5 questions with Jack Nicklaus
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The Masters and Jack Nicklaus are like bacon and eggs: You simply can't have one without the other.
Nicklaus gave plenty of time to the media on Tuesday afternoon. Here are five questions with the Golden Bear:
Q. Could you just talk about how difficult it may be now, more difficult nowadays, for somebody in that late-40s/early-50s age bracket to get in contention? Do you feel it's something more difficult now?
I think it's easier, frankly. The only reason I say that is because equipment has allowed guys to extend their year. Equipment allowed me to extend my career. Even though I played a wood driver here in '86 and I made essentially the same irons I'm playing now, I'm too stubborn to change; but the golf ball goes so much further today. And so the ability for an older player to not be able to ‑‑ or to worry about the distance of the golf course is not as significant as it was then.
And it's mostly equipment. I think the guys are a little fitter today than they were back in our time. I think the overall size of guys is larger.
I think you've got an opportunity; in other words, you've got, Vijay (Singh) is what, 49 now? 48? To think Vijay couldn't be in contention is silly. Freddie Couples is 51 and can certainly play well here at any time. I would even throw up my friend (Tom) Watson. He can play pretty well, too.
Q. Can you just speak about over the years, what it has meant to you to be the record holder for a number of majors, and you spoke to us last year about what you thought it would take for Tiger to surpass that record, where your thinking is on his pursuit of your record.
I don't think too much about it, to be honest. Too busy doing other things.
I don't think much about mine. Certainly don't bother with that too much unless somebody asked me a question about it.
As it relates to Tiger, I think he's ‑‑ I've said many times, that he's got a great work ethic and he's a very talented young man. And equipment will help extend his career beyond what it extended mine; that's what we just talked about in the last sentence.
I assume that he'll get his focus back on what he's doing, and he will probably pass my record. But then the last part I always say about it is, he's still got to do it. If you look at what he's got to do, he's still got to win five more, and that's more than a career for anybody else playing.
Q. All of the memories you talk about, 25 years ago, with all of the memories that you've had overall here, do you still get kind of chills down your spine? Do you still get a special feeling when you walk in?
I've said many times, I drove down Magnolia Lane the first time in 1959 and I thought that was pretty neat. We drove down here again today and my grandson, Nick is over here, Nick O'Leary. He's my caddie tomorrow. We have Mutt and Jeff on the Par 3 tomorrow.
I told him I said, look at these trees. These trees look exactly the same, I don't know how many years ago is that, that's 52 years ago ‑‑ that's not 62, is it? 52. (Laughter.) They look the same to me now.
I'm sure they have lost one or two trees. I don't think they have ever replaced any.
I get the same thrill of driving in every time. To me that's the entrance to Augusta National and the Masters is driving down Magnolia Lane. And so I still get a big charge out of it. It's fun for me, and you know, I keep saying, well, OK, look at the practice tee and it's not there anymore, because not practicing anymore. But where do I go tee it up and go play, that's the way I think.
Then I look in the mirror and I say, no, no, no, not doing that. (Laughter.)
Q. A lot of sports today have not retained the values that they used to have. I assume you wouldn't put golf in that category. Just wonder why that is, why it's retained all the values?
I think frankly, I'm not sure that that's actually true with other sports. I think there's a lot of sports that retain their values in a different way. Golf is kind of a funny game that way. Golf has had its traditions. I think that most games are managed usually by younger people. Usually the players are in the middle. That's sort of the tradition.
In golf, old guys like me are still around and we have dinners like we are having tonight, and we go there tonight and the young guys, they see the tradition, they see what goes on, they see how the older guys handle themselves and what they do and so forth and so on. That has been sort of historically ‑‑ maybe that's stuffy, whatever you want to call it, but it happens to be inbred in the game of golf.
One of the great affairs that we have in the game is the dinner we have tonight. Now, why ‑‑ why, really, on earth, why would you ever want to come back 25 years later? Because it's a great evening. It's not the Par 3 tomorrow, sure, I'm here and I'll play in the Par 3 and it's very nice to be the honorary starter. That's all well and good.
We come back because of the dinner. We come back to see the other guys, see the traditions in the game. You come back and I listen to Doug Ford and we used to come and listen to Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen. I used to get a good kick out of all of that, (Ben) Hogan, those were my heroes growing up.
Hopefully some of the young kids got some heroes growing up and that tradition has remained in the game of golf. And most of the clubs or courses they go to, generally speaking, people that are running those courses or those clubs, courses or whatever they might be, are generally people that are not young kids. They are people who have really had time to be able to volunteer to do that and be part of it.
So you get a little older element. It's no different than a kid growing up at a golf course. When you're 15 years old or 13 or whatever it is, and you're going out and playing a golf course, who do you see at the golf course, you have a few other kids you go play with. But you are mostly dealing with going into a locker room or going into a dining room or going someplace where you're having older people. And golfers seem to grow up around that. And not many other sports that happens. That's what you were asking.
Q. Tiger won three of his first six Masters, and we talk about him possibly winning 10 of these. And now Phil has won three of the last seven, and it feels like the balance has shifted the other way. Does it seem like the course favors one of those guys more than the other now?
It favors them both. They both play pretty well, in case anybody hasn't noticed. The golf course has always favored a high, long hitter - always.
And you know, I think that when I was winning, it didn't necessarily have to be high all the time, because Arnold (Palmer) didn't hit the ball particularly high, but Arnold turned it right‑to‑left. Watson turned it right‑to‑left. Mickelson plays a lot of shots left‑to‑right; Tiger plays a lot of shots right‑to‑left.
This golf course is basically a right‑to‑left golf course most of the time and the shots into the green, as far as these guys hit the ball, they are not playing very many long clubs. I didn't play very many long clubs when I played.
If I go back and recall the round in ‘64 when I shot ‑‑ no, ‘65 - when I shot 64, I go back and look at that round, and it's wedge, 9‑iron, wedge, 9‑iron, right through the bag and I didn't really play very many long clubs. I played a couple 8‑irons or a couple long irons on par 5s or something.
When you hit the ball long, the golf course is reduced to the ability to be able to put the ball in the air and play a soft shot into the green. These greens require a soft shot. They require a ball that, you know, is not coming in hot into the green.
So ‑‑ I forgot what your question was, got carried away here with something.