What Group Is Usa In For World Cup Qualifying A Profile of Johnny Miller

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A Profile of Johnny Miller

We all know from his television commentary with America’s NBC network that Johnny Miller can talk the talk but for a time in the mid 1970’s he also walked the walk – probably better than anyone else who ever set foot on a golf course .

Everyone he competed against, which included Nicklaus, Watson, Weiskopf and Trevino, knew that if Miller was blowing hot he was unbeatable, and even on an off day he was still pretty damned good. Nicklaus said of him: ‘The player who consistently hit his short irons closer to the hole than anyone I ever saw was Johnny Miller in his prime. Parts of his game, especially the short irons, were better than mine.’

Watson, meanwhile, who played with Miller as he shot 61 in the final to win the Tucson Open in 1974, said: ‘That was the most impressive round of golf I’ve ever seen.’ Miller replied: ‘For the last 12 months I have played better than anyone in the world.’

And so it was, but his rise to prominence was improbable and swift, followed by an even quicker fall to, if not mediocrity, then at least to fallible human standards.

When he was 10 his older brother, who he was very close to, drowned while swimming in the Pacific and his body was not found for several weeks. To help Johnny cope with the devastating loss his father set up a mat in the basement where the grief stricken boy could hit golf balls all day if he chose. It paid off so much that Johnny, aged 20, went to the US Open in San Francisco in 1966, with the intention of getting some work as a caddy. On a whim he went to the final and entered the field as a player, before finishing eighth.

He went on to capture 24 US Tour titles, with eight of his victories coming in one season, 1974, and one of those victories, the Tucson Open, was by 14 strokes, against one of the strongest fields in the a year. He also won two Majors, the 1973 US Open at Oakmont, considered one of the toughest of all American venues, and the 1976 Open at Royal Birkdale, where he held off a 19-year-old debutant named Seve Ballesteros. But it was the US Open that really made his name, as he won it with a final round 63, which remains the best final round ever to win a Major, and could have been even better .

He said later: ‘So I birdie the first four, and I immediately start gagging. I know exactly what’s going on, too. I hit it to eight foot five and leave it short, right in the heart. On eight, I hit a great 4-wood in there, 30 feet under the hole. I leave my birdie putt three feet short and then miss that one.

‘I kept hitting it hard – three feet, four feet, nine feet. If Watson had been giving for me, it might have been 58.’

Last round or weekend charges were Miller’s specialty because in addition to that memorable final day at Oakmont, his 1976 Open victory courtesy of a fourth-round 66, and the year before, one of the greatest Masters ever seen , failed to do so. catch Jack Nicklaus by one stroke, after playing the weekend in 65, 66.

Miller said that calmness comes from knowing that even your worst shot is going to be pretty damn good, and for a while in his prime if he ‘missed’ an iron shot more than three feet off the line it would be’ n go crazy. His swing was so smooth and pure that he could hit an 8-iron, for example, a 7, 8 or 9-iron, with a few minor changes that were almost indistinguishable to spectators. This was a sport he liked to reserve for those players who tried to check which club they used on a par three hole. So he had deliberately hit an 8-iron a distance of a 9-iron, and then watched with pleasure as the other man sent the green flying.

During those glory years between 1973-6, Miller had it all – blonde good looks, a knack for smoldering and an innate curiosity about life, golf and people, which he has continued to display in his television work . But of all the golfing comets that have shot across our sky, he was the brightest but the shortest lived and as quickly as the magical talent appeared, it disappeared.

There are three main reasons. First, he was a lifelong victim of the yips – although he was as hot a putter as anyone when he was on a streak – so to compensate he simply hit his approach shots even closer to the flag. He freely admits that the reason he has only played twice on the US Champions Tour (Senior) is that he is still battling the yips. So bad is that even in his prime he once painted a dot on the bottom of his putter grip, and instead of watching the clubhead, he stared at the dot throughout the stroke.

He admits his worst time ever was in a match against Jack Nicklaus in 1977 for the television series Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. He matches Nicklaus shot-for-shot – except for the miserable, embarrassing, on the greens, where he three-putts seven times. He said: ‘It was like I was holding a snake in my hands. We can’t do a three-footer. There’s no worse feeling than standing over a short putt, knowing you don’t have a chance to make it.’

Second, he says he spent a winter working on his ranch in Utah cutting down trees and when he got back on the course his swing was effectively gone, due to muscle build-up and loss of flexibility. He also believes that changing clubs from MacGregor to Wilson in ’75 immediately set him back in two parts and this is no doubt the reason for one of his greatest pieces of advice, which is still good today, namely: ‘Once you find a set of clubs. like, stay with them until they fall apart.’

