By John Strege
Martin Kaymer drained the U.S. Open telecast of its drama early on Sunday, if not Saturday (or was it Friday?), leaving only two unanswered questions on Sunday afternoon: How would NBC sign off in its final U.S. Open telecast and how would Johnny Miller respond?
For the last 20 years NBC has broadcast the U.S. Open, a tournament for which Miller has professed his love, and the network is handing it off to Fox Sports in 2015.
After the trophy presentation and the obligatory network promos (“American Ninja Warriors” and all new episodes of “Believe” and “Crisis”), anchor Dan Hicks turned to Miller.
“Well, this is a moment of our careers here in the U.S. Open, Johnny, that we know is coming to an end here, a moment where we didn’t ever want to greet,” he said. “As many of you know this is the final U.S. Open telecast for all of our NBC crew, and I just want to say to you, Johnny, what a privilege it’s been to sit next to you here at a championship that you’ve loved for so many years. It’s been the highlight of my career. I’ve had the best seat in the house with the best analyst who has ever done this game.”
It was clearly an emotional moment for Miller, who nonetheless kept his emotions in check. “Twenty years is a lot of fun, but I’ve always believed there’s a time and a season for everything,” Miller said. “Thank the USGA and, of course, NBC for giving me that opportunity. Been a lot of good memories, lot of great champions, a lot of great moments, and I’ve had my share.”
“Partner,” Hicks replied, “it’s been a great ride.”
The credits rolled, after which Hicks came on one last time. He noted that NBC had broadcast 650 hours in those 20 years, “and every second of it has been a true labor of love. It has been an honor and privilege to document our national championship of golf for all of you. We’ll miss doing that, but as we bid one last U.S. Open goodbye form Pinehurst, we’ll never forget how much fun this 20-year ride has been. Good night from Pinehurst.”
To its credit, NBC tactfully had avoided any mention of its Open denouement during the golf, leaving the stage to Kaymer. Only once did it hint that the end was in sight.
“We all look forward to this day so much and I look forward to this day so much, Johnny, because I get to sit next to you, watch a final round of the United States Open on Father’s Day,” Hicks said. “I know how much it means to you and how emotional this day is since you won back there in 1973 at Oakmont.”
Miller did not take the bait. “I’ll try not to go there as far as getting too sentimental,” he replied. “I’m so excited to see this last round at this great golf course, Pinehurst No. 2.”
The excitement failed to materialize, apparent when juxtaposed against the collage of highlights from 20 years of Open coverage that concluded its final telecast. And that was that, as they say. On deck: Fox Sports, Joe Buck and Greg Norman.