The Genius of Johnny Miller

The Genius of Johnny Miller 1HATE HIM OR LOVE HIM, Johnny Miller is a lightning rod in the television tower and was an immensely talented player who could match shots with the best players of his generation, including Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.

In The Genius of Johnny, Jaime Diaz profiles Miller for Golf Digest (December issue). Here’s an interesting tidbit that I didn’t know (or had forgotten). John Miller was told by his agent, Ed Barner, to go by “Johnny” to promote his image. But he grew up being called “John” and signs his name without adding the “ny.”

I remember Johnny as a player who literally knocked down the flagsticks in the mid 1970s at PGA Tour stops such as Tucson, Phoenix and Palm Springs. Sometimes faulty, my memory served me well. Diaz reports that Johnny “did crazy-good things, like hitting the flag 10 times with iron shots while winning at Tucson.”

My favorite player was Jack Nicklaus, but Johnny Miller was the best iron player I ever saw. From January 1974 to January 1975, Miller won 10 times in a career that produced 25 PGA Tour victories, two of them majors, the 1973 U.S. Open and 1976 British Open. Johnny slumped after the mid 1970s blitz and has said he lost his desire to excel on tour as he and wife Linda raised six children.

Here’s what a couple of Johnny’s peers told Diaz.

Lanny Wadkins: “Johnny was the best I ever saw at hitting pure golf shots. I was very fortunate to play with a lot of the true greats: Jack and Trevino and Tiger, sure, but also Snead, Hogan and Nelson, who might have been past it, but not so you couldn’t see what they could do. But I can’t imagine that anyone in history has ever consistently hit the ball as solid and as close to the pin as Johnny did.”

Lee Trevino: “Johnny’s advantage was damn-near perfect mechanics. He had that extremely weak grip like Hogan, and he would set it going back and then just release it as hard as he could with total confidence. He didn’t have to re-route it or hold onto it or practice like hell, like most of the rest of us. Maybe because he grooved it so young, he was basically on automatic, where hitting the ball hard and straight and solid was actually easy. He got to a very rare place.”

Among others things, Johnny says one of his regrets is not winning the Masters, where he finished second three times. Wherever you stand on Johnny, Diaz’s profile is a worthwhile read. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know about him.

−The Armchair Golfer

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Neil Sagebiel

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