His father's specter has hung over Andy Miller all of his life,
so it was no surprise that wherever Andy went during last week's
U.S. Open, someone had something to say about dear old dad.
"Where's Pops?" a spectator asked on Friday afternoon as Andy
approached Bethpage Black's soggy 10th tee, where he would begin
his round. "Whatsamatter? He don't like the rain?" When it was
Andy's turn to tee off, you half-expected the starter to
announce to the gallery, "From Napa, California...Johnny
Pops is well-known to golf fans, not just for winning two
majors--including the 1973 U.S. Open, at which he famously fired
a final-round 63--but also for his brutal candor as NBC's lead
golf analyst. Normally, neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night
could keep Johnny Miller from witnessing the most important
round of his son's life, but his broadcast duties precluded his
attendance for most of Friday. Andy, 24, who had played his way
into the Open at a sectional qualifier on June 3, was competing
in only his fifth Tour event, so he and Johnny both knew he had
no chance of contending for the championship. Simply making the
cut would be a major victory.
It wasn't until six hours after Andy teed off that Johnny
finally materialized in the flesh, at the scorer's trailer
beside the 9th green. Andy had shot a 74, putting him at 10 over
par, and Johnny informed him that he had made the cut right on
the number. "You're in," Johnny said. "Seventy-two guys made it,
and you're the last one."
"Are you sure?" Andy asked.
"Oh, yeah, you're in," Johnny replied. "Just make sure you sign
Turning to a reporter, Johnny was barely able to contain
himself. "That was a heck of a good round, to shoot 74 in that
slop," he said. "I was having trouble announcing today. I was a
basket case. I faked it all right, but I wasn't into it. I kept
asking everyone in the booth, 'What did Andy get on that hole?'
We actually covered about five of his shots. We probably
shouldn't have, but I guess they threw a bone to the Millers."
Getting face time on television while you're grinding to make
the cut is another fact of life when you're Johnny Miller's son.
To be sure, there are drawbacks to playing your father's game
(and, so far, not as well as he played it), but Andy doesn't
feel as if he has been hampered by his pedigree. "Everybody
always asks me about the disadvantages, but all I've seen are
the advantages," he says. "I get to play nice courses, and I get
all the equipment. I mean, I've played with Jack Nicklaus, so
playing in a U.S. Open isn't going to intimidate me as much."
Andy is the third, and arguably the most talented, of Johnny and
Linda Miller's four golfing sons. (The Millers also have two
daughters, neither of whom plays.) The two oldest boys, John Jr.
and Scott, played in a few PGA Tour events through the years but
never earned their cards, and both are now teaching pros. The
youngest, Todd, 22, played at BYU with Andy and Scott, and he
will likely embark on a pro career after completing the two-year
mission for the Mormon church he's presently serving in Chile.
Growing up, Andy was the quietest of the brood. He was
thoughtful, creative and fiercely independent, a painter and a
self-taught guitar player. "Andy raised himself," Linda says.
"If he was writing a paper, he would rather do it all himself
and get a B than get an A with help from his parents."
That approach didn't always work well when he was with Johnny on
the golf course, but Andy's desire to succeed overcame his
stubbornness. "I'll admit there were times I disagreed with him,
even when I knew he was right," Andy says, "but then I'd step
back and think, The guy won two majors. He knows what he's
talking about." It also helped that Johnny was encouraging
without being overbearing. Says Andy, "He never told me to go
out and practice. He has never gotten mad at me for playing
poorly. If I quit the game tomorrow, my dad would be
disappointed, but he would accept my decision."
That's unlikely to happen anytime soon, as Andy has been fixed
on becoming a pro golfer for as long as he can remember. He was
the 1996 Northern California high school champion, and in his
senior year at BYU he made second-team All-America. Since
leaving school in the spring of 2000, Andy has bounced around
mini-tours in California and Florida. (The highlight so far has
been winning April's San Leandro Open on the California Golf
Tour.) Before the U.S. Open he had played his way into three
Tour events as a Monday qualifier, making the cut once, at the
2000 Air Canada Championship.
Andy might have earned his Tour card last October but for a
strange circumstance during the first stage of Q school. After
missing a putt on the 11th hole of the second round, he lightly
banged his putter against his heel, a tantrum by his standards.
