#AskAlan: Is Johnny Miller the greatest color commentator in golf history?

October 16, 2018
johnny miller golf

New season, new #AskAlan…

Are we really ready for a new season ? #AskAlan [email protected]

I know it’s trendy to bag on the short off-season but what are we supposed to watch on the weekend…football? Gross.

#AskAlan If you could swap out two Hall of Famers for two better ones – which four would it be? -Oskar (@tallboy199)

Ken Schofield is outta there — sorry, I don’t think being a competent bureaucrat is enough to warrant a spot in the Hall. And while I love his swag as much as everyone else does, I’m evicting Fred Couples, too. With a mere 15 wins and only one major, he lowered the bar so much that just about every really-good-but-not-quite-great player now can’t be kept out of the Hall. Who to put in is much tougher, if I only get two choices. You gotta start with (Champagne) Tony Lema, who in 1964 won an Open at the Old Course by a whopping five strokes. (From 1963-66 he finished in the top-10 in eight of the 15 majors he played.) Lema won 11 other Tour events before dying in a plane accident in 1966 at the age of 32, just as he was entering his prime. No doubt he would have piled up a bunch more victories. Throw in his larger-than-life persona and he would be a credit to the Hall. I’m gonna burn my second choice on Butch Harmon. He’s done so much for the game. In every other sport the managers and coaches are revered figures. It’s bizarre that golf’s Hall of Fame so consistently overlooks the men and women who preside over the swings of the game’s greatest players.

Over/under on number of viewers for Tiger v. Phil? -Ian (@Scottishgolfpro)

The prevailing sentiment is that this made-for-TV spectacle is going to be a turkey but, again, what else are you gonna watch on Black Friday? I think sheer boredom and desperation will compel people to watch, to say nothing of FOMO, what remains the most powerful force in the universe. I don’t really know how to quantify the size of the audience but I am positive there is a lunatic-fringe of golf fans who are going to watch.

Why is it so hard for Americans to simply accept a champion team is better than a team of champions? It’s been a fortnight since the Ryder Cup flogging & my timeline is still full of “what went wrong?” [email protected]_Elvy

Because the U.S. team didn’t simply lose, it crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. It seemed inexplicable that so many decorated Americans could play so pitifully all at the same time, and then the leaks about the palace intrigue began, offering some insight (but nothing definitive) about the dysfunction that sabotaged the team. High-profile failure + Kardashian-level melodrama = enduring interest.

This Sharma character seems interesting. Tell me more. -Andrew (@BordrWallflower)

Oh yes, I’m all in on this guy. I’ve had a crazy travel year — one of our beleaguered bean-counters recently told me that in 2018 I’ve spent more money than any other single employee in the entire company, which I have to say fills me with a strange pride. But looking ahead to ’19 one of my dream projects is to go to India to tell not only Shubhankar’s unique personal story — dad was a colonel in the army, precocious kid sister is already a published writer — but also try to understand where golf fits into India’s increasingly modern society. Stay tuned.

Why does the person who gets a hole-in-one have to buy everyone a drink? Shouldn’t the person who hit the shot get the free drinks? After all he’s the one who hit it. -Gus (@CCGabriel1)

This is some next-level trolling! I agree that, at first-blush, the custom seems backward, but at this point I support anything that penalizes anyone who makes an ace.

If you’re hosting your own PGA Tour event where do you hold it, how many in the field, what’s the format and who isn’t invited? [email protected]

Every course at Bandon Dunes except Old Mac. Fifty two-person mixed teams each featuring one PGA Tour and one LPGA player, with the teams picked by me based entirely on the players’ personalities/good cheer. First round will be better-ball; second-round shall be alternate shot. The final round (because four days can be rather excessive) with be a madcap worst-ball scramble.

Who’s in your ultimate foursome, alive or dead? -Courtney (@Cupton21)

I’ve been lucky to see Tiger play his best golf up-close so I’d want to choose old-timers whom I didn’t have the privilege of watching. The 1930 Bobby Jones for sure, not just for the elegance of his play but, given his erudition, he would also be engaging company. The 1953 Ben Hogan is a must, just to experience the mystique and witness his ballstriking. I have vivid memories of Jack winning the 1986 Masters but missed his prime, so his ’72 version is tempting. So is the 1950 Sam Snead, and the 1945 Byron Nelson. But I’d take the 1960 Arnold Palmer as my fourth, simply because I think he’d be the most fun to play with.

arnold palmer 1960
The 1960 version of Arnold Palmer would be tough to pass up as a playing partner.
Getty Images

Are we going to miss Johnny more than we would like to admit?? No other commentator even stirs discussion. Does he go down as the best ever? #AskAlan -Jesse (@Jshamp_724)

Speak for yourself, man: I’m already mourning his absence and he’s not even gone yet! Yes, Johnny has a few irritating verbal ticks (“That’s pressure”; “He might hole this”) and doesn’t do a good job hiding his considerable ego but, as you say, he’s by far the biggest presence the 18th hole tower has ever seen. For many telecasts he is as big a star, or bigger, than any of the players. He’s definitely the best ever.

What’s your favourite course in England? #AskAlan [email protected]_White_Head

Royal Birkdale is absolutely awesome but I’m going to have to go with Royal Cinque Ports, which is a such a fun, charming and quirky place.

What’s in YOUR bag these days?? How’s your game at the start of the season?? [email protected]_Ware

Regular readers of this space know that for the last year or so I’ve been wielding Edel single-length irons. I always loved the concept but am not quite good enough for those irons: smallish head, no offset, not quite a blade design but not a lot of help, either. So I recently got fitted for the Cobra Forged Tec One Length irons. As it happens, today I played my very first round with them (at Pebble, lol). I love them already. They’re a more forgiving, game-improvement design, with a sweet black finish. The 4- and 5-irons have even beefier heads than the rest of the set — these have to be the easiest long-irons to hit in golf history. I’ve also put in the bag a couple of the hybrids which are on the same 7-iron length shaft. They look like toys but I hit them the same yardage as my old hybrids, only straighter. My driver is an Epic…they’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I also carry a Phil-infleted 64-degree Mack Daddy wedge and I’m currently using a Toulon Atlanta putter that was a hand-me-down from a buddy.

Living in Cali it’s always golf season, but my game remains maddeningly erratic. Today was case in point. I hit a bunch of really good shots and from holes 6-17 made nine pars. (Alas, the birdie putts weren’t dropping.) But I also made one ridiculous decision (hello, iceplant), fell asleep over a couple of easy shots, and, on what was otherwise a very good driving day, tried smashing 400-yard tee balls on 14 and 18, with calamatous results. Add it up and it was an 84 that coulda/shoulda been a 78. Story of my life.

Any more predictions? [email protected]_Slice

I predict I will not be making any more crazy-ass predictions for a good long while.