(Reuters) – Twice major winner Johnny Miller tried to hold his tongue during the recent Ryder Cup in France, but the filter came off on Tuesday as he criticised the U.S. team’s preparation in the lead up to their heavy defeat by Europe.
In his role as lead analyst for the NBC coverage on American television, Miller watched as the U.S. players missed too many fairways and too many putts at Le Golf National last month.
Criticism at the time focused on how Justin Thomas was the only one of the 12 players on the American team, who had played a tournament at the course, which annually holds the French Open on the European Tour.
Miller, however, was more puzzled by why the Americans did not play more practice rounds in the week of the tournament.
The Friday start gave the team three full days to prepare on-site after their Monday afternoon arrival.
“I didn’t actually say some of the things I wanted to that week,” the former U.S. and British Open champion said in a conference call on Tuesday announcing his retirement from the commentary booth.
“I think the fact that the U.S. was playing nine holes a day, and those (European) guys played the (French) Open every year and I’m thinking, are you kidding me? Nine holes a day? What else you got to do but play?
“I was fairly upset at that because Europe set up that golf course totally unlike the Americans had ever played. It was like the old U.S. Open.”
It was a deflating, if familiar way for Miller to end his Ryder Cup commentary career.
In nearly three decades as an NBC analyst, he has observed the past six American defeats on European soil.
The most common thread he observed running through those losses was poor putting.
“For some reason, when you’re at home the putter seems to work better, and when you’re on the road going to Europe it doesn’t seem to work really good,” he said.
Miller, who will commentate on his final event at the Phoenix Open in February, brought a critical eye to a chummy sport often lacking in candid observations.
He became known for frequently using the word “choke”, a provocative term that refers to a player’s inability to execute a shot under pressure, often when victory is on the line.
It is something the California-born 71-year-old is proud of, and he wishes commentators in other sports would use the word too.
“To me, the greatness of golf, besides a lot of the things
that are obvious, is the choke factor,” he said.
“That’s the rarest form of greatness, a guy that can handle the choke factor and get better at the end like Jack Nicklaus (and Tiger Woods) did.
“Even in other sports, I know the guy’s gagging, but they don’t want to talk about it.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis)