NBC Sports is hiring Paul Azinger as its lead golf analyst with hopes he can deliver his own brand of sharp, candid observations that made Johnny Miller such a strong presence in the broadcast booth for three decades.
Miller's last tournament will be the Waste Management Phoenix Open the first weekend in February.
Azinger already has a steady voice in golf from 10 years at ABC and ESPN, and the last three years at Fox Sports for its USGA events. In a unique arrangement by today's standards, NBC Sports will allow Azinger to retain his role at Fox for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open.
"Everyone says I've got big shoes to fill," Azinger said. "I'm not trying to fill anybody's shoes. The challenge is to be yourself. The action is the action. I don't mind being blunt. It doesn't have to be derogatory."
Azinger turns 59 in January, and he will keep plenty busy.
Miller reduced his schedule in recent years and typically worked only weekends for NBC. Azinger, the 1993 PGA Champion and winning Ryder Cup captain in 2008, is expected to do four days of tournament coverage on Golf Channel and NBC, along with contributing to "Live from the Masters" on Golf Channel along Mike Tirico, documentary projects for Golf Channel and some instructional content.
And with the Fox arrangement, he figures to be among the most prominent voices from some of golf's biggest events.
Nick Faldo is the lead analyst for CBS Sports, which has the Masters and PGA Championship and the majority of network coverage of the PGA Tour with 17 other events. Azinger will have the U.S. Open and British Open, two World Golf Championships (Mexico and Match Play), The Players Championship along with the rest of the Florida swing leading up to the Masters, the final two FedEx Cup playoff events, the Ryder Cup every other year and the Olympics every four years.
Azinger called it the "role of a lifetime."
"My wife always said I was good at two things playing golf and flapping your gums," Azinger said.
Azinger made his broadcasting debut with NBC Sports and golf producer Tommy Roy in 1995 when he was recovering from cancer in his left shoulder and helped out the NBC broadcast of the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill.
During highlights of his 1993 match against Nick Faldo that ended in a draw, Azinger quipped, "I had cancer and he still couldn't beat me."
Azinger and Faldo, opposing captains in 2008 at Valhalla, were part of a successful experiment when Mark Loomis picked them to be dual analysts in the 18th tower for ABC in 2005. ABC was not part of the tour's network coverage under the next TV contract, and Azinger mostly did the British Open for ESPN.
Fox hired him in 2016 to replace Greg Norman as lead analyst for the U.S. Open.
And now he takes over for Miller, who became famous for saying what he thought without a filter, even if it was offensive to the players.
"For nearly three decades, fans tuning into NBC Sports' golf coverage have been accustomed to a lead analyst that told it like it was, and that mantra will continue with Paul Azinger," said Molly Solomon, executive vice president of content for Golf Channel. "Following Johnny Miller is a tall order. However, we're confident in Paul's ability to serve our viewers with candor and sharp insight."
Roy described Azinger as "one of the most perceptive minds in golf."
"His innate ability to dissect the action in front of him and convey it to the viewer in such a concise, assured manner is what we value most across our tournament broadcast team," Roy said.
Miller was so good for so long in the booth that a younger generation of viewers had reason to overlook his Hall of Fame career if not for Miller reminding them. He was the first player to shoot 63 in the final round to win a major (1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont) and he won the 1976 British Open among his 25 victories on the PGA Tour.
Azinger had 12 wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1993 PGA Championship that he won in a playoff over Norman. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma later that year, but after intensive treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, returned to win the Sony Open in 2000 and play in the 2002 Ryder Cup.