Remember how Johnny Miller, once the golden boy of pro golf, would blister sunbaked desert courses at the beginning of each year? Well, after an unplanned absence from the game's top ranks, he's back in top form again.
And not just in the desert, judging by his victory in the latest tour event, the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open. The win was Miller's second of the year, his first demolition of par coming in the Jose Garagiola tucson Open.
Such efforts were once the norm for Johnny, that is until he went into an embarrassing slump beginning in 1976. If he hadn't earned a 10-year exemption from qualifying rounds (his reward for winning the 1973 US Open) Miller might have dropped totally out of sight. As it was, his name could usually be found among the tee-off times, even if it sometimess disappeared after the mid-tourney "cut" was made.
By 1978 the tour's former No. 1 money winner had dropped to 111th on the earnings list with a paltry $17,440. For three years, beginning in 1977, he didn't win a single event, a stark contrast to his eight 1974 triumphs.
Miller sensed the tide had turned when he broke the drought with a victory in last year's Inverrary Classic. "I told my supporters that I thought this would be a good year for me," he said after the L. A. Open. "And for my friends, they can now answer the question 'What is wrong with your pal?'"
"Nothing," is the obvious reply now that Johnny's riding high with $121,548 in 1981 prize money. He attributes his comeback to a new putter, a less wristy putting motion, and a more compact swing. Muscles developed while working on his Napa, Calif., ranch, have led to the shortened swing, which increases his "feel."