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.
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.