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Sent on Mormon-News: 20Jun01

By Mark Wright

Why Johnny Miller is Leading, but Hated, Golf Commentator

Why Johnny Miller is Leading, but Hated, Golf Commentator

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA -- During his career as a golfer, Johnny Miller developed a reputation as a hard-hitting, straight-driving golfer that always played fair. Now, as a golf commentator for NBC-TV, providing commentary at many major events, Johnny Miller is creating another kind of reputation; that of a hard-hitting, straight-talking analyst who, according to some professional golfers, isn't exactly playing "fair."

Johnny Miller created quite a name for himself in the highly competitive world of professional golf. Winner of 24 PGA tour events over his career, Miller was almost unstoppable during 1974 and 1975 when he won 12 tournaments and was the leading money winner for 1974. In addition, by winning both the U.S. Open and the British Open, Miller established himself as a pressure golfer who could play with the best. An active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Miller's golfing career went into decline about the time he started having children. Miller candidly admits that he was less interested in golf than in his family.

Given his golfing pedigree and stellar tournament credentials, it seems that Miller should be eminently qualified to be a golf commentator. In fact, NBC considers Miller to be a tremendous asset and NBC's viewers thoroughly enjoy his insightful remarks. Why then, are so many professional golfers so very unhappy with Miller's performance on TV? The answer lies not in Miller's expertise, but more in his approach. While many former professional athletes have gone on to careers as TV commentators, few have approached the job with the directness and candor that Miller has demonstrated. Miller is usually totally and completely honest, much to the chagrin of those that endure his sometimes withering scrutiny.

For example, Greg Norman threatened to close the locker room to the media after Miller made several scathing remarks about Norman's final-round collapse during the 1996 U.S. Masters tournament. According to Miller, "Greg can only play one way - aggressively. When he tries to play conservatively, his brain short-circuits, his wires get crossed and sparks start flying. He could change but it would take months of programming, help from a sports psychologist."

Comments like that have put Miller on the "black list" with some professional golfers. They would prefer that Miller take a softer tact and present a less-critical view of their performance. However, listening to Miller, that's not likely to happen because he's only calling the shots like he sees them. "The players are the ones who hit the bad shots," Miller said. "I praise them when they're good and I have to be accurate when they're bad; the viewer wants to know if a golfer stuffed up. I see things that other people either don't see or don't have the guts to talk about."

The bottom line in golfing is that the trophy always goes to the player who posts the best score. When it comes to broadcast golf, Miller's expertise and popularity as a commentator seems to have him firmly ensconced at the top of the leader board.


Players duck when Miller tees off
Melbourne Australia The Age 18Jun01 S2
By Charles Happell


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