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, he is a devoted family man and always found the narrow, obsessive world of major aviation, with its endless suitcases and hotel rooms, boring and a little unhealthy for a sane man. He was bored of the touring road of Tour golf and always had interests much broader than 72-hole tournaments. He is a committed member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), has six children and resented being away from them for long periods when they were young.

When he moved to become a television analyst, he became instantly famous by using one of his favorite words – ‘choke’. Miller admits that he is a real authority, as it is a phenomenon that he has studied with great interest throughout his life, because he believes that it has been world-class choking.

He says: ‘I choked myself so many times over the years it was a joke. For me, it was not the result of a character flaw, not that I lacked courage. Choking isn’t like that at all, it’s just stress that manifests itself mentally and physically.’

In 1990 when he made his debut as a commentator at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. His good friend Peter Jacobsen faced a 225-yard shot over water from a downhill layup on the 18th at Pebble Beach. Miller studied Jacobsen’s body language, and everything else, before saying: ‘This is the easiest shot to choke I’ve ever seen in my life.’

The comment created an immediate uproar – Jacobsen refused to speak to him for five months, and only refused the comment after seeing a tape of the incident – and almost before he had warmed his publicist’s chair Miller was hearing loud cries for him to be sacked . It is hard now to imagine the fuss – after all, he did not say that Jacobsen was a choker, nor that he would succumb to the pressure, quite simply that the ingredients were there for it to happen. Over the next few weeks and months, a pain-free Miller continued to call it as he saw it and American television viewers began to realize that hearing an honest opinion was a nice change from the painless, indecent pap they were served as practice

He has never pulled his punches and the outspokenness he displayed throughout his life, which he happily took into the commentary booth, has won him as many enemies as friends. But to be fair, he is not insulting or vindictive in his comments, just as brutally honest as he has ever been and in American society, especially on television, the exception rather than the rule is to speak in straight no-bullshit.

John McEnroe is probably his closest equivalent in sports commentary – but Miller has an advantage even here because throughout his career his play was not only amazingly good but his behavior was exemplary. So when he pulls up Tiger Woods, for example, for swearing audibly (and repeatedly) on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach in the US Open, he can’t be accused of hypocrisy because he was never heard hides on a golf course itself, yet fewer golfers have been more justified in letting fly with a few epithets.

And Miller has remained as outspoken as ever. In March 2004 Craig Parry beat Scott Verplank in a playoff for the Doral Championship in Miami by hitting a 176 yard 6 iron on the first extra hole. Miller said the Australian swing was a 15 handicapper and would have made Ben Hogan puke. Parry was so furious that he made an official complaint to the US Tour but Miller remained unrepentant and his ability to make such comments, and then refuse to back down when they cause fury, is apparently the reason why he is still not the most successful American player. has been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy.

And the Ryder Cup got him into more hot water. During the famous Brookline game in 1999. Captain Ben Crenshaw, acting ‘on a hat’, picked Justin Leonard out of class to partner Hal Sutton in the second over of the afternoon (they then halved their game with Olazabal and Jimenez ). Miller responded by saying: ‘My concern is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on TV.’ Leonard was furious, and he was joined by Davis Love and Jim Furyk, who all said, in effect, that Miller did not believe in them and did not support the home team as he should.

Miller told them to go for a walk and pointed out that his job is not to act as a cheerleader but to offer an honest opinion. He was also outspoken in condemning the behavior of the American fans, who abused Colin Montgomerie, his wife and father, and generally behaved like a rabble, and then criticized the USA team, led Tom Lehman, harsh for the infamous charge across the 17th green. when Justin Leonard netted an outrageous punt in his singles match again Jose Maria Olazabal.

He told Golf Digest: ‘If Tom Lehman had done what he did in the Ryder Cup 10 years ago, he would have been banned from the Ryder Cup for life, or at least for one Cup. It was off the charts. It was out of control.’

Miller was always in control, and in his pomp he was as good as anyone who ever swung a golf club.

Johnny Miller on:

His own game: ‘I had a patch there for a few years where I played a bit of golf that bordered on the twilight zone. I can remember literally getting upset that I had to putt.’

Colin Montgomerie: ‘Sometimes the guy doesn’t have a filter between his heart, his brain and his mouth but his opinion is not harmful to the game.’

Retief Goosen: It’s the worst three putt in golf history,’ (after he missed two from 12 feet on the 72nd hole of the 2001 US Open; he subsequently won the playoff).

Peter Oosterhuis (leading the 1973 Masters after 54 holes): ‘He’ll probably get a good night’s sleep – two and a half hours of it in all.’

The Greatest: ‘When Jack Nickalus plays well he wins, when he plays badly he comes second. When he plays terribly, he is third.’

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