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NBC, USA Network is all over it

9/15/2004

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- TV viewers who became
accustomed to the around-the-clock coverage of the Olympics should
like this starting Friday: All Ryder Cup, all the time.

Well, not quite -- there will be a couple of daytime hours from
Friday through Sunday when NBC or the USA Network aren't televising
the biennial United States vs. Europe competition, but not many.

The coverage stretches over 26 hours during the three days --
enough time to show, for comparison's sake, nine average-length
baseball games.

If the Masters is golf's version of the sprint, given the
limited TV time Augusta National allows for coverage, then the
Ryder Cup is its marathon. The USA Network will televise from 8
a.m.-6 p.m. EDT on Friday, as NBC will on Saturday. Sunday's
coverage on NBC will be noon-6 p.m.

"It's become golf's greatest bit of theater in that the average
guy really connects with this event," NBC announcer Roger Maltbie
said Wednesday. "When you run up the flags and there's a
nationalist aspect to it as well, the whole world seems to be
watching. And to watch players squirm under that microscope and
scrutiny ... adds another dimension to it."

Even if it's NBC's Johnny Miller, a two-time Ryder Cup player,
causing some of that squirming.

Four years ago at Brookline, Miller was especially critical of
Justin Leonard's play Friday and Saturday, suggesting he was so bad
he "should go home and watch on television."

Good thing for the United States he didn't. On Sunday, Leonard
provided the Americans with one of their greatest Ryder Cup moments
ever, rallying from a four-hole deficit with seven holes to play
against Jose Maria Olazabal by sinking a 45-foot putt that secured
the Cup.

Miller didn't apologize afterward for what some perceived as
overly rough treatment of Leonard, and he all but said he won't do
so again if a similar incident occurs this time.

"I'm just trying to give them a free lesson, or some free
advice," said Miller, the 1973 U.S Open champion. "Most guys
don't want a lesson on national TV."

Maltbie, also a former PGA Tour player, said golfers shouldn't
be distracted by what's being said in the booth.

"If your (Miller's) commentary becomes their direction for
play, they're not paying attention to what they're supposed to be
paying attention to," he said.

Some Miller observations before Europe goes for its fourth Ryder
Cup since 1995:

  • Luke Donald, a 26-year-old from England, could be the surprise
    star for Europe despite ranking only 34th on the PGA Tour money
    list. He missed the cut in the British Open but won the recent
    Omega Europe.

    "I really believe he's a great iron player and he's really had
    great success on the (amateur) Walker Cup team," Miller said.

  • The United States must do better on Friday, when Europe
    traditionally piles up points in foursomes and four-ball.

    "On the first day, you have to put out your guns and get some
    winning patterns," he said.

  • Tiger Woods has a poor Ryder Cup record (5-8-2) because the
    Europeans are more aggressive against them than they normally would
    be in stroke play.

    "In one match when you have a chance to play Tiger -- and that's
    your one shot -- I think a lot of people think in that one round,
    'I'm going to turn the turbos loose,'" Miller said. "Tiger is
    behind the 8-ball against those guys. They have a chance to make
    history and become heroes in their hometowns."