I Call the Shots: Straight Talk about the Game of Golf Today

Overview

A straight-shooting look at the hottest issues and controversies in golf today, from the game's most popular and provocative commentator

Johnny Miller's brilliant career as a professional golfer—including U.S. Open and British Open championships—has been followed by a fourteen-year tenure in the broadcast booth as America's most respected television golf analyst. In I Call the Shots he offers his no-holds-barred opinions, with trademark insight and wit, on all things golf: from ...

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Overview

A straight-shooting look at the hottest issues and controversies in golf today, from the game's most popular and provocative commentator

Johnny Miller's brilliant career as a professional golfer—including U.S. Open and British Open championships—has been followed by a fourteen-year tenure in the broadcast booth as America's most respected television golf analyst. In I Call the Shots he offers his no-holds-barred opinions, with trademark insight and wit, on all things golf: from the decline of playing etiquette to boorish fans; from legendary victories by the game's greatest champions to monumental chokes that have destroyed careers; from the current state of the PGA Tour to the future of the game itself. In this completely revised and updated paperback edition, Miller offers his opinions on Tiger Woods's latest struggles and the 2004 Ryder Cup in an all-new chapter.

Packed with the best and worst Johnny has seen in more than thirty years as a champion player and cherished announcer, I Call the Shots is a must-read for any golfer or fan of the game and is sure to be fuel for controversy and conversation on fairways, in locker rooms, and at nineteenth holes across the country.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Miller, former golfer and golf analyst for NBC Sports, and Yocom, a senior writer for Golf Digest, offer commentary on acclaimed players; observations on the game, the players and the future of the sport; and discuss strategies, great courses and changes in the game. Perhaps most importantly, Miller speaks his mind, especially about poor sportsmanship. The first chapter is entitled "Welcome to Smackdown Golf : The decline of etiquette in today's game" and starts, "The best U.S. Open performance of all time was by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000. The worst performance at a U.S. Open was also provided by Woods that year." Miller explains that Tiger Woods pulled off to the side after the second round and loudly cursed. Miller acknowledges that the microphones should not have been so close, but says that Woods should have restrained himself. In Miller's view, this incident is another example of how some of the unpleasant behavior of players in the NBA and NFL is now evident in golf. There's more than observations, here, though. Miller has strategies on form and technique that will benefit serious golfers. Fans of Miller, golf addicts and even weekend duffers will enjoy this lively book. Agent, Scott Waxman. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As the saying goes, "Those that can't do, teach." This is certainly true of golf. In golf, however, there is a corollary: "Those that have done, but can no longer do, commentate." Enter Miller. In his day, Miller was a noted golfer, having won 24 PGA Tour events and two Majors (one British Open, one U.S. Open). He has definite opinions about golf, and here (with the help of Yocom, a prolific contributor to golf publications) he shares them without reluctance. Miller is unafraid to expound on choking, perhaps the most feared phenomenon in all of sports, and particularly so in golf, a solitary effort in which there is no one else to shoulder the weight. He also shares his insights into what he calls the Grand Canyon Syndrome, in which the golfer is at a nexus between good and great. In some cases, the golfer can cross over and improve; in others, the golfer may regress. Miller also provides "inside the ropes" commentary on course design and the current state of golf etiquette and offers his take on the leading players of today. Appropriate for all libraries with sports collections.-Steven Silkunas, North Wales, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592400652
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/6/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

The lead golf analyst for NBC Sports for the past twelve years, Johnny Miller has won twenty-five PGA titles and was recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He has also designed many award-winning golf courses and writes a monthly column for Golf Digest. He divides his time between Napa, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Guy Yocom is a senior writer for Golf Digest.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Welcome to
Smackdown Golf

The Decline of Etiquette in Today’s Game
THE BEST U.S. OPEN performance of all time was by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000. The worst performance at a U.S. Open was also provided by Woods that same year. Teeing off on the 18th hole at the conclusion of the second round, Tiger pulled his drive to the left of the famous par 5 and onto the beach. That’s when he let himself have it with as vile a stream of profanity as I’ve ever heard on a golf course. Everyone in the broadcast booth was so stunned we didn’t know what to say. So we said nothing.