He didn't realize until after he tapped in that the shaft was
slightly bent. Since it's illegal to strike a ball with a club
that has been altered outside the normal course of play, Andy, a
straight arrow who doesn't drink, smoke or swear, disqualified
himself and walked off the course.
He arrived in New York under happier circumstances. Andy's Open
week began on Tuesday morning at a press conference with the old
man, followed by a practice round with Mike Weir and David
Duval. (When a heckler kept calling Andy "Johnny," Duval turned
to the man and said, "His name's Andy. You're out here watching
him, not Johnny.") Before Wednesday's practice round, Johnny
took his son's caddie, Jeramy McAlister--an old high school
friend of Andy's--around the course, and the two of them rolled
balls on the greens to find the fall lines.
Andy teed off at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, and since Johnny didn't
have to go on the air until 3 p.m., he was able to walk most of
the round. As Johnny watched his son scramble, he prepared for
his analyst duties by scribbling in a notebook, but it was
excruciating for him to be outside the ropes. "The air is a lot
thicker today, and he's not accounting for it," Johnny said
after Andy bogeyed number 8 to drop to four over. "If I was
caddying for him, I could help him." (Told of this later, Andy
said, "He gives good advice when he caddies. He also talks too
As Johnny spoke, a fan passing by asked, "How are you doing,
"I could use a few Rolaids," he replied.
Johnny had no discouraging words for Andy during the round, but
he was a bit more acidic with McAlister. "What's happening with
those irons, Jeramy?" he said after Andy deposited one approach
shot into a greenside bunker. Following bogeys at 11 and 12,
Johnny called McAlister over to the ropes and told him they
needed some birdies. When McAlister agreed, Johnny said, "Do you
know what a birdie looks like?"
Apparently Andy does, because he birdied the next two holes.
"You learn out here in a hurry," he said to a bystander after
walking off the 14th green. "I'm hitting it well, but if you
make any kind of mistake, you pay for it." Sure enough, he made
double bogey on the par-4 15th after sailing the green on his
third shot and leaving the ensuing flop in the spinach. His
six-over 76 left him in 96th place after the opening round.
Andy's Friday starting time was 2:15 p.m., and Johnny tracked
his progress from NBC's tower overlooking the 18th green. Andy
bogeyed two of his first three holes, and the broadcast picked
him up as he played out the par-5 13th. "Looks a little bit like
somebody I know," Johnny said to his partner, Dan Hicks.
"Boy, of all your sons, he seems to have taken on the most
resemblance," Hicks said.
"Yeah, the poor guy," Johnny quipped.
After Andy holed an eight-foot birdie putt, Johnny said, "Makes
my job a little easier."
Things got tough again after Andy bogeyed numbers 1 and 2 to go
to 10 over par. On his final hole, the 9th, Andy got a break
when his wayward drive found a nice, fluffy lie in the rough.
With the grandstands mostly empty, he smoothed a nine-iron into
the gloaming, sticking it to 10 feet. He two-putted for a 74.
As it turned out, he could not have come closer to missing the
cut. The top 60 finishers, plus ties, make it, and only 59 were
nine over through 36 holes, so everyone at plus-10 squeaked in.
"I actually hit it better yesterday," said Andy, a wiry 6'4",
who averaged 278.5 yards per drive at the Open. "I just got some
good breaks in the rough today." At that moment Johnny seemed
more excited than Andy, even proffering a compliment for
McAlister. "Nice going, kid," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Miller," McAlister replied.
As gratifying as it was for Andy (and his caddie) to make the
cut, the Millers experienced a truly singular moment during the
final round, when Andy aced the 205-yard 3rd hole with Johnny
and Linda in the gallery. That was the highlight of a 75-75
weekend, which left him in 62nd place (20 over par), worth
$12,794, the largest check of his career. If Andy's experiences
last week left him more confident of succeeding on the PGA Tour,
it also reminded him that the more success he has, the more he
will hear about you-know-who. "I know I can hang with these guys
if I play well," he said on Sunday. "So you can call me Johnny
Miller's son the rest of my life, and it won't bother me one bit."
U.S. Open doesn't intimidate me."
'What did Andy get on that hole?'"