Johnny Miller “Called It” With Tiger Woods’ Back in 2003

miller_bioThanks to Chief Cowpie for forwarding this story.

You’ve probably read the Golf Digest article on how Johnny Miller apparently carries a crystal ball around with him, and how he “called” Tiger Woods’ back issues as far back as 2003.

That would have been when Tiger was still with Butch Harmon, before Popsicle-Gate with Hank Haney and before the “What-On-Earth?” partnership with Sean “Myelin” Foley.

What was it that Johnny said, exactly?

Well, he was musing about Tiger’s chances of catching Jack Nicklaus with 18 majors (at the time, he’d have had 8, the last one being the ’02 U.S. Open at Bethpage), and there was no issue of any back problems at the time.

However, Johnny had this to say about Tiger’s swing, and this part is similar to what I talk about all the time – how weight training, if you’re not swinging with a mechanically-sound model, will only increase your risk of injury as you make unsafe moves with more speed and power:

Miller wrote a segment entitled, “The Trouble with Physical Conditioning,” in which he discussed the danger of “the big muscle swing” and “the enormous stress it places on your lower back.

Johnny Miller, you see, was a classic, floating heel-pivot swinger, so he didn’t have much to worry about with back issues compared to the modern players.

Jack Nicklaus & Johnny Miller

nicklaus miller


It’s that torso-twisting move where you’re trying to make a back swing with only the upper body (preventing any or severely restricting the hip turn), combined with the shearing forces as you then drive the lower body to the target with an already-twisted torso… yeah, you see, the classic players didn’t do that, because it’s terrible for the lower back.

Wait, that’s what Johnny was saying, wasn’t it?

And it’s not so surprising – if you have ever conducted any swing research of any type, you would quickly determine that swinging in the modern style is a fast road to lower body injuries.

Moving on.

This is the instructive part – the classic players and swingers weren’t dummies, you know – they may not have been hyper-technical with how they swung or described their swings, but they were smart enough not to swing in the modern style, because they instinctively knew why it’s no good for you.

Case in point – Johnny nailed the location of Tiger’s future back injury:

He also has a chapter entitled “Can Tiger Catch Jack? The Case for an Emphatic ‘No.’” Among his arguments: “If Tiger were to suffer a serious physical problem, such as a bad L5 vertebrae…it could change the whole ballgame for him.”

Woods underwent a second microdiscectomy on his lower back (where the L5 vertebrae is located), then required a followup procedure in late October. At the Hero World Challenge he hosted in December, he said there is no timetable for his return.

Johnny Miller has caught a lot of flack over the years with his criticism of Tiger’s and other modern players’ swings and playing styles, but it seems that in this regard, he was Johnny-On-The-Spot with his musings.

You can predict back problems for any golfer – but to have done it ten years in advance, when the swinger in question showed no sign of back issues (and he didn’t, until he took up the Back-Breaker Myelin Special), in the very place where it would occur?

That, my friends, is why the classic players were able to swing until they virtually went to the big golf course in the sky, whereas you are going to see fewer and fewer modern era players still teeing it up in their twilight years.

They’ll be too busy figuring out just how to walk





4 thoughts on “Johnny Miller “Called It” With Tiger Woods’ Back in 2003

  1. buddhabob

    I honestly now believe that most of the golden age champions watching tiger and the modern swing have known it was wrong from the beginning, I think they have just kept the old and obvious secret to themselves, after all any little kid 5′ 6″ and 140 lbs can compete today with modern equipment, this simply was not possible back then and I think they probably resent it.

    You had to be relatively powerful just to score and you had to keep in the fairway, whats lost on many today is that alot of the tour courses are made for low scores to excite idiot audiences and get people watching. they look like pitch and putts on brocaded chinese rugs.

  2. xyz459

    and let’s not forget the little trick to add extra yards, start the downswing with your lower body while still winding up the upper body for maximum torsion (increasing the “X” factor!). I like to call this move “wringing the towel.” yes, wringing the towel followed by throwing in the towel.

  3. mwehrman5

    Buddhabob, I have to respectfully disagree with your statement that a little guy couldn’t compete back then. I’m not sure how far back you want to go, but Crenshaw, Watson, Kite, and Hogan were all smaller guys in their prime. I know Hogan and Watson were MCS types, and I’d assume the other two were also. They were not going to be the longer hitters of their day, but they were all accurate ball-strikers.

  4. buddhabob

    Hogan I think was actually average size for a man back then but still due to his practice discipline was probably an exception. Have you seen the forearms on both watson and crenshaw, have a look if you haven’t, like woosman actually. these were still quite powerful athletes. I am referring to an entire host of slightly built and diminutive players today, the luke donalds, there are a good number, maybe I am wrong but I cannot imagine them competing back then. trevino as well may have been shorter but the in the hips and girth like with crenshaw , there was an athlete. I just do not think Poulter for example would compete with steel shafts, maybe I am wrong, we might never no.

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