Joe Miller can batter a golf ball some 270 yards with a putter.
Now, there may be some of you club golfers out there thinking 'so what?' After all, you've probably witnessed yip-ridden, ham-fisted howkers excitedly racing a birdie-putt 270 yards passed the hole from 10-feet in the Saturday medal. Stick a driver in Miller's powerful hands and he'll thunder one over 470 yards into the hinterlands. The 29-year-old is not a former World Long Drive champion for nothing and could probably reduce Doral's Blue Monster, the 7334-yard host of this week's WGC Cadillac Championship, to a pitch and putt.
Watching Miller thrash vigorously at a stationary ba' on a tee during a Callaway demonstration in St Andrews recently is a bit like observing a demented lumberjack trying to fell a Redwood with a blunt axe. He wiggles into his stance, winds himself up and unleashes the kind of swipe favoured by medieval executioners. Less blood spilt, of course, but there still can be some grievous bodily harm caused.
"I've injured myself plenty of times and it does take its toll," said the Englishman, who travels the globe belting balls over vast distances and can pick up cheques for $150,000 on the lucrative Long Drive circuit. "I've broken my hands, I get tendon inflammation. I broke my foot in the World Championships when I won in 2010 in Nevada. You get six balls and the longest one counts. On ball two, I already had a good idea that I'd won as my first one went 414 yards into wind. I actually won it by 46 yards, a record distance. On ball three, I gave it a bit more and I felt something snap. It was in my right foot from pushing off."
When he's not nursing his own wounds, Miller is dishing out some fearsome punishment to a variety of sacrificial items that are plonked in front of him as part of his carnival of golfing clatterings. "I smash balls through water melons, through wood and anything else they can stick in the way; it's great fun," he added. "You can hit a golf ball through just about anything if you hit it hard enough. Everyone loves to see what a golf ball can do and what it can do at speed."
A scratch golfer before he became a professional long hitter, Miller still enjoys a run-of-the-mill round in between his gym work and technical tinkering.
"I love a game to unwind," he said. "I don't like to lose the feel. You have to feel what the ball is doing and what the hands are doing. A lot of folk think I'm just up there bashing balls but it's not like that. You need a good technique and have to be able to swing the club as fast as you can. I have a lesson every week to make sure the swing is in tune and keeping the ball straight is obviously key. We work a lot on just keeping the ball in play. Half a degree open or closed on the driver face is maybe 50 to 60 yards wide for us.
"Last year at the Las Vegas speedway, where we had the World finals, the fairway was 45 yards wide. That might seem generous but we were 70 feet up on a platform hitting down. All of a sudden that 45 yards becomes 25. With the crowd and everything going on around, it becomes quite narrow. You don't catch it every time but when you do catch one and you feel it, it's like 'whoa'. When all those things come together and you catch that one, it's amazing."
The intoxicating tingle that comes with ripping a pearler right out of the screws is a sensation all golfers have experienced, whether it's Miller launching his barnstorming barrages or some weekend warrior dunting a career-best drive all of 117 yards. So what's next? "Maybe I could hit a ball through a concrete wall?," he pondered with a mischievous grin. "Whatever stands in the way, I'll try and get it through it."
And on that note, this correspondent hastily shuffled out of his line of sight.