Johnny Miller Open and Honest

By Rich LernerJune 6, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: Johnny Millers the rare commentator'more famous than most of the players he covers and often times as entertaining. He announces the same way he played. He attacks the flag stick. In a GOLF CHANNEL special presentation, 'Johnny Miller Open and Honest,' premiering Tuesday, June 12 at 9 p.m. ET, Rich Lerner sits down with Johnny to tackle a number of subjects. Below are some excerpts from the 30 minute interview.
RL: Fair to say, Johnny, that you dont measure or plan your commentary?
JM: I absolutely have no clue I am on the air. Sometimes I have to remind myself, Dont say that! If you really analyze the way I announce, if I was on all the time I think it would be too much. I dont mean to be that way and Ive tried to be a little mellower, but I really dont try to do anything when Im on the air. I mean the perfect announcing syndrome for me is that I get so interested in whats going on that I dont even know Im announcing and thats probably why Im as candid as I am because in my mind Im not even on the air. Im just talking to you.
RL: Ill hear from players that Johnny never spends any time on the range or that Johnny never walks in the locker room or Johnny doesnt talk to me.
JM: The way I announce Im not going to be real chummy. The gallery loves my announcing. The people in the home like my announcing because they know they are getting the real truth. You know the one thing about me is that Ive never been a chummy guy. Hall of Fame players are not chummy guys. Ninety percent of Hall of Fame players are lone wolf-type guys. Tiger is not going to be walking into locker rooms and chumming with people, Trevino didnt, Floyd doesnt, Irwin doesnt and Nicklaus doesnt. I mean its just not in the makeup of a Hall of Fame player to be the regular chummy guy. Thats all there is to it.
RL: Are there things youve said that you later regretted?
JM: Oh, yeah. I would say in 16 years of announcing probably five were pretty blatant. You know saying, 'Craig Parrys swing would make Ben Hogan puke,' well I could have said, 'It would have made his stomach upset.'
RL: Was Tiger upset with your critiques of his swing?
JM: I know he doesnt love me.
RL: A lot of writers and broadcasters get un-nerved if theyve learned that Tiger doesnt like them.
JM: Ive tried to be fair with his career and what hes done. I was the first guy to say, You know the guys unbelievable with his guts. Hes got that quality that makes people wilt. Ive also said he doesnt drive it too well. Ive noticed the players hate it when I give them a lesson on national TV. Ill say, Watch Tiger; he squats his thighs down and then he pops his left shoulder up and the hip comes up and he blocks it right or flips it left. What am I supposed to say, Oh, well, its just a bad day?
RL: Tiger or Jack?
JM: Man, I think it would have been awfully close. Tiger had a big advantage with the chip shots around the green and the bunker shots. That one part of the game might be a little better than Jacks. I love Jack and we are good friends, but the short game of Tiger is like cheating. I mean, come on; hes phenomenal.
RL: Who had the stiffer competition?
JM: I always said if you put Tiger Woods on a lie detector test and asked, 'Have you been a little cheated by whats happened in the last round of your career by the competitors,' I really believe youd have to say hes been a little disappointed that guys have not pushed him a little more on Sunday. I think the Nicklaus era was the greatest in the history of golf. Vijay Singhs a phenomenal player and, of course, Ernie Els, and Furyks awfully good, and Mickelsons amazingly good, but I dont think they are quite as tough on Sunday as that group---the Floyds, the Irwins and the Watsons and even a Hubert Green.
RL: You had a memorable Sunday at Oakmont in 1973 with an incredible 63, yet you thought youd blown the U.S. Open with that Saturday 76?
JM: For sure; I thought I was done. But it was weird because as I was finishing my warm up I heard the clearest voice you could imagine telling me to open my stance way up and I was thinking, 'Why would I want to do that,' because Id never done it before. Still I thought Ill try it.
RL: So the lesson is, listen to the voices in your head?
JM: Yeah, I do it all the time. And it was sort of a magical round in that I felt that I was almost getting help. Every shot was going right where I was aiming it.
RL: It almost brings you to tears to talk about it.
JM: Well, it was sort of my career you know. I appreciate if somebody up there helped me and I think thats why it brings me a little bit to tears.
Great time. But thats competition. That was the fun of it.
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Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.