The Grillroom : Randy Johnson – Brief Article – Interview

Bob Verdi

By pitching for Arizona, you live in a golf hotbed and play year-round in Phoenix. And I run into a lot of real golfers who live there. It’s funny, growing up playing baseball and basketball, I never had time for golf, or much interest. But now, it’s my second-favorite sport. Has to be second, because it doesn’t pay any bills.

You’ve won three Cy Young Awards, and have pitched in a lot of big games before a lot of big crowds.

I know where you’re going. But on the golf course, in front of galleries, I’m out of my element. I don’t get embarrassed giving up a home run. That’s part of the game. Give credit to the batter. But I’ll hit a great drive, maybe in the pro-am of the Phoenix Open, then I hit the next shot fat with all those people watching. Not a good feeling.

What’s most annoying about golf?

It’s the inability to repeat. You play one hole great, then go to the next tee box, and it’s gone. What did I do wrong? Why?

Doesn’t that happen in pitching?

To an extent, yes. If I start a game without my best stuff, then I have to really pitch more and try to get by without overpowering batters. But golf is more complicated. Too many more facets.

In other words, if you don’t have one or two pitches working on a given day, you can still win.

But if I’m putting and chipping well on a day when I don’t have a clue where my drives are going, I can’t score.

So golf is harder?

It is for me, but I’ve been playing ball since I was 7 and I have an idea how to compensate. You can go 3-0 on a batter and still get him out with one pitch. If you hit three out-of-bounds off the tee, you’re in trouble. And they can’t call the bullpen for help.

You struck out 20 in a game earlier this season. Is there anything that can match that high in golf?

Playing a round where you execute enough shots to feel like you’re in control. And I don’t have too many of those.

With your size [6-foot-10], you intimidate batters. That’s no help to you in golf.

I don’t know whether I scare any hitters, but I know my clubs don’t know that I’m a big guy. They don’t care.

How much do you enjoy golf?

If I have something planned for the day, and one of my buddies calls to tee it up, I’ll rearrange my schedule. I like it that much, and my wife is very understanding. I’m not great. I’m maybe a 10-handicapper. My average score is between 80 and 90. I shot even par once, 72, and that day I misplaced my wedding ring.

I found it in the bottom of my golf bag. I bought my wife flowers that day.

Are golfers athletes?

Absolutely. It takes a lot of skill. The ability to pull off shot after shot, four days in a row, under pressure. That’s what athletics is all about, isn’t it? Plus, you’re faced with having to make a cut after two days.

That concept of not being paid if you don’t do as well as half your competition: what about it?

I don’t know if I’d like that. It certainly is different. If I make 100 pitches in a game and 70 are strikes, I’ve had a good day. Of those 70, if 40 are executed perfectly, or if I get the right result from them, that’s good. So, that’s only four of 10. But that’s why guys behind us have gloves.

The first pitch to each batter is important. Is that comparable with the tee ball?

Yes, because it sets up everything. And if I have trouble with anything, it’s my tee ball. Long, but not always straight. I do have some short-game problems, too. But I played with Alice Cooper, and he says there’s hope for me.

COPYRIGHT 2001 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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