Johnny Miller has never been shy about speaking his mind, whether it's on a television broadcast or talking about his own accomplishments.
Everyone knows about Miller's comeback victory at the 1973 U.S. Open with his final-round 63, but a lot of folks have forgotten that he also won a major at the British Open in 1976, at Royal Birkdale, the site of this year's Open Championship.
Miller was more than happy to talk recently about his Open victory 32 years ago and reveal a few little-known facts about his victory.
He won the tournament by six shots over Jack Nicklaus and 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros, which at the time tied for the largest margin of victory in a major (Tiger Woods has since won the Masters and U.S. Open by larger margins).
Miller had contended at the 1973, 1974 and 1975 British Opens and said he did three things at the '76 Open that have never been done at a major before or since. He used all-graphite clubs, he played with a surlyn-covered small British ball and he relied on a red mark on his putter made out of fingernail polish to help him overcome the yips with his putting.
"Not many people know that I used all-graphite clubs, which nobody's ever won a major with," Miller said. "They became popular with drivers in 1972 or 1973 when Gene Littler and Gay Brewer began using them but nobody used them on their irons."
Then there was his golf ball. The best golfers in those days used balata-covered balls, but Miller tried a surlyn-covered ball, similar to the noncuttable balls used today.
"It was the last year of the small ball (the British used a slightly smaller ball than the rest of the world) and I used a surlyn-covered small ball," Miller said. "Nobody's ever won a major with a surlyn-covered small ball."
The third significant aspect of the win was Miller's putting. He acknowledged that his nerves were already starting to affect his putting stroke, so he came up with a technique to get the ball into the hole.
"I won that event with my Bullseye putter with a little red fingernail polish at the bottom of the grip," he said. "I was already starting to get the yips, so I just watched the red dot to make sure I had the same tempo back and through so I wouldn't flinch. I won the British Open not even looking at the ball while putting, which I don't know if anybody's ever won a major doing that."
Miller was also proud of "ushering in the young, dashing Spaniard" Ballesteros who had led by one going into the final round, and beating him and Nicklaus with a strong final round.But Miller gets a kick out of being the answer to the following trivia question "Who is the only golfer to win a major using all-graphite clubs, a surlyn-covered British-sized ball and a putter with red fingernail polish at the bottom of the grip?