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Tuesday
Feb192013

Living In Johnny's World Files: My Generation Was Better Vol. 399

I often agree with Johnny Miller when he talks about the number of all-time great players that Jack Nicklaus had to beat in his prime and I'm certainly no subscriber to the "fields are deeper than ever" mentality espoused quite regularly. (Put me down for "technology has made some really good golfers better than they are and has muted the ability of exception skill to shine" league.)

But on a conference call today to talk about the forthcoming WGC match play and Florida swing, Johnny displayed a remarkable (even for him) disregard for some fairly common knowledge stuff in a march to make the point that his generation was better.

The subject was Riviera and the quality of play last week where -11 made a playoff in benign conditions.

JOHNNY MILLER:  One thing that's interesting about Riviera, [all but] the 12th tee is exactly the same course that we played.  Nothing's changed, nothing. 

Guess he's not a reader! Or aware that there have been so many changes, critics like me who wrote about them when they were made several years ago still are asked to leave the property even when a guest of a member, all because the lowly management team can't stomach a little architectural criticism!

Anyway, Johnny, Riviera is a solid 300 yards longer than in your day, thirteen of the greens have been jacked with to introduce or restore harder-to-access hole locations, and those same greens were pushing 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. A solid four feet faster than your day. But please, keep digging...

You see these scores, they are playing these shots ‑‑ when I won, tournament record and I think Lanny shot several more under than I did. 

And I was there that year as a young lad when Lanny won and they used the members tees on 9 and 18 two days, effectively at least 70 yards shorter than the holes played this year. Plus, the tour used the old 6-6-6 hole location system then that included some breather positions compared to what the boys played this year.

Not that Lanny's play wasn't amazing, but Johnny...

Guys last week in perfect weather didn't even stiff what we did with Persimmon woods with old clubs and old balls.

These young guys think they are so much better than the old guys, but that's the course that shows the game has not been changed entirely with belly putters and computer‑aided [d]imple patterns and everything else.  The winning score a lot of times ‑‑ now the cut is much lower than it used to be but winning scores are not much different.

If Johnny only knew what went into getting those winning scores to stay the same...

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Reader Comments (25)

This grade A stuff here! Thanks GS for shining the true light. Now if NBC calls will you have your people entertain an offer cause I'd certainly enjoy listening to someone like you that has a grasp on course design and architecture!

Were you really escorted off? Please tell me you and MJ were wearing cargos...
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Wait Geoff you buried the lead...the management asked you to leave because of criticisms you made about architecture?
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavidC
Too funny. Hard to be so clueless without trying.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Yes gentleman, it's true. Could I make that up? Architectural criticism being such an upsetting thing?

Actually several years ago Riviera Management's GM sent me a letter telling me I would not be allowed on the property and arrested for trying to cover the tournament. I had to talk to an attorney, etc... and the PGA Tour stood up for me when I explained what the letter said. Then things seemed to be better in recent years, an owner's representative even asked for permission to use some of my work in the Riviera club history and I granted. Here's the best part, later THAT DAY I was hitting balls as a guest of a member and was asked to leave the property by head pro Todd Yoshitake (December 2011). So once again with various Northern Trust related duties, the PGA Tour and Northern Trust's tournament director intervened to ensure the club management and its representative who has the most issues with me, Mike Yamaki, would not pull any childish behavior. So I can confirm that the PGA Tour believes in free speech, the ownership of Riviera does not.
02.19.2013 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Gee, Geoff, every time I ask you to leave, you just ignore me.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Elling
Whether technology has made he less-talented golfers in the field better than they are, or whether there are much better athletes in the game today (both of which I think are true), it is definitely more difficult to now win a golf tournament.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStord
As a public function, they would certainly have a hard time keeping you out of the
LA Open.

But I would agree they could ask you to leave as a private club, even as a guest.
If I was a member and that happened, I'd be gone though.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
The stuff about Riviera's attitude is funny (though simultaneously nauseating, depressing, demoralizing, etc) while Miller's assertions are funnier (though simultaneously nausteating-er...).
One thing though Geoff; surely fields are deeper these days by virtue of the fact technology has made some really good golfers better than they are.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSamad
Just think what Peter Dawson will do to you if you're hitting balls at St Andrews. It's like marshall law there anyway!
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike U LA, CA
Riv jealous of your work at LACC? I'd rather hang at LACC vs Riv anyway.
I didn't see anyone this year blade a straightforwrd pitching wedge ten yards over the 17th green while nursing a two-shot lead with two to go, as Johnny did when gift-wrapping the ´82 LA Open to Tom Watson... That year's tourney is out on YouTube, it's great to watch, but any fool can see how much easier the course played back then. The 3-iron Miller hit into 15 in the final round is a great example - it was a great shot, no question, but it hit and held the green as well as a crisply struck 9-iron did last week. Plus, they could be aggressive with their putts due to greens running at least three feet slower than today. Now, I wouldn't have put any money on John Merrick or Charlie Beljan against Watson, Miller or Weiskopf (whose swing I'd kill for), but Johnny's comments on the course not having changed is simply absurd.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Sadly, Miller is losing it. His memory has snagged him more than once in the last year or so, and I really wonder if he thinks he is correct, just fading away.

