Pebble Beach, California (June 18, 2010)–Sometimes as a writer, stories just unfold in front of you and you have to take pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keypad. That was the case on Thursday at the US Open at Pebble Beach, when we listened in as Johnny Miller, World Golf Hall-of-Famer, NBC commentator and Las Vegas golf course designer, regaled a private group with stories from the world of golf including a pearl about Jack Nicklaus. The event was emceed by Las Vegas Golf Hall-of-Famer Jack Sheehan, who was hired for the week by Lexus to interview the likes of Tom Watson, Annika Sorenstam, Peter Jacobsen and Miller, among others.–By Brian Hurlburt. Photos courtesy USGA.
Miller, who came down from the TV tower to visit with Sheehan in a hospitality tent along the 18th hole, told stories ranging from Tiger to Phil to his family to the NBA Finals. But the most interesting comments came when he discussed what it was like to play against Nicklaus. Miller, when asked who the best player ever is, said that he thinks it's Tiger, barely, because of his chipping ability. But Miller also said that when he was playing his best, he wasn't scared of Jack and wouldn't have been against Tiger. "If I was playing my best and Jack was playing his best at the Phoenix Open, I would beat him," said Miller, who designed Las Vegas golf course Badlands with consultation by Chi Chi Rodriguez. "Jack didn't really go low because of his style nof play, but I took dead aim at the hole all the time and loved to go low." But Miller also went on to say that Nicklaus' mentality was perfectly suited for the majors, while his own wasn't.
Miller's Badlands Golf Club is one of about 50 Las Vegas golf courses in the Las Vegas Golf Region, many designed by the biggest names in the world of golf including Nicklaus, who has designed several Las Vegas golf courses including Bear's Best Las Vegas and The Chase at Coyote Springs. The Badlands is 27 holes of tantalizing desert golf which Miller has described as an "E-ticket ride at Disneyland." Click now for the official website of Badlands to reserve your Las Vegas golf tee times. Bear's Best Las Vegas is made up of 18 of Nicklaus' favorite holes from courses he has designed across the globe. Click now for Bear's Best. And The Chase debuted in 2008 and was named as one of the best new courses in America by most major golf publications. Click for Coyote Springs.
But back to Miller, who revealed how Nicklaus approached a golf tournament, especially a major. Miller said that he likened the Golden Bear's strategy to that of how different people approach riding a spinning toy at a park. You know the ride. It's a sphere that goes around in circles and circles, increasing in speed the faster you push it. If you try to ride it on the outer parts, it's a helluva ride until you fall off and land in a mangled mess. But if you ride it near the middle of the circle, it's a lot slower ride and you can stay on for much longer. Miller and most of his fellow pros rode the outside, aiming for the pins and trying to go low. But Nicklaus determined early on in his career that he liked the middle, and he stayed patient in just about every tournament he ever played. The stay-in-the-middle metaphor meaning he hit quite a few irons off the tees and played to the middle of the green a lot of the time. "We all had a great time on the outside, but by Sunday most of us had fallen off, but there was Nicklaus, nice and patient in the middle of everything," said Miller. "I wish I would have learned that lesson better than I did."
Miller also discussed that not only did his aggressive mentality cause him to not win some majors, but that his putting was also a major concern during the big events. Miller, who is known as being not afraid to use the word "choke" on television when it is warranted, said that he "choked" with the putter in the majors. Miller revealed that he would have won several more majors if would have putted better, but that his putting stroke in a major always felt differently to him than it did during a regular PGA Tour event. Miller did win two majors, the 1973 US Open when fired a 63 in the final round at Oakmont, and the 1976 British Open. He also won 25 PGA Tour events and finished second at The Masters three times.