I'll never forget the time Johnny Miller darn near ran over my toes in the parking lot at the Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver.

It was at the 1985 PGA Tournament and Miller was trying to make a quick getaway after missing the cut by three strokes.

At least he'd given me a good quote, saying of his 77, "It was the kind of round that if you had three or four weeks in a row, you'd want to give up golf." He was still talking as he backed his car up, but he was in too much of a hurry to speak to a reporter for very long.

That was back in the days when the former BYU all-American wasn't exactly the most media-friendly golfer around.

However, these days, Miller is one of us media types in his job an NBC golf analyst and is anything but aloof.

In fact, he is extremely accommodating when it comes to meeting with the media. Later today, he'll speak by teleconference with media from all over the world, and I'm sure he'll be just as candid as he's become famous for in his work for NBC over the past decade-plus.

A couple of weeks ago Miller took as much time as needed for one-on-one interviews with several folks in the media at Thanksgiving Point after driving down from his home near Heber. He was happy to promote his own Champions Challenge golf tournament, but Miller also took the time to answer questions on a variety of topics for as long as anyone wanted.

Of course, the main thing I had to ask him about was the upcoming U.S. Open, which he'll be covering later this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego. On TV, Miller is the main attraction, even if he's the "color" guy on the broadcast (quick now, who can name Miller's partner in the booth? Give yourself a gold star if you said Dan Hicks).

Miller's first prediction is that this will be the most widely seen U.S. Opens perhaps ever.

"I think it's going to have huge ratings," he said. "It's the first golf tournament ever to be televised back East during prime time. It'll be on from 4 in the afternoon until 10 at night (in the East), which is totally unheard of."

The other factor for big ratings is the anticipated duel between a couple of Southern California natives named Tiger and Phil.

Miller forecasts a battle between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, which may not be going out on a limb seeing as they are the top two players in the world. But just as often as not, the U.S. Open produces champions such as Angel Cabrera, Geoff Ogilvy and Michael Campbell, three non-Americans who happen to be the most recent winners.

It's almost hard to believe that Woods hasn't won a U.S. Open since 2002 and that Mickelson has never won it. However, Miller believes there's a "50 percent" chance that either Tiger or Phil will win and that at least one of them will contend at the end.

"I don't see both of them playing bad," he said. "I think the odds of that are one in 10."

And if Tiger or Phil doesn't win, who else would he pick?

"Sergio," Miller quickly said, referring, of course, to Spain's Sergio Garcia, who has yet to win a major but won the so-called "fifth" major last month at the Players Championship.

"Sergio has a really good chance with his distance and the way he strikes the ball," Miller said. "He's got a really good shot at a major this year. At the Players he was No. 1 in fairways hit, No. 1 in greens hit. The way he won (the Players) in a playoff the way he did, he could be a new player right now."

But can he beat the guy he has melted down against in other majors?

"He has the ability to beat Tiger," Miller said. "He can hit it as well as Tiger and even better at times. He could really bother Tiger if he putts decently."

The USGA has paired Woods and Mickelson for the first two rounds along with No. 3 in the world Adam Scott, which should produce some early excitement.

If Miller has his way, he'll still be talking about Tiger and Phil as they battle down the stretch in the final twosome Sunday evening.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com