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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Miller Chips In, Bows Out, of Valero Texas Open

Mike Miller at Texas Open, screenshot by Erick Schaller
Mike Miller capped his PGA Tour debut at the Valero Texas Open yesterday with a chip-in birdie on the 17th hole before missing the cut by a respectable two strokes in the storm- and wind-challenged event. His play was plagued by erratic approaches that led to ten bogeys, but his power off the tee showed tour-level strength in the four other birdies (in addition to the chip-in) he put on his card.

Miller's 74/75, 149 total, put him in the company of multiple major winners Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, and David Toms, as well as defending champion Martin Laird, among the many other top players who will be sitting out the weekend. Miller played, by the way in a threesome with Andrew Loupe, who was tied for second, one stroke off the lead, when play ended on Friday. Loupe punched his card to the PGA Tour on the Web.com Tour last year.

The chip-in was a thing of beauty that could have been ugly. Miller drove the green on the 347-yard par four, pounded his 86-foot eagle putt past the hole and off the green, then chipped in to put him briefly on the Golf Channel highlight reel. The screen shot above was posted within minutes on Facebook by Erick Schaller. 

In his two days, Miller showed some serious game. He out-drove the field with a 300-yard average vs. 289. He lost three-quarters of a stroke to the field putting, which isn't bad considering the goofy greens on the TPC San Antonio course, but his real downfall was missing eight of ten greens due to off-line approaches. Overall, his GIR was 44% vs. 57% for the field. It was a classic demonstration of Mark Broadie's conclusion about the importance of the approach game in Every Shot Counts.

Miller will be back on tour in the near future. His appearance here was with a sponsor's exemption, but as he continues to hone his game, gets used to life on the road and settles into the work necessary to make it in the big leagues, he'll soon rate more Golf Channel coverage. 

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