Golf is a game of confidence, the mental-game coach Bob Rotella wrote.
It can also be a game of exaggerated swagger, with a sense of self-belief so inflated that it comes off as performance art.
That is the golf played by The Miz.
The Miz, whose parents named him Michael Gregory Mizanin, is a brash-talking brute who can blast the ball a mile and seems unbothered by the fact that he rarely has a clue where his shots are headed.
“Sometimes it’s a slice, sometimes it’s a hook,” he said the other day by phone from Lake Tahoe, where he’d been working on his swing. “But once I’m locked in and the cameras are on and there’s an audience, my game will be second to none. I will be an immortal amongst mortals.”
Those mortals being the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Timberlake, Tony Romo and Steph Curry, to cite just a few of the doomed souls in the field at this week’s American Century Championship, at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. Great talents, all, The Miz conceded. But he still intends to turn them into roadkill on his path to glory in his tournament debut.
“It is going to be utter domination,” The Miz said.
Depending on your knowledge of popular culture, you might recognize The Miz from his past life as a participant on The Real World: Back to New York, which first aired in 2001. Or perhaps you caught him last year on Dancing with the Stars or recall the leading role he played in Santa’s Little Helper (2015), a feel-good film about a Scrooge-like corporate hatchet man who comes to learn the meaning of the season.
More likely, though, you’re familiar with The Miz because he is The Miz: a star of the squared circle and headliner on the WWE — a pro wrestler, that is, though The Miz and his handlers would prefer that you regard him as an “entertainer” who is also an actor and a reality TV personality.
Oh, and a golfer, a serious one, addicted to a game that he learned as a boy growing up in Ohio, where he displayed multitudinous gifts: ruling the paint on his high school hoops team, outrunning everyone in cross country and completely kicking butt on the high school yearbook staff. He could golf his ball as well. In young adulthood, though, the man still known as Michael Mizanin mothballed his clubs, the better to focus on his modest goal of “becoming a global superstar.”
Only some years later, his global fame firmly established, did The Miz re-embrace the game. Nowadays, he can’t get enough. You probably know that, too, assuming you’re a fan of Miz & Mrs., the reality TV show that follows The Miz and adventures with his wife and WWE manager Maryse Ouellet, who appears to abhor golf as much as The Miz loves it.
They live in Los Angeles. But on a recent morning, The Miz had winged into Lake Tahoe for a sneak-peek at the pine-lined Edgewood course that will host this week’s celebrity-laden event. He had just completed 18 holes, a practice round that sounded very much on-brand for both the wildness of its shots and the optimistic gloss that The Miz put on them. Whether he’d beaten his handicap was difficult to say because he doesn’t keep an index. Nor had he kept score.
“That’s hard to do when you lose as many balls as I do,” The Miz said.
Not that he was worried. The round didn’t count. He’d approached it as reconnaissance, assessing a course he’d never played before.
“As an athlete, I train,” The Miz said. “And part of that training is strategic preparation. I’m seeing the field for the first time. I’m learning where I’ve got to be. I’m thinking, OK, I can’t be in this area. I’ve got to be in that area.”
One of the areas where he’d wound up that morning was in the back bunker on the lakeside par-3 17th. Having airmailed the green “because I am so strong,” The Miz appeared to be in trouble. But like a wrestler escaping a submission hold, The Miz then holed out from the sand “because that’s just what I do.”
Something else he does is play left-handed, with a swing that is far prettier than the results it produces. In the ring, The Miz is notorious for knocking out opponents with a signature move called the Skull-Crushing Finale, a vicious forward-facing body slam that looks like something Moe might do to Curly in a steroid rage. On the course, what he mostly knocks are balls O.B.
But all of that will change, The Miz insists, when the competition starts and crowds arrive, creating the kind of electric atmosphere in which he thrives. It will also help, he notes, to have more folks around to help him find his drives.
In a tournament loaded with crossover stars from other sports, The Miz is not the first to crossover from the mat. In 1999, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, the former grappler-turned-governor of Minnesota, competed in the American Century, carding rounds of 113-123-112 to finish 75th in a field of 76, ahead of Joe Morgan, who withdrew, and 136 shots behind the winner, Rick Rhoden.
The Miz isn’t merely pledging to do better. He is guaranteeing victory. He’s amped for the event, pumped for the scene to morph into a spectacle, with fans lining the fairways, energy crackling in the air. The Miz might get heckled. He understands that. If that happens, he will heckle back. He is used to noise. He is undistracted by chatter in his backswing. What he hopes to hear is full-throated support.
“Things like ‘You are awesome’ or ‘We want Miz’ would be good,” The Miz said.
His name lends itself to golf-y catchphrases.
“You da Miz!”
Those work, too, The Miz said.
“Bottom line is people can chant whatever they want,” he said. “Because I’m definitely going to give them something to chant about.”