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Miller impresses as a genuine sports role model
What a great article on Johnny Miller by Gary Van Sickle (“Miller to sign off this week as best in golf,” Jan. 29). I never understood the haters, either. After Van Sickle wrote about his close relationship with Miller, I have a personal story I’d like to share.

I had recently graduated from Florida State and attended the early rounds of the 1971 Greater Jacksonville Open. I very much enjoyed following the new guys on the PGA Tour, such as my classmate Hubert Green.

I spotted a blond kid who had a killer swing, and I started following him. He wasn’t scoring well, missing greens and putts. I don’t recall his playing competitors, but I was the only person following them. Miller noticed that I had been with the group for a couple of holes. By the third hole, he walked off the tee and over to me, and we strode down the right rough together. It was a one-way conversation. He lamented that he just didn’t know what was wrong with his game, discussed his putting, ball-striking and general attitude. This went on for a couple of holes.

Miller continued his lackluster play, but I believed that he would solve whatever ills bedeviled his game. I became a huge Johnny Miller fan on the spot. After the fourth hole, I decided to peel off from the group, fearing that I was a distraction, at least to the other players. I also thought that Miller was a bit nutty, but in a delightful sort of way.

Miller likely would not recall the incident. I’m guessing that he befriended lone spectators on a regular basis.

I called my dad to tell him about Miller and to watch for him to compete strongly at the Masters. Miller tied for second that year. I was certain that he eventually would win the Masters. We are the poorer for the fact that he did not. Imagine Miller returning year after year at the Champions Dinner, providing that special banter, perhaps eventually becoming a participant in the honorary opening tee shot.

There is not a false bone in Johnny Miller’s body. In interviews and in his commentary, he is very much the genuinely nice guy whom I encountered at the GJO. The most important part of the man is Miller’s view on the importance of being a dad. He is a true role model, as is Jack Nicklaus. I have told my children and now my grandchildren that if they want a sports hero, those two gentlemen of the game would be ideal. Family, God, country, honor and integrity.

Taylor Monfort
Oakton, Va.


’Burghers and Miller
Thank you, Gary Van Sickle, for your article on the last broadcast by Johnny Miller (“Miller to sign off this week as best in golf,” Jan. 29).

In my weekly foursome, when someone hits an errant shot or a weak putt, we always say, “I wonder what Johnny Miller would say?” Then, we try to mimic some of his best lines.

Thank you, Johnny, for making golf broadcasting more enjoyable.

Chris Ferrara
Pittsburgh


Evolution of putting will favor flagstick
I watched with interest this past weekend to see how and who would take advantage of putting at the pin while on the green.

Even with a few “put it back in” and “take it out for me” lines, I do believe it speeded up play a bit. The players who putted at the pin seemed to have gone ahead and tapped shorter putts into the hole without marking their ball (especially the balls that were chipped or putted close to the hole from off the green), and got out of the way for the next player.

Time will tell as the announcers, especially Nick Faldo, seemed to go on and on about the validity of putting at the flag.

Enter short-game instructor Dave Pelz, who has had these facts for quite some time. His new information is from a test that was made with balls running 3, 6 and 9 feet past the hole. They should throw out the 9 and add distances of 1 and 2 feet. This would give much better data for the average player, although I doubt it would change the metrics very much.

As players get used to looking at the flag instead of the hole, I think putting statistics will improve for most people, but it is awkward at first to see it done.

Improvement is good. With that, I will leave you with: Bring back anchoring, slow down the ball and remove the aiming lines from balls.

It would make some people happy, help with maintenance monies and save a lot of time.

Mike Nixon
Nashville, Tenn.
(Nixon is the director of golf operations for the Tennessee Golf Trail.)


Score one for McCord
I strongly disagree with reader Sally Davis regarding Gary McCord (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Jan. 28).

I find McCord's comments enlightening and funny compared with most of the drab remarks from the likes of Nick Faldo, Ian Baker-Finch and Jim Nantz. CBS’ coverage is even worse than Fox’s. CBS needs a complete overhaul of personnel.

I used to be a real fan of Tom Watson’s until I learned that Watson was partially responsible for getting McCord removed from Masters coverage. Watson's performance as a Ryder Cup captain shows what kind of judgment he has.

Carl Goodwin
Charlotte, N.C.


Rule of thumb: When in doubt, don’t penalize
I found Keith Pelley's statement regarding the Haotong Li ruling – “the decision made by our referees was correct, under the strict wording of the rules" – to be very disappointing (“$100,000 question: Why penalize Li?” Jan. 29).

I also found R&A chief Martin Slumbers' claim that "there is no discretionary element to the Rule" to be completely disingenuous.

Slumbers' statement that no discretion is allowed is completely obliterated by the language in the Rules of Golf that Alex Miceli pointed out: "There is no set procedure for determining when a player has begun to take a stance. . . ." That alone means there is discretion. But Rule 10.2b(4) goes on to state in regard to when a player has begun to take a stance, "... the player takes a step forward and then starts to turn his or her body and [my emphasis] puts a foot in place for the stroke." Any glance at the video shows Li still shuffling his feet in different places after his caddie moved away, which means neither foot was in place while the caddie was on the extension of the line of play.

I understand Pelley's public support for his rules officials and not wanting to embarrass them, but he could have omitted this part of his statement. As someone who does rules officiating, I believe the actual ruling was incorrect. In reading between the lines of Pelley's statement, I believe he thinks his rules officials got it wrong, too.

It's a good guideline that if there is debate as to whether a violation of the rules did occur, then in all likelihood it didn't. Hopefully, Pelley will get this message across to his rules officials so they don't screw up the next high-profile rules situation.

Mark Harman
Ridgeland, S.C.
(Harman is the national course director for the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.)


2 strokes now before things get out of hand
The penalty on Haotong Li was appropriate and a clear warning to other players that this rule will be strictly applied and enforced (“$100,000 question: Why penalize Li?” Jan. 29).

Li and his caddie may have been in a bit of gray area, but if the tours don't deal with it now, players will continue to try and get closer to the edge.

Dave Bickford
Rye, N.H.


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