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 Miller's son!"
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 your scorecard."
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.