnier in golf than in the NBA, but Miller's stinging criticism can be hilarious. He has said his goal is to say things in the booth people don't expect, but we have come to expect the unexpected from him.

This is the guy who said "Verplunk" when Scott Verplank hit into the water at the Ryder Cup and who said Ben Hogan would have "puked" had he seen Craig Perry's swing. I wonder what he would say about Allen Doyle.

In any case, Miller did not let us down at the 107th U.S. Open.

After Phil Mickelson and others complained about the conditions, Miller said, "I don't want to hear it's impossible. It's not. The course is playing perfectly."

Of course, this has added weight since it was Miller who shot 63 in the 1973 Open at Oakmont, a fact NBC's golf team didn't exactly ignore in its broadcasts.

Of course, he gave Oakmont its due, calling the course's bunkers "the toughest in America."

When Cabrera missed a 10-footer, Miller said, "The only way you can miss that is make a bad stroke or get nervous."

When Bubba Watson imploded, hitting a hurried shank from the rough close to the green, exactly 15 seconds after he had hit a similarly horrible chip, Miller said "That's crazy."

He was sympathetic to Aaron Baddeley's embarrassing showing in the final round, starting with the triple-bogey at No. 1, saying "It's all nerves - 100 percent nerves."

When Baddeley, battling his inner demons, smiled afterward, Miller said, "It's like the boxer who gets nailed and just smiles."

Miller nailed the carnage all through Sunday's round, saying: "Amazing what the U.S. Open will do to guys on Sunday ... They're just doing it earlier."

When Cabrera had a crucial putt later in the round, Miller said: "He's thinking about every putt he's missed since he was in Pampers."

Can Tiger Woods come from behind?

He didn't back off on Tiger Woods, either. With Woods trying to prove he can come back in a major, and failing, Miller said, "It's amazing: He's had a million opportunities to win a major coming from behind, and he just won't take advantage of it."

It isn't just his honest criticisms. Miller has an uncanny knack for spotting things about a player others miss.

On Watson's unorthodox swing: "Seems like guys with their own swing, with maybe a few tips from local pros, are more resilient, tougher," Miller said. "They don't need to be spoon-fed."

He also pointed out how Watson "works the ball more than any player I've ever seen."

It's a good thing NBC had Miller on Sunday, because otherwise the network talkers didn't exactly distinguish themselves.

Jimmy Robert's essays were bland, the low point coming with his forced put about "water off a duck's back," referring to El Pato, referring to Cabera's nickname, The Duck.

Tim Rosaforte, who normally provides some nice insight, had his moments. His interview with an almost defiant USGA head David Fay was excellent - Fay was obviously smarting about Phil Mickelson's comments about Oakmont being dangerous - but his reported interview with Argentinean golfer Roberto De Vicenzo yielded nothing.

Media notes: If ever there was a voice not made for golf, it is Chris Berman of ESPN, who handled early-round chores. That's why I like him.

Berman is like a bull in a china shop in the booth, and he isn't going to let the staid sport of golf keep him from his famous name puns.

"Ground control to David Toms."

NBC did have some good moments technically, especially with its split screens late Sunday that showed simultaneous putts by hard-charging Jim Furyk and Cabrera and, later putts by Woods and Furyk.

It also showed a timely clip of Larry Nelson's putt on the 16th green, from roughly the same spot where Furyk missed his.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Johnny Miller's obnoxious

    2under wrote on: Jun 19, 2007

    1. I swear I had to turn off the broadcast on occasion b/c of his "reminiscing" of his US Open win. Enough is enough. I hear it every year, and I see him tear up. That is enough to make ME puke. What do you think Hogan would say? Humility is somewhat beyond him. It is like listening to Theisman on a football broadcast..."Back when I was playing..." Well, Johnny, I don't really give a good tinker's damn. I have heard enough.
    2. A lot has been made of his 63. Anytime you put a 63 up on the board, it is a hell of an accomplishment, let alone under the pressure of the US Open. I get it. However, watch the footage of the speed of the greens. Not nearly as quick then as they were this past week. On top of that, they were much more receptive. Johnny tells us that the point that the rains the previous evening softened conditions are "grossly overstated". I say BS. Look at the footage. I give him credit for shooting a great score and winning the US Open, but enough is enough. He has gotten the greatest mileage out of that one win than any other major champion has, including the best golfers to play the game. Is that type of exposure truly warranted for JM? Not in my humble opinion.
    3. There is a difference of being candid and being obnoxious. He crosses that line. When people credit him for "saying what's on his mind", you can do that without being a boor. I don't find being a boor a positive attribute in an announcer.
    And that, my friends, is the OTHER side of the story...