Tiger is not the first golfer to swear after a bad shot, and a case can be made that maybe the microphone shouldn’t have been positioned so close to him. What surprised me though was the way some people flew to his defense when the episode came widely to light. I heard things like, “He’s only human” and “It just shows how competitive he is.” When someone pointed out that some kids were probably tuning in to see their hero and role model, the reply was, “Every kid has heard those words before.” The implications of the outburst came and went pretty quickly—clearly, a lot of people thought it was OK.

Here’s the deal: Tiger’s swearing was not OK. I don’t buy that’s it’s merely the language of the GenX crowd. The people who defended Tiger are the same people who swear at their kids or at least swear in front of them. The rationale to my objection is simple: Did the incident elevate golf or bring it down? What if all golfers swore at the tops of their lungs when they hit a bad shot?

That episode was symptomatic of a recent decline in etiquette and behavior in the world of golf that has to be watched. It isn’t a crisis yet, but as golf more and more becomes a “sport” as opposed to a “game,” it’s taking on some of the more unsavory features common of the NBA and NFL. This isn’t true so much with PGA Tour players as it is the newest wave of fans and amateurs just taking up the game. One thing is for sure: I don’t think the people who play golf already are doing a very good job of educating the newcomers.

This isn’t a wholesale indictment of Tiger Woods. For the most part, he is one of the class acts in golf. His work with the Tiger Woods Foundation proves he cares about people and loves the game deeply. On the course, he is the one who revived the classy act of removing his hat when he holes out on 18, shaking hands with his fellow competitor, and acknowledging the crowd. He even removed his hat when he lost to Darren Clarke at the 2000 World Golf Championships. He also has toned down the defiant, fist-pumping, in-your-face displays he regularly made early in his career. Like Walter Payton in football, he began to behave like he’d been in the end zone before.

Deep down, I believe Tiger was embarrassed by the swearing incident, and at the time I predicted we wouldn’t hear any more cussing out of him. And indeed, we didn’t hear many epithets from Tiger for a time. But at Olympia Fields at the 2003 U.S. Open, as Tiger struggled with his game, he let the four-letter words fly again—albeit not on national TV but certainly within earshot of some eleven-year-old kids. Had that not happened, I probably wouldn’t hold his behavior up as an example of a problem that’s becoming all too common on golf courses everywhere.

Golf probably is the most frustrating game of all, and it’s rare to find a golfer who hasn’t sworn out loud on occasion. But it also is the ultimate game of self-control, of keeping your composure. I’ve always believed that swearing can be controlled. For example, a person can learn to implement milder words into their vocabulary. The odd “crap,” or “you stinking hacker” aren’t very offensive and can give full vent to your frustration and anger, if you make a habit of it. In all my years of playing with Jack Nicklaus, I never once heard him swear on the golf course. His style was to moan, “Oh, Jack,” and that was it. Craig Stadler, who gets so mad he can’t see straight, has never been one to swear much, and in fact, very few players of my era did. They knew it would make them look ridiculous and immature.

Golf has always held itself to a very high standard. For example, it’s probably the easiest game in the world to cheat at if you are inclined to do so, and consequently is played on an honor system. Along with the honor system comes a code the player and fans must abide by if the game is to be any good at all. But there are signs it is deteriorating.

The low point probably occurred at the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline Country Club. Not among the players, though everyone running onto the green when Justin Leonard holed that monster putt against Jose Maria Olazabal was definitely out of line. The real problem on that occasion was the fans. To say players were heckled would be putting it mildly; the spectators yelled some pretty awful things at the European players and for good measure insulted their wives, too. The wife of European captain Mark James was even spat upon. It was a little scary, because no one could say for sure if the European fans would take revenge two years later at The Belfry. Fortunately, nothing of note happened. But fan behavior remains an issue; you only have to see galleries throwing empty beer cups at the 17th hole at the Phoenix Open to wonder where it might end. That kind of stuff never happened fifteen years ago, and there’s no question that it hurts golf.

Even caddies get out of line. When Matt Kuchar had his father caddie for him in his first Masters a few years ago, the dad’s demonstrative cheerleading did not please Matt’s fellow competitors. You can understand his dad’s excitement and I’m inclined to give him a pass, but on the other hand caddies are supposed to be like a referee in boxing— invisible.

