Double World Long Drive Champion Joe Miller doesn’t do things by halves.
He eats up to eight eggs for breakfast, goes to the gym seven times a week to bench-press the weight of three men and can hit his putter 300 yards.
His life revolves around hitting a golf ball as far as humanly possible – and he’s just hit one further than anyone in the world.
The 31-year-old has just bagged his second World Long Drive title, beating American Ryan Steenberg in the final with a knock of 423 yards. Both men smacked longer drives earlier in the competition, with Miller posting an astonishing 439 yards in his semi-final victory.
That’s around 60 yards further than the height of the Empire State Building!
It was some performance by the 19-stone, 6ft 4in Miller, who celebrated winning his second world championship six frustrating years after claiming his first.
“This is the big one,” he told us. “It’s like going to the Masters and doing it over one round, one hole even, to see who ends up with the Green Jacket. The World Long Driving is a stressful one.”
But Miller did it, picking up the $125,000 first prize and an impressive WLD belt in the process. He added: “Without the title you’re just a guy who hits the ball a long way and nobody knows or cares… unless you can chip and putt as well.”
We sat down with him just days after he returned from the US to find out how he did it, what he was thinking, and how you can add a few yards to your drives.
How does it feel to be champion for the second time?
I watch it back on YouTube every single day. After going close in 2011, ’13, ’14 and ’15 when I made the top nine… thinking you should win it and training like you should win it, to finally win it in such a fashion is a big thing.
A lot of blood, sweat and maybe even a few tears went into it then?
I put absolutely everything into it. More than everything. The training, the eating, getting enough rest, going to the range every single day for three or four hours come rain or shine, the lessons…
It’s been my lifestyle for some time now and I love it. But coming up short every year was very painful because you only get that one big opportunity every year.
So what made the difference this time?
It’s hard to put it down to one thing. I look at my swing now compared to 2013-14 and it feels more consistently fast. That’s a big thing for me because I like the confidence of knowing I can swing it faster than anybody else. In the past, I’ve always felt there was something to change or to gain, but this year there was nothing I could have done better swing-wise. I was fast and on form and my swing was under control. I was filling the grid (target area) four out of eight shots which for a long driver is good, especially when you’re hitting it over 400 yards!
How did you prepare?
I kept it consistent. Training-wise was the same – I was just trying to lift weights and be strong and go there physically strong and fast.
I probably did a bit more in terms of hitting more balls on the range. I have a FlightScope launch monitor with me all the time and have a little checklist when I’m not seeing certain numbers, most notably a 150mph-plus clubhead speed.
Is the second time sweeter than the first?
I’ve had nearly six years of doing the same stuff, improving and telling people I’m the best in the world. Now I’ve actually cemented that and I’m a two-time World Champion. It’s no fluke – some people thought it was first time around. I’ve proved I’m not a one hit wonder; there was no doubt who the winner was this time!
How desperate were you to come out on top?
When you’re on the range – it’s freezing cold and pouring with rain – having to slug away hitting balls, you’re thinking ‘these guys (his rivals) are going to pay for that.’ They’re out there in California in their shorts in the sun. You either get stuck in or fold under the pressure.
How confident were you going in this year?
I went in happy with all the preparations; I was hitting the ball well; and my swing was as fast as it’s ever been. The numbers on FlightScope were through the roof – every swing was 151mph plus, which is where I get my confidence from. And the more the competition progressed, the more comfortable I felt.
But it’s not just about club speed?
My spin rates were so low on the winning shots. I was striking it slightly high in the clubface, something I aim for as opposed to dead centre of the face as it reduces the spin. There’s a lot of science involved and more technique than you’d ever know.
But you didn’t exactly make a dream start?
In an early round in the first set (eight balls in three minutes) I had seven out of eight in the grid (to count), but then lost the second set after hitting all eight OB! It was an early wake-up call. As I came off the tee to check my driver the head came off! It had been loose and I’m hitting all these shots thinking, ‘what’s going on?’ I was literally within an inch of going out.
How nervous do you get?
My heart was pounding out of my chest. I had saved myself for this one event. Everything rested on the outcome. I was sitting under the tunnel waiting to go on and I could see my heart beating. I didn’t want to explain to people back home why I had bowed out early doors and the reality is you could exit in the space of six minutes. Thankfully from the top 16 onwards I was calm and relaxed.
Take us through your thoughts during those closing stages.
Going into the semis I was confident after convincingly beating Mitch Dobbyn in the quarters with 437 yards. I reached the final after beating Justin Moose by hitting 439 yards on ball No.3. Final opponent Ryan Steenberg hit 412 yards and though my second ball went OB at 430, I knew I had the number. Sure enough, ball five carried about 395-400 and rolled out to 423. Game over.
Did you have much support?
Only my manager George, swing coach (TG Top 50’s Lee Cox) and some sponsors. It’s not really a family thing as they’ll only get bored and then I’ll think about them being bored. How was your victory received?
I received hundreds of messages via social media and at one point I had to turn my phone off. It was awesome. It’s massive. Life changing to a point. There was a great reaction from the pros at the British Masters, too.
How did you celebrate?We downed a couple of bottles of tequila and
I went to bed with a bottle of the stuff… the drink of champions.
We’re not all 6ft 4in and built like a brick powerhouse, so how can we hit it further?
Clubspeed is always No.1. You can learn the technique, but without the speed it’s pointless. You can up your speed and hit it further through a training programme which should improve your flexibility and mobility, making you physically stronger or by changing your swing slightly. Finally, get the right club set-up. They’re the main steps. But the truth of the matter is, it’s hard work.
Are you living the dream?
It is a dream. I get paid to go to special places and hit balls and do all kinds of cool stuff.
I sometimes get recognised on the streets and for me, someone who hits the ball a long way, it’s amazing to get that kind of reaction.
How’s your overall game now?Really good. I’d love to go and play on Tour. That would be my main goal and I feel my game could be good enough. My wedge play
is great but my putting is not great – not Tour standard by any means. When I play, I rely on my driving to get me birdies and better. I’m close to most par 4s and par 5s in one and two shots. If I could improve my putting I’d be seriously good!
What’s coming up next?
I’ve got a couple of corporate days to do, and in November I’m doing some stuff for the Golf Channel and testing for Callaway in Las Vegas. I’ll have a break in December and January and play a bit of golf.
Finally, will you retain your title in 2017?
I will be going back to defend my title, 100%. It doesn’t take away the motivation – it’ll be 10-fold next year because I know what it’s like to lose and to win it. There’s no way I want to surrender the title.