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A Quick Nine with Johnny Miller

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Johnny Miller is one of the few people who has been a Hall of Famer on the course and in the broadcast booth. After a stellar playing career that included a U.S. Open win for the ages in 1973, Miller has gone on to be an award-wining commentator for NBC. His relentless, sometimes withering honesty about PGA Tour players set the bar for commentary in televised sports long before Sir Charles Barkley started his act in the basketball world.

We sat down with Johnny for a timed 9-minute interview, what we call a “Quick Nine,” about golf, broadcasting and life.

What do you think people like the most about your on-air work?

It’s the honesty. That’s what they want, right? I’ve been on the air for 27 years so I guess that means I didn’t screw up too bad.

Do you enjoy it now more than you ever did?

Yes, and Dan Hicks is so easy to work with…he’s fantastic. But I’m trying to relax now because I’m near the end of the run.

In addition to broadcasting you are working on a new golf glove product. Did you have a hand in it, pun intended?

It’s my second year with Zero Friction, and they have a glove that is one size, but it fits 90 out of 100 guys. It stretches in all different directions and it’s a fantastic glove. Just a little while ago, (Zero Friction founder) John Iacono who started the company thought, “What would it be like if we put a GPS right on the glove?” So they did and it’s hooked up to about 36,000 courses.

Johnny Miller at the 2017 PGA Show with Zero Friction.

Johnny Miller at the 2017 PGA Show with Zero Friction.

It’s very light; you can’t really tell it’s on the glove. It gives distances to the middle and back of the green; it’s really accurate and that gives the player confidence. The battery lasts for about 400 rounds, which should cover most golfers for a while.

Do you prefer GPS over laser?

Yes. I have a laser, but sometimes I shoot it and I don’t know if I got the pin or the tree in back, so I have to keep punching that button. With GPS you just look at it and go. My iron game was pretty good; I felt like I could hit it to within one of two yards of the number that I got. Heck, I don’t know what I would have shot if I had one of these.

In my day there was no laser, no GPS, no nothing. Your caddie had to walk it, but he has one stride, you have another stride, and so you get to a par-3 and you can have totally different numbers. So we’ve come a long way in that regard. 

Who is the golfer that you wanted to be like?

Growing up, the Big Three, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, had a big influence on me. When I was just starting out my father loved those guys. I copied a lot of the positions they used in the hitting zone. But once I got on Tour, I gravitated toward Jack Nicklaus for some reason. I liked the way he was a family man; I liked the way he played golf, how he handled pressure.

Why are so many guys shooting 59 now?

There are probably 10 reasons but on top, recently, it seems like the Tour is eliminating a lot of the rough so that’s one thing. Number 2, the greens are so much better than they’ve ever been before, taking the grain out of them. Number 3, the fairways are flawless. So when you have no rough, flawless fairways and perfect greens…and with the new equipment the guys are hitting it so darn far…they have laser yardages.

You know, we could go on and on but the guys are in better shape, too. I’m not saying that they are any better than Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino or even myself in my prime, but there are more good players now and when you have the distance they are able to hit it combined with perfect conditions they can really go low.

Which would you rather win: the Grand Slam, an Oscar, a Nobel or a $100 million lottery?

Well, I don’t need the money. If I won the Nobel Prize they’d think it was an accident or a mistake, so I’ll take the Grand Slam! I’ve had a great run. I’ve got a great family. Twenty-three grandkids. Six kids. So that’s my legacy; those are my majors.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. jimbo

    Feb 13, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    weirdest thing about these comments.. theres people that actually like johnny miller lol?

  2. Moses

    Feb 11, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I’ve been a Johnny Miller fan since the 1970s and IMO he’s in the top 3 for best golf announcers of all time. Not only that he is a great human being.

  3. Dave R

    Feb 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Miller everyone is intitled to his opinion . Loud mouth ,brash,honest,what else would you expect At least says what’s on his mind , and a shank is a shank not a lateral .

  4. Tom54

    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Johnny Miller is the best announcer for sure. I realize how much he’s missed just watching the last 2 US Opens on Fox I’m sure many would disagree but he does add a very frank opinion when he’s in the booth

  5. Messico 9

    Feb 9, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Love the Miller

  6. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Feb 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

    “I’m trying to relax now because I’m near the end of the run.” Can’t come soon enough. Get. The. F***. Out.

    • birdie

      Feb 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Couldn’t disagree more…and whether you like him or not, you sound like a miserable person.

      If we’re kicking announcers off the course can we at least start w/ McCord

      • The dude

        Feb 9, 2017 at 1:44 pm

        Bingo!

        • Double Mocha Man

          Feb 9, 2017 at 1:48 pm

          McCord’s the only guy that keeps things interesting. The rest are bland.

    • Chris

      Feb 9, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      Will you go first?

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?

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What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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