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I Call the Shots

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Johnny Miller

Miller, former golfer and golf analyst for NBC Sports, and Yocom, a senior writer forGolf 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 … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Johnny Miller
Publisher: Gotham
1 review about I Call the Shots

Nothing Personal

  • Jul 11, 2009
Johnny Miller is the one TV golf commentator not afraid to call it as he sees it, whether its journeymen golfers putting in the minimum work to stay on the PGA Tour, established stars who fall victim to "choking" or outside interests, and even a mentor like Jack Nicklaus being "too proud" to adjust his play during a British Open.

"I Call The Shots" starts with a memorable couplet demonstrating no cow is sacred: "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." Before closing the door that year with 36 holes of brilliance, Miller writes, Woods finished his second round with "as vile a stream of profanity as I've ever heard on a golf course."

I can hear the modernists at Sports Illustrated waving this off as a demonstration of Tiger's intensity and Miller's fustiness. But golf is a game of civility and Miller's opening chapter makes a strong case for etiquette as an unnecessary casualty of the times.

But after this first chapter, Miller seems at a loss for what to say. One opens "I Call The Shots" looking for both unvarnished opinions and some insight into what makes Miller tick. You get some opinions, too much of it of a lazy checklist kind, but nothing on Miller himself except that as a golfer he suffered from both putting "yips" and choking, and thus sees no reason not to point out similar symptoms in other players, no matter whether or not they like it.

They don't, but Miller offers little about his relationships with the players. He questions David Duval's commitment to the game and notes a conversation they had on the subject, but declines to offer specifics. Tom Watson once refused an interview request because Miller was analyzing Watson's bad swing mechanics on TV, but doesn't say how or whether that was patched up.

The errors in this book drew a lot of fire from Amazon reviewers. I like the one Al Ely points out about how Miller and co-author Guy Yocom have Seve Ballesteros winning only three tournaments on the PGA Tour, then later give the number at six (correct the second time). What's more remarkable is that these errors occur in the same paragraph. That's not just bad editing; that's sloppy writing.

What's good about Miller's book? Well, Miller, for one thing. As a Hall of Fame golfer, he knows a lot about playing at a championship level and is able to offer some rarified perspective, especially in a chapter where he lays out his reasoning for believing Tiger will not beat Nicklaus's record of 18 Major titles. Miller notes among other things the toll of injury, the distraction of family, and the difficulty of focus, all roadblocks Miller knows and explains well.

Miller is probably wrong here; since the book's publication Woods has picked up six more Majors and is now only five away from eclipsing Jack. But after years of taking Woods for granted, I was really forced here by Miller to take into account some of the game's intangibles, and got a deeper sense of how big a deal Woods' post-"Tiger Slam" career has been.

But I picked up this book hoping to learn more about who Miller is, and in that sense, felt short-changed. Except for a few pages here and there, and a touching and uniquely-written letter from his late father to Johnny's oldest son that graces the last chapter, you aren't getting anything from Miller reading this book that you wouldn't get watching him on TV. That may make him a great commentator, but as an author he needs to work on his game.

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