In some ways golf has been victimized by its own success. Everyone wants the game to grow in popularity, but one of the consequences of that is people diving headlong into the game without proper direction. Golf is a game you learn by experiencing more than memorizing conduct rules from a book of etiquette. It takes a while for even a conscientious person to take part in without disrupting anything or anyone. So in some ways disruptions are inevitable. Take, for example, the local newspaper photographers who are assigned to cover tournaments. Many of them are new to golf and cover it only once a year when the PGA Tour comes to town. How are they to know that clicking their shutter at the top of a player’s backswing is an absolute no-no? It takes time for them to become educated, and hopefully that education takes a softer form than that administered by Tiger’s caddie, Steve Williams, to a photographer in 2003. The photographer caused Tiger to flinch on a shot near the green and Williams, identifying the culprit, walked over, grabbed the guy’s camera, and threw it into a water hazard. Come to think of it, I don’t know who behaved worse, the photographer or Williams.

Boorish behavior can come across in many subtle ways. It’s more common at the grassroots level than on the pro tours. None of the trends I see are serious in and of themselves, but collectively they’ve changed the game enough for the observant person to notice. The whole of golf is greater than the sum of its parts, but if you chip away at it long enough, you’ll make the game less than it was—and definitely less than it could be.

A typical example is cell phones. I don’t know why, but cell phones have almost become an appendage to people’s bodies. When golfers make no allowance for the fact they’re on a golf course and reach for their cell phone reflexively, it’s a problem. Jackie Burke, the great Texas pro, complained ten years ago that that the golf course had become a “grassed-in office.” I wonder what Jackie is thinking now. For some reason, when someone has their cell phone with them, they are determined to use it whether they really have to or not. It’s as if they have to call somebody. My friend Steve Young, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was on his cell phone constantly when I played with him not long ago. I commented on his love of the cell phone, and Steve just laughed. There’s a reason they are banned from a lot of public and private courses, and it’s pretty obvious why they are banned at pro tour events. If one rang at the top of somebody’s backswing, it could decide the outcome of a tournament.

You see the decorum deterioration in golf attire, too. It’s not the clothes necessarily. Heck, the psychedelic stuff a lot of us wore in the 1970s was at least as wild as the pants Jesper Parnevik and Charles Howell wear today. It’s more the way they wear them. Putting a cap on backward like a comic book character doesn’t strike me as particularly stylish, though my son, Andy, did wear his cap backward during the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. The difference with Andy was, it was raining. And he wore a bucket hat on top of the cap. I suppose someone is entitled to wear their cap any way they want, but when people do, it seems like a conscious effort to look like anything but a golfer, as opposed to wanting to look as golflike as possible. The same goes with shirttails hanging out. There have always been pros who could be seen with their shirttails out. But in days past they at least started the round with them tucked in.

Another trend I don’t care for is wraparound shades. I wear them on the course myself on occasion, but hey, I’m no longer a tour pro. Tour players who wear them seem aloof. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and I think it bothers fans when they look at a guy and see an expressionless RoboCop. How is this bad etiquette? Because the players don’t care if the fans see into their soul or not. Tour pros are in the entertainment business, but imagine watching a movie where all the characters wore dark glasses. Maybe it’s a way of hiding, an expression of their shyness. It does seem like the players who wear dark shades—David Duval, Karrie Webb, and Annika Sorenstam—are shy by nature.

Maybe I’m being too stuffy, but the PGA Tour agrees with me, at least in principle. After all, they still don’t allow their players to wear shorts, and it’s only been a couple of years since they started letting caddies wear shorts. That happened when Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ caddie, showed up in shorts on a sweltering day. The tour threatened to take action, but when Tiger intervened, the tour relented. That’s another measure of Tiger’s influence; I can’t imagine another player having the juice to change a rule, just like that. These days, people are slow to criticize clothing and behavior. This wasn’t the case in the PGA Tour in 1969. Ben Hogan was famous for staring down guys like Grier Jones, a player of my era whose laid-back dress and long hair was not in keeping with Hogan’s conservative standard. Beards didn’t go down too well, either. I’ve never been too big on dress codes myself and frankly feel that some them are too strict, especially at the club level. Sending a woman to the pro shop for wearing shorts that are slightly more than one inch above her knee, or requiring men to wear collared shirts when some of the new, collarless styles really look pretty flattering, are ready for the junk pile. Why can’t common sense prevail?

