Tiger Woods won The Players yesterday for his 4th win of the season and 78th of his career in his 300th start. He was aided by Sergio Garcia dropping two balls in the water on the famed island green 17th when he was tied for the lead with Woods. In fairness to Sergio, a small flock of geese were flying overhead and distracted him. Sergio's unfortunate turn of events let Tiger off the hook somewhat. Woods temporarily blew a 3 shot lead, aided by his own drive into the water on the Par 4 14th.
Woods would bogey the hole, but not before NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller tried to stir up another national controversy with Woods' drop. Of course, Tiger Woods held the nation captive earlier this year with a drop on the 15th at Augusta in the 2nd Round that resulted in a 2 stroke penalty and not disqualification. Miller speculated that Woods had again improperly dropped by placing his ball much further up the fairway than where his ball must have crossed the hazard. Miller delivered this overly dramatic line on the broadcast and was immediately shot down by on-course reporter Mark Rolfing.
"That Tiger drop was really, really borderline. I can't live with myself without saying that" -Johnny Miller on drop after water ball on 14.
— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) May 12, 2013
Had Miller let the moment pass, does anyone really think he would be haunted well into the later years of his life, sitting in a rocking chair, mumbling to himself about that one "borderline" drop Tiger Woods took that went totally unnoticed by the rest of the golfing world? Doubtful. The last thing golf needs is another DropGate saga and Miller was one step away from reading out the NBC hotline number on-air to invite rules violation tips. It was a complete non-story with everyone in and following Woods' group seeing no issue and the PGA Tour releasing a statement that there was nothing to see here, with no penalty even at stake.
Johnny Miller is a polarizing analyst in the golf world. Some will tell you he's the best analyst in the sport by far because of his willingness to call out everyone. Others will say his negativity and constant criticism of players ruins broadcasts. Miller's presence often dominates the NBC coverage – count how many times one of the hole announcers or on-course reporters will preface their commentary with "John" or "Johnny" as second nature.
Yes, sometimes Miller's criticism and tendency to overstate things go too far as they did on Sunday when he tried to fabricate a controversy out of the Jacksonville air. But Miller is worth defending in this case, too. I'd much rather have an analyst whose nature is to be skeptical and questioning than one who is there to do little more than applaud every step and every decision and every shot. The wide majority of the golf media wholeheartedly cheers and supports every move Tiger Woods makes on a golf course. Who could blame them, Woods means more to his sport and its popularity than any athlete that has ever existed. Woods has notoriously been icy with particular on-air personnel when they say something he doesn't agree with.
Johnny Miller simply doesn't care about any of that because he hates everything as an announcer. In a golf media that's full of people who walk on eggshells, specifically around Tiger Woods, that's a net positive.