Longtime golf analyst Johnny Miller is retiring from his lead analyst role at NBC Sports with his final telecast to take place in February.
Miller, 71, officially announced the move Tuesday, saying he will step down after 29 years in the booth which followed a Hall of Fame playing career. A source told ESPN that Paul Azinger will replace Miller while continuing to do the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open for Fox Sports.
A good part of the reason Miller has occupied that space for so long is his honesty and bluntness, but it wasn’t just his candor that got him there. Miller was among the game’s top players, winning 25 times on the PGA Tour, including two major championships.
That included the first-ever 63 in a major championship during the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open, where Miller rallied from 6 shots back to win at Oakmont.
“I’ve had two lives,” Miller said during a conference call Tuesday. “The golfing part … the younger generation sort of heard about me, but maybe didn’t realize I wasn’t too bad at times. Then the announcing part.
“I was always groomed by my dad to win the U.S. Open. When I won at Oakmont, that was my best moment there, the best round I ever played. And then announcing, to be able to work with an amazing team … everybody behind the scenes, I learned how to be a team player. Or tried to be, anyway.”
Miller recounted how he came to use the word “choke” in his first broadcast in 1990 at what was then the Bob Hope Classic. He said that player Peter Jacobsen — who know works alongside Miller as an NBC analyst — didn’t speak to him for six months afterward.
“I said the kind of shot he had — a downhill lie over water — is the kind of shot you can choke on,” Miller said. “I never said he choked or was going to choke.
“It was so startling to people. It’s not a nice word, but it definitely gets the job done as far as communicating. For me, I’d choke on putting and admit that I did, but I ball-struck well enough to get around the choke factor. Everybody has some part of their game that is easily influenced to choke. I don’t like the word, but it’s the word that communicates the most directly.”
Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 and took over at NBC in 1990, replacing Lee Trevino, who at the time was leaving the broadcast booth to concentrate on senior golf.
Miller will take part in his final broadcast at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February before NBC transitions to Azinger, who has yet to be officially named to the role.
Azinger, 58, is a 12-time PGA Tour winner who worked alongside Mike Tirico and Nick Faldo when ABC did PGA Tour telecasts. He is also a former ESPN analyst.