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A push from kids, a victory restore Miller's golf passion

Johnny Miller rediscovered his love for golf when he won last month's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. But playing golf with his children is what really got him going.

Miller, 46, who had won 23 times in his PGA Tour career but not since Pebble Beach in 1987, rarely played golf in recent years. Pebble Beach was the only tournament he planned to enter.

But Miller has four sons who often prodded their father into playing with them.

"I'd come home, I'd be tired, and they'd have to drag me out there," Miller said Wednesday. "After a while, I started to enjoy it. And it was really the first I enjoyed playing golf in five years. It helped me get some desire back. And I'm liking golf."

So much so that Miller has planned to enter several more tournaments this year, including the Doral-Ryder Open, which begins today on the "Blue Monster" course at Doral Country Club.

Miller, a golf analyst for NBC, is skipping the Chrysler Tournament of Champions LPGA event this weekend in Orlando in order to play.

"I don't have any illusions of winning," said Miller, who won 16 tournaments from 1973 through 1976, including the U.S. Open and the British Open. "NBC was very nice. My bosses said: "Do you want to play another tournament before the Masters to get some competition?' That's why I'm here."

Miller thought his 1987 victory at Pebble Beach was a fluke, but that he would give it one more year after that. When he had very little success in the next two years, he decided to stop playing.

"I felt like a prostitute playing the game to make checks," he said. "I couldn't win, and I had a problem with it. I couldn't relate to that. I always had played to win. I quit before I had to quit."

Miller, now exempt on the tour for the rest of this year and the next two, said he will play in the Masters, the Memorial and the World Series of Golf. The United States Golf Association is considering giving him a special exemption for the U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he won in 1973 by shooting a final-round 63.

He will be with the NBC broadcast team the next three weeks at the Honda Classic, the Nestle Invitational and the Players Championship.

No. 1: Greg Norman last month overtook Nick Faldo in the Sony Rankings, a complicated formula by which players around the world are judged against each other. He is back to defend his title at Doral, where he started an amazing yearlong run to the top.

In addition to his victory here, Norman won the British Open, missed just one cut on the PGA Tour, and had four seconds, three thirds and 12 top-10 finishes in 15 tournaments. He won $1,359,653 to finish third on the money list, behind Nick Price and Paul Azinger.

Father/son: Raymond Floyd has won Doral three times. His son, Robert, will join him in the tournament this weekend, his first professional event. Robert, 17, a senior at Miami Country Day, will attend the University of Florida next fall on a golf scholarship.

Although his name had something to do with his exemption into the tournament, Robert Floyd is the second-ranked junior amateur in the country. His older brother, Ray Jr., is a freshman at Wake Forest, and both are on track for pro golf careers _ despite their parents' wishes.

"They're just looking out for us," Robert Floyd said. "I don't think they're discouraging us. My mom (Maria) uses it as reverse psychology to challenge me. She doesn't want my life to be ruined if something goes wrong and I don't make it."

Sweet swinger: Tom Weiskopf did not compete in a tournament for nearly six months, and his architectural business allowed very little time to play or practice during the winter. Then he played three rounds in 11 under par at the Chrysler Cup last weekend in Sarasota, shooting consecutive 67s. Must be nice.

"I'm blessed with one of the wonderful swings in golf. It's very natural," Weiskopf said. "It's very easy for me. It's not mechanical. I'm pretty athletic, I keep in decent shape. So it's easy for me to come out and get back into things. That's how it's always been for me.

"When I played on the regular tour and lived in Ohio, I'd take three months off and come back out. There are a lot of guys who can do that. You have to have talent, and I'm blessed with a lot of talent. But I'm going to work hard for the next month. I'm going to do some practicing to be better prepared."

Weiskopf said he will play an event in Japan and will not play again on the Senior PGA Tour until The Tradition, in April.

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