By John Strege
It was a day made for a television analyst renowned for using a word that he assiduously avoided, but NBC's Johnny Miller found a way around it on Sunday.
Maybe the players weren't "choking," as he would have said before criticism might have led him to strike the word from his vocabulary. But "nerves" is a sufficient synonym, and he used it more than once on a day when Open pressure, as it often does, scrambled the leaderboard and allowed Justin Rose to win by shooting an even-par 70.
"Nothing easy," Miller said, when spraying to all fields, including a shank by Steve Stricker, a standard-bearer felled by a Luke Donald tee shot (see photo above), and a pulled and lipped out par putt by Charl Schwartzel. "This is almost all nerves, folks. This is what nerves will do to you Sunday at a U.S. Open. These guys are not even hardly the same golfer they were the first three days, almost to a man."
Even Tiger Woods, who was not a factor on Sunday, evoked the word from Miller.
"The putter's not working, in majors," Miller said. "He's won four times this year. Regular events he's putting the eyes out of it. Then he gets to the Masters, nothing goes in. Gets to the U.S. Open, nothing goes in again. He must be trying too hard in the majors. Or maybe he's at the age where maybe he's getting a little tiny bit of nerves. Maybe he wants it a little too badly. That record of Jack's is haunting him a little."
Later in the broadcast, when NBC showed a replay of Stricker's shank, Miller said, "U.S. Open nerves, I guess. I don't know what else you'd call it."
Yes, he does. He just avoided saying it.
Question of the day
"Can he handle this moment, though, to get his first U.S. Open title?" Johnny Miller asked of Phil Mickelson, moments before he teed off. A little more than four hours later, we had the answer.
While we're young (or not)
Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman interviewed USGA president Glen Nager and to her credit brought up the five hours, 40 minutes it took the final group on Saturday to complete its round, and did so in the context of the USGA's new "While We're Young" campaign to speed play.
"We can do better," Nager replied. "That's partly our message, which is what all of us in the industry need to look at how we can do better. We knew coming into Merion there were places that were going to make this golf course play slower than other golf courses, because you have bottlenecks right off the bat, with a reachable par 5, the second hole, the third hole being a par 3. We did a lot of things in advance to try to promote a better pace of play.
"I think you'll see today just going off the first tee and going in pairings of two we should be able to hit our allotted time of four hours and two minutes, give or take a little."
They played in a little more than the goal of four-hours, two-minutes, but they came in well under five hours. It's a start.
Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd): "Watching Tiger here, the question is shifting from whether he'll surpass Nicklaus' record to whether he'll win another major."
Sophie Gustafson (@SophieGustafson): "Ralph Lauren asked @LukeDonald to wear the squid pants. In his gentle English accent he said '#### no'."