BOSTON, Mass – Legendary golfer and TV commentator Johnny Miller is retiring with the official announcement expected October 16.
Golf sources, including Golfweek, have leaked news that NBC Sports has identified Paul Azinger as the replacement to fill Miller’s spot in the 18th tower.
Johnny Miller is coming to the Sheraton Boston on April 11, 2019 as the primary dignitary and recipient of the Francis Ouimet Award for “Lifelong Contributions to Golf.” The event is the largest golf dinner in the country and expected to raise over $1 million for the Francis Ouimet Fund.
Miller is a 25-time PGA Tour winner and 2-time Major Champion and is Golf’s most colorful analyst.
Paul Azinger, who initially landed in the booth as part of the ABC commentary team with Mike Tirico and Nick Faldo, has been working with Fox Sports on their USGA telecasts since 2016. In an intriguing twist on the deal, according to Golfweek, Azinger will continue to remain in the Fox booth for the US Open and US Women’s Open.
Miller, who is now 71, has been hinting for years he was ready to scale back and then potentially walk away from broadcasting. He agreed to continue broadcasting in 2018, though he said ahead of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open, which his partially-owned Silverado Resort hosts, it was getting closer to time to walk.
“It’s been 50 years on the road, and part of me is saying, ‘That’s enough,’” Miller said at the Safeway Open media day.
The 59-year-old Azinger will ease into the job in 2019, with Miller’s contract set to expire after the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. The Phoenix PGA Tour stop is typically a CBS production, but they are swapping a tournament with NBC this year as CBS airs the NFL’s Super Bowl LIII.
Azinger has never been shy in sharing his opinion and doing so with a cultivated knowledge of the golf swing, success (and failure) under pressure, a keen eye for the intersection of strategy and golf architecture, as well a rapport with players as an honest broker.
This is somewhat surprising news considering NBC Sports had been trying to identify a Miller successor from their stable of analysts already on staff. There had been some outside thought the likes of David Duval or Justin Leonard would be groomed to take Miller’s place, but they lack the kind of TV cache Azinger has.
Azinger and Faldo joined Tirico, who is also now with NBC Sports, in the ABC booth in 2004. The pairing was an instant hit among PGA Tour viewers, with Tirico’s ability to guide the pair through topics big and small while telling the story of a tournament. When the two major winners were paired in the booth, they hadn’t spoken in 11 years, following a final day singles match at the 1993 Ryder Cup.
Even back in 2004, Azinger was wary of long stints calling golf. That’s what made working Fox Sports’ limited USGA slate so attractive, which he did after Greg Norman bombed as the lead analyst at Chambers Bay in their first year in 2015. While NBC has a deeper schedule of PGA Tour events, Azinger can still have plenty of free weeks.