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Johnny Miller says what other golf announcers only think

Johnny Miller
Bill Frakes/SI
"I'm thinking 'Don't hit the driver, Phil!' I'm not trying to rip him. I'm using ESP. I'm trying to help him."

THE DOOR TO THE BOOTH cracks open, letting in a slice of sunlight. A man squeezes in, carrying a brown grocery sack. He puts the sack on a table, just out of reach of Johnny Miller, NBC's boyish-at-59 golf analyst. Miller glances at the sack, but his eyes return to a flat-panel monitor, which has Tour player Chad Campbell rolling a 24-foot putt down a slope, past the hole and right off the green. "Didn't read it right and hit it the wrong speed," Miller says into a microphone. "Besides that, it was wonderful."

A commercial break gives Miller and his announcer partner Dan Hicks the opportunity to explore the sack. Miller tosses aside some Twizzlers and rummages through bags of pretzels and chips until he finds what he is looking for: a bag of Hershey's chocolate miniatures. Ripping open the bag, Miller dumps the chocolates on the table and starts sorting. The dark chocolate bars wind up in a little pile by his microphone. The milk chocolate, Mr. Goodbar and Krackle bars go back in the bag.

"How many tournaments is Faldo doing this year?" Miller says.

"4,720," says Hicks, returning to his chair. Miller snorts. Englishman Nick Faldo, the 49-year-old CBS and Golf Channel analyst, is Miller's only competition in the network golf-gab game. And since the Golf Channel now carries the weekday rounds and some weekend play of every PGA Tour event, Miller sometimes has to slip into a chair still warm from Faldo's posterior. That's the case today at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, where Faldo and Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman handed off to Miller and Hicks at noon.

"Johnny, how ya' doin', sport?" Faldo says during the changeover, stripping to his waist and slipping on a sweater. "Fifty-nine, are you really? Ten more than me?"

Miller takes the needle good-naturedly, but now he is in the chair, the reigning king of commentary, and he has control of the snack bag that will be waiting for Faldo on Sunday morning. "We like each other," Miller insists, "but we steal each other's candy. We both like dark chocolate."

He pops one of the little bars into his mouth and chews contentedly. "Maybe I'll leave him one," he says.

"Five to air," says a woman who leans in from the shadows behind the camera. "Four ..." The rest of her countdown is mute, signaled with three fingers, then two, then one.

Miller is still smiling when Hicks picks up the thread.

THE PHONE keeps ringing at Johnny Miller Enterprises in Napa, Calif. A reporter from Pittsburgh wants to talk to Johnny about the final-round 63. A cable network wants fresh audio from Johnny for a segment on the final-round 63. A mini-tour pro wants advice from Johnny on how to shoot a final-round 63. It's Miller time — always is when the U.S. Open returns to Oakmont. It was at Oakmont in 1973 that a willowy Miller shot a tournament-record final-round 63 for the most memorable win of his Hall of Fame career. You'll read so much about that final-round 63 between now and June 14 — how a voice in Miller's head during warm-up said, "Open your stance way up;" how he hit 18 irons into 18 greens, most of them no more than five feet off line; how Arnold Palmer, contending for the last time in a major, spotted Miller's name on a leaderboard and promptly folded; how Miller, coming down the stretch, stood over every iron shot thinking, "Don't shank it" — that you may end up remembering it better than he does.

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