Johnny Miller: U.S. Ryder Cup Team Needs To Be Mentally Tougher on Day 1

Johnny Miller Ryder Cup
Johnny Miller smiles while providing commentary for NBC Golf Channel during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 20, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Cy Cyr / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Johnny Miller was one of the best golfers of his generation. He won two majors, finished with 105 top-10s, and claimed 25 PGA Tour titles in all. But it was his 29-year broadcasting career at NBC where Miller became truly legendary.

The one-time California golden boy became known for his no-nonsense blunt commentary, the antithesis to the syrupy opinions golf fans were used to hearing on TV.

His signature analysis was essentially saying the quiet part out loud, such as when a player was clearly “choking.”

“I think people, even the players, knew if they really analyzed what I said, I was coming from an area of knowledge and also saying what I really saw,” said Miller, ahead of his final broadcast in 2019 during the Phoenix Open.

“I mean, a guy’s hitting nothing but fades and hasn’t hit a duck hook in three years and he’s hitting a duck hook the last three holes, he might be choking, right?

“I mean, you got to say that. The public wants that. They want to hear the truth. We’re in a P.C. mode and people are afraid to tell the truth, tell what it really is and they’re starving for it.

“So, I said a couple times that I take off their clothes but I leave their underwear on.”

Johnny Miller NBC
NBC commentators Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks on set during the The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie on July 20, 2018 in Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington via Getty Images)

Miller, who owns a stake in the Silverado Resort – the host venue of the annual Fortinet Championship, visited with the Golf Channel team during Saturday’s broadcast and was blunt as ever.

Asked about the Ryder Cup, Miller said the biennial matches are basically over on the first day, and credited the teamwork and mental toughness of the Euros.

“Seems like Europe always seems to have a leg up on the camaraderie and toughness and ability to come out of the blocks.

“And that’s the point I was going to make the most,” said Miller during the Golf Channel’s third-round coverage of the Fortinet Championship.

“It seems like whoever leads after the first day, wins the Ryder Cup. And it sort of shows the nerves.

“First day is very nervous for most players — they can hardly tee the ball up on the first tee, you know, and the heart is pounding like this. [Gestures to his heart.]

“So it’s really important to get off to a good first-day start. For some reason, after all those years of covering the Ryder Cup, that’s the key thing. And then of course, finishing it off is important, too.

“It is important to finish those off, too. It’s very exciting.”

Justin Rose 2019 Ryder Cup
Justin Rose of Europe celebrates after chipping in on the 12th during the morning fourball matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 28, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

How accurate is Miller’s key performance indicator?

Well from 1979 to 1999 it was predictive less than 50% of the time. But since 2002 (2001 was canceled due to 9/11), Miller’s KPI has predicted the winner seven of nine times, or 78% of the time. The only two exceptions were a miracle comeback (2012 “Miracle at Medinah”) when Europe won Sunday singles 8.5-3.5; and the 2010 edition when rain interrupted day one’s play at Celtic Manor.

Possibly realizing he may have advised fans to turn off the weekend broadcast, Miller added, “The Ryder Cup is good even when it’s not that close.

“That was the highlight — that and the U.S. Open were the highlight of my year.”

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