When it comes to playing the game, players are taught early on to replace divots, repair ball marks, and rake bunkers. Golfers do a pretty good job of this, especially at private clubs. But some of the most basic things, such as where to stand when other players are playing their shot, have fallen through the cracks. One of the great furors of the 2003 season occurred when Michelle Wie, a thirteen-year-old prodigy playing in the U.S. Women’s Open, was paired with veteran Danielle Ammaccapane. Wie is a very long hitter, and she frequently walked past Ammaccapane’s ball and stationed herself at her ball, well in Ammaccapane’s field of vision. Once she reportedly walked across the fairway in front of Ammaccapane while Ammaccapane was preparing to play a shot. Wie also walked in Ammaccapane’s “through line” on the putting green, a no-no which rankles some players. Ammaccapane does not suffer fools gladly, and she gave Wie a tough talking to after the round. Wie really deserved a pass on that. Very few thirteen- year-olds possess the all-encompassing awareness and experience that tells you where to stand and where to walk. Ammaccapane was wrong to expect as much out of Wie as she does an experienced adult. Wie is a good kid and will learn, but I will say this: By age thirteen, with a lot of tournament experience already behind her, she should know by now where to stand.

Then again, Wie is just a kid. Kids these days aren’t bothered by anything. At my first U.S. Open in 1966, I was paired with Al Mengert, a veteran and fine player. On one green, I was standing well away from Mengert while he putted. Not thinking I was in his way, I was making practice strokes with my Bulls Eye putter. Mengert came over to me and told me to hold still; that my practice stroking was bothering him. I had no idea I was distracting him. At age nineteen nothing bothers you, and I was only behaving the way all us kids did.

On the other hand, one area that has improved is temper. If anything players at all levels used to be worse than they are now. Pros don’t throw clubs anymore, though I’m sure the threat of a fine has something to do with it. When I was a kid, tour players were much worse. Tommy Bolt’s image revolved around his bad temper, and a good many pros threw clubs all the time. At one of the first pro tournaments my dad ever took me to, the Lucky International, I saw Arnold Palmer bury club after club in the ground after he hit bad shots. I thought that was what pros did, but you better believe my dad corrected me the first time I tried it.

Golf is naturally going to change a bit to reflect society, and that’s OK to a point. The game today isn’t diminished by its players no longer wearing neckties. The idea, though, is for golf to emulate the best parts of society, not the worst. Fans should respect the players. Players should respect each other. And everyday players should be taught to treat the game with reverence.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2005

    Entertaining but sloppy

    Were they in such a hurry to get this book published that it missed the (human) proofreader's desk? It's riddled with missing words and other errors that really cheapened the book. I enjoyed Miller's insights and opinions, however the quality of the text made me question whether there were also factual errors that were never caught.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2004

    Disappointed In The Excerpt I Read

    I read an excerpt from the Tiger vs. Jack section last evening in the hopes of buying the book. Johnny needs to get some of his facts straight about both men's records. I've always liked Johnny's commentary and delivery, but was disappointed with what I read. Given the same equipment, course conditions, etc. I don't think Tiger would walk all over Jack at all. In fact, I think Jack would win out over the long haul (Johnny relates sprint and marathon scenarios). Regardless, I was surprised Johnny had several facts wrong about the 'Tiger Slam' and the number of majors Jack didn't win in conjunction with his lean period of the late '60s. The remainder may be a very good read, but if he was off on simple data, who knows?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2004

    Goes Where Others Don't Dare...

    This is a great book. It addresses issues where other wouldn't dream of going. For example, 'Tiger Woods will never beat the golf records of Jack Nicklaus.' Tell me Tiger won't cringe at that comment. It also addresses the beauty of the sport, something every purest will respect. I love golf! And by reading this book, it helps me appreciate it that much more.

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