And about that escort ''service'', I have never heard of such childish behavior from ''grown men'', though apparently not fully grown mentally and emotionally. What a crock! Worthy of exposing these babies.

GD man, first the PGAT members get all whiny and want their mommy,( Stricker, you have shown your ass, and II expec t you to talk about yourself in the 3rd person any minute, and now I read about this!

Geoff, dude, you are a bad ass!
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDigger Dave
When every TV commercial only talks about the superiority of the equipment then you have to wonder if skill is involved any more.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Stevens
"I would not be allowed on the property and arrested for trying to cover the tournament"

We have a Banned Moderator in our midst...he's one of us! lol
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
Athletes today are better in every sport including golf. However there is no way for them to compete with one another.

But the records keep falling. Coincidence? I think not.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
Fields today are deeper for a variety of reasons (including better equipment), and far to many people in golf - and other sports - seem to fail to recognize this fact.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Yeah, it would be so much better if the course was still the way it was twenty years ago. And we'd never be able to see it on television and the LA Open would not be in LA.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Hawkeye,

I think there's a point being missed in your sentence "The 3-iron Miller hit into 15 in the final round is a great example - it was a great shot, no question, but it hit and held the green as well as a crisply struck 9-iron did last week."

I think that a major factor in the past that distinguished the top players was the ability to hit the long irons really well. If true, that skill has been completely lost to technology. I admit much ignorance in course architecture, but from the little I know, I would think that of the standard 10 par fours, 3 should be designed for long iron approaches, four for mid irons, and 3 for short irons/wedges. I remember players in the past hitting not only 2 and 3 irons into some par fours, but 4 woods as well. Today, I can't even recall anyone hitting anything longer than a 6 iron into a par four, and even that is rare.

If a hole is designed for a long iron approach, doesn't that mean that the green is necessarily made amenable to receive shots with the trajectories and spins that long irons would produce? If so, wouldn't it still be much easier to hit a 9 iron than it would a 3 iron even if the greens a designed to receive the respective shots? In other words, isn't it easier to hit an iron with more loft and shorter shaft length then one with less loft and longer length, even if the ball goes the same distance? (And the reason the ball goes the same distance is due, in my opinion, to technology) The reasons, I think, that greens are made much faster today, and pins are more tucked today, is mainly because players are able, due chiefly to technology, to hit shorter and shorter irons, and hence hit easier shots, more often than in the past.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered Commenterwilliam
@William, that actually proves the point that courses are tougher today - green firmness have increased as a result of players using shorter irons on approach shots. I agree on everything you wrote otherwise, apart from that I think that today's players are just as good with long irons as players were in the old days. They just use them to reach Par 5s instead of Par4s, and Par 5 greens are usually harder to hit than long Par 4s.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Johnny has lost it, no doubt, and I mean that seriously. I think people used to think he said things just to get a reaction, so they gave him a pass and thought it was funny. Now we are realizing that he actually believes most of the crazy things that he blurts out for millions to hear. I really believe that he's lost it mentally. He's getting to the point where he is almost pitiful or an embarrassment.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ McAndrews
Geoff, Geoff, Geoff, how can you criticize Johnny for letting the facts get in the way of a good story? I'm completely shocked at the way you've taken his comments out of the context of the truth. . .

William, what was the loft on that 3-iron that JM hit? I'm betting if he hit one of Paddy Harrington's Wilson irons of today, the loft of the 6, or at most the 5, would be identical (not sure if Johnny used Wilson irons, could have been Macgregors, but you get the drift).
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSmolmania
Smol-it would have been 22 degrees.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
Chico, my 5 hybrid is 23 degrees so I guess I'm pretty close.
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSmolmania
Miller's the best...cuz he's honest...irrespective of the minutia of golf course changes...rofl
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUmp
Dang, that story kind of pisses me off! Checked to see if they were publishing 990's but seems they are not chartered as a non-profit. Too bad!

I don't know why you guys take Johnny so seriously....just laugh it off man!
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk

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