If you didn’t know Johnny Miller shot a final-round 63 at Oakmont to capture the 1973 U.S. Open, just listen to one telecast on NBC, he’ll surely mention it.
Seriously, it’s a laughable trope among observers of the game: Miller can’t shut up about his moment in the sun, juicing a lemon that has long since gone.
So when Justin Thomas fired a nine-under 63 at Erin HIlls, you know Johnny Miller, irrepressible bombast that he is, would have something to say.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that Thomas fired his 63 on a par 72 course. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s a nine-under total, as mentioned. Miller’s Herculean effort at Oakmont came on a par-71 layout, and was thus (sorry, Johnny), an eight-under 63.
Thus, using the pencil scratch on the scorecard as the only metric, Thomas’ round was superior. Of course, this didn’t sit well with Mr. 63 Miller.
“Taking nothing away from 9-under par – 9-under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure…But it isn’t a U.S. Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was.”
So, Miller doesn’t feel Erin Hills is a true U.S. Open course. He has a point to a degree, there were only a couple of rounds under par at Oakmont in ‘73. At Erin Hills, birdies are flying all over the former Wisconsin dairy farm.
And you better believe Miller was going to point out that he carded his 63 in the final round.
“The greatness of my round is the 63 in the last round of the U.S. Open to win by one. Everything else is way secondary. If somebody does it tomorrow to win the U.S. Open by one, that’s the specialness of my round. And secondly, Erin Hills isn’t exactly Oakmont.”
Miller couldn’t even compliment Thomas’ play without immediately following it up with a criticism—like a meat-on-the-outside compliment sandwich.
“It’s a great round and nine under is amazing in U.S. Open pressure,” he said. “But you can’t really compare it considering the width of the courses. The setup is more like a tough tour event than a U.S. Open course.”
Look, he’s right. The setup at Erin Hills is easier. More players are shooting under par. JT didn’t shoot his 63 in the final round. But how about having a measure of class, not taking a dump on Thomas’ achievement and just (for once) biting your tongue?
All Miller should have said was, “It was an impressive round, and you can’t compare eras in golf, so I’m not going to take the spotlight off Justin Thomas or this U.S. Open by discussing something I did more than 40 years ago.”