The Loop

How does Johnny Miller know so much about choking? From personal experience

February 24, 2014

Somewhere, Johnny Miller has an impressive collection of trophies that includes one for his 1973 U.S. Open win and a claret jug for capturing the 1976 Open Championship. But why doesn't he own a green jacket to go with all of his hardware?

He choked.


Miller didn't use that exact phrase -- one that he's been known to say as a TV analyst -- but he admitted he sometimes came up short mentally in major championships, in particular during in his three runner-up finishes at Augusta National.

"The secret to majors, let's face it, we've made such a big deal out of major championships, that it's really about handling pressure.  Some guys, including me with the putting, I just -- the pressure got me," Miller said during a conference call previewing the start of the PGA Tour's Florida Swing. "I was lucky to win two of them. I had three seconds in the Masters, but I would have won a Masters or two if I had just putted reasonably well . . . It's pretty amazing, if you win a major you've got to deal with a lot of choky-type putts and shots and handling the pressure of it and knowing it's going to change your life. It's hard to do."

Miller's three runner-ups at the Masters came in 1971, 1975 and 1981. His closest call came in 1975, when he and Tom Weiskopf lost to Jack Nicklaus by one shot. Looking back, Miller wishes he had learned more watching the six-time Masters champ and 18-time major winner in the game's biggest events.

"I think in Jack's mind he always thought he was the guy to beat," Miller said. "I had a little run there where I could shoot lower than Jack because my iron game was way more aggressive and quite frankly better than Jack, and I had a lot more horsepower because he played a very conservative game, which I wish I would have learned for the major championships. But like a dumbbell I thought that the U.S. Open was played like the Phoenix Open, and it was pretty stupid of me. I should have changed gears."

A 'dumbbell'? How's that for an honest assessment? Johnny, it may be too late to change your playing history, but the good news is there's still plenty of time to work that term into your announcing repertoire.