Johnny Miller channels his inner Simon Cowell on NBC

johnny_miller_200.jpgHere is a story I wrote for the Thursday newspaper about NBC's famously opinionated golf analyst, Johnny Miller.

Sample quote: "Some [players] say, 'Why did you say that?' I have to remind them, 'Well, did you not hit a terrible shot left of the green?' They'll say, 'Well, yeah,' and I say, 'Well, I have to say it. I'm sorry.'"

Here is a quote from Miller's fellow analyst, Gary Koch, that did not make the newspaper article: "He has a wonderful way to go ahead and say things without necessarily filtering them through the brain first."

Click below for more from Miller and Koch, some of which was in the newspaper article, the rest of which I scraped off the cutting room floor.

(Sandomir of the Times spoke to Miller just before I did and wrote this article about his unique preparation procedures.)

Photo: Getty

Johnny Miller on talking to Phil Mickelson on the 11th fairway Wednesday:

"Phil and I have become pretty good friends, but it’s not like we go out to dinner or anything. I’ve also become pretty good friends with Butch Harmon. Phil was telling me what they’re working on and told me some pretty good stories about Amy. He’s pretty touched by this whole Amy affair, how much people really love Amy and how much they’re pulling for her."

On what he gets out of talking to players:

"I need to know what they're doing. I can guess because I can see their swings what they’re doing, but I can’t guess what they’re working on. It’s nice to know a guy is working on shortening his backswing.

"Now Phil's swing is more of a 1-2 swing. It used to be more of a 1, 2, 3 swing. It’s much more stable, better under pressure. His misses should be much more accurate. He used to hit so many way left, like at Winged Foot. Butch has done a terrific job making his swing right on plane . . . He's making it more standardized, and the results are there."

On how players react to him:

"If you meet Johnny Miller, I’m a friendly guy. People say, ‘Wow, he’s pretty friendly, I thought he was just a tough guy.’ I’m tough on the air but when they meet me they find I’m very open and care about their family. I want them to do well. I’m not pulling against them.

"But when they’re hitting shots, I feel I have to analyze them as strongly as I analyzed myself. I don’t judge them or analyze them any differently than I did myself. It was not a patty-cake, patty-cake kind of analysis. If I hit a good shot I’d be the first to tell you I hit a good shot. If I choked, I’d tell you I choked.

"So the way I announce is exactly the way I see the game, with no watering down, which has made it tough on me. When I call a shot and could be perfectly accurate, they just don’t want me to say it on national TV. Sometimes they say, ‘Why did you say that?’ and I have to remind them and say, ‘Well, did you not hit a terrible shot left of the green?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, yeah,’ and I say, ‘Well, I have to say it. I’m sorry.’"

On whether it was easier or more difficult to criticize players early in his TV career:

"It hurt [earlier]. They thought, I’m friendly with him, why is he saying that? Plus they came up with a generation where the announcers pretty much gilded the lily. It was sweet talk, which is not all bad. If you had a whole team of Johnny Millers, it wouldn’t work.

"You only want one Johnny Miller on an announce team, just like you only want one Simon Cowell. I’ve been referred to as the Simon Cowell of golf. But if you really listen to Simon Cowell, he’s pretty dang accurate. He sometimes gets a little over the top, like I will, but he actually is trying in his mind to give you constructive criticism so you can work on it.

"I don’t think I’m as strong as he is, but when I say something about a guy’s swing I actually am giving him advice. In my mind I’m hoping someone in his house writes it down: ‘Johnny said at the top of the swing your right elbow is popping out.'"

On offering solutions after his critiques:

"It’s one thing for a guy to tell you you have cancer. It's OK, 'I hate that I have cancer, but what do I do to get rid of it?' It’s a full circle lesson. I don’t blame them; they don’t want to have a lesson on national TV. They want me to say they’re wonderful."

On talking about how players handle pressure:

"To me the whole point of golf is it’s the greatest game in the world to see if you can handle your choke point and whether you can handle the pressure, whether you can keep hitting your driver well, your irons well, your chips well, your putts well, whether you can still talk to your caddy and still function.

"It’s the greatest expose of how you handle stress of maybe anything in the world. So if you don’t talk about that, you’re missing the whole dang point of the sport. That’s what makes golf so intoxicating to all these great athletes as they start playing two-dollar Nassaus and start feeling this pressure that they sort of felt when they did their thing, but not like golf."

On why he rarely plays anymore:

"I had probably the most injuries of any golfer who’s played. I have shin splints, had both knees operated on, carpal tunnel in my left wrist, torn rotator cuff, scoliosis, a hole in my right elbow from cortisone shots, tennis elbow in my left arm.

"I’m a nine-hole guy. I have to take Advil, ice my knees and my leg. I have to really pay the price for playing."

Koch on Miller:

"I often say Johnny’s not a malicious person. I don’t think that anything that comes out of his mouth is intended to make anyone look bad or upset somebody. That’s not the way his nature is. He’s just a very honest, blunt kind of person.

"He has perfectionist tendency, so when you see stuff that isn’t that good you’re not afraid to say something about it. He has a wonderful way to go ahead and say things without necessarily filtering them through the brain first.

"It’s not unusual at all for us in the course of a telecast to hear him say something and go, 'Wow, did he really say that?' But I can’t think of anybody who is better prepared and cares more about the job he does than Johnny."

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