Johnny Miller’s British Invasion

Johnny Miller's British Invasion 1AS I WATCHED HIM STRIDE UP the 72nd fairway at Royal Birkdale, the thought occurred to me, “Why didn’t he win another major?”

I flipped on the Golf Channel last night as they were airing one of their classic highlight programs, the 1976 British Open at Royal Birkdale, also this year’s Open venue.

Johnny Miller’s final-round performance in that Open was phenomenal. Johnny fired a 66 to overtake 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros and leave the great Jack Nicklaus and Masters champion Raymond Floyd in the dust.

In true Ballesteros fashion, Seve was knocking the ball all over England. Paired together, Nicklaus and Floyd played well, though, closing with 69 and 70, respectively. But Miller looked like he was playing in Tucson, taking dead aim at flagsticks and running in birdies with his Bulls Eye putter and jabby stroke. He even chipped in for an eagle on the 13th hole.

Johnny won going away, by six shots, the largest winning margin at the British Open since Arnold Palmer at Royal Troon in 1962. Wearing a red shirt and a pair of those awful golf slacks from the 70s, a beaming Miller hoisted the Claret Jug. He looked like he could win a bunch of them. He was only 29.

That was the end, his second and final major victory, although he did win seven more times on the PGA Tour. It’s still hard to believe Miller didn’t win another major. He was such a good player.

−The Armchair Golfer

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Neil Sagebiel

8 thoughts on “Johnny Miller’s British Invasion”

  1. It is kind of hard to believe he didn’t win more. I saw a program on the Golf Channel where Jim McLean broke down his swing. Apparently, he was one of the straightest hitters ever, like laser beam straight.

    Unfortunately, the yips took him largely out of competitive golf later on. Still, 25 Tour wins is no small feat, especially if you consider the other players carving out a piece of the pie while he was in his prime.

  2. Yep, hard to believe he didn’t win more. He had his caddie get yardages to half a yard, not a full yard.

    I think the reason he’s completely out of golf is the putter. He always had a jabby stroke as you indicated in the piece, but when his accuracy wasn’t as good, putting was a lot more of a factor. The man cannot putt. He putts like a 10-12 handicapper (maybe worse).

  3. Yeah but he sure talks like he was tiger woods… (Dont get me wrong I love the comentary and he was pretty darn good, but even charles barkley has a littel humility about his place ins the game of basketball)

  4. I’d never heard that half-yard story before. Wow. I wonder if there was ever a better medium to long iron player than Miller. In the mid 70s, the guy seemed to be hitting everything at the flagstick. It was unbelievable. Besides having a shaky putter, I believe I’ve read that Miller, a family man, burned out on the tour life and lost his edge. The talent was always there, though.

  5. I heard that his Faith frowns on working on Sundays so he has to limit his schedule. Plus the putting was a problem, but he claims to have found a good putting stroke that makes him happy in the last couple of years. Did you see the challenge event where he and I think Maltbie took on Lanny Wadkins and I think Gary McCord? That was really entertaining. I loved it.

  6. Well the obvious answer is that he fell into the Seve and Tom Watson era of domination, in the Open at least.

    But i think you’ve touched on it when you talk of the putter. You can’t win a major with a didgy putter, no matter how good your approaches are (and as we’ve noted his were remarkable).

    If your putter is on it’s game then you’ve got a chance, but the greens on a major course are much harder to read.

    Sergio Gargia can tell you all about that.


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