Hate to be Rude: Nicklaus still in control

Jack Nicklaus speaks to the media during a press conference held during a practice round prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

Jack Nicklaus speaks to the media during a press conference held during a practice round prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

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Editor's note: For a complete rundown of all of our Masters coverage, by the day, click here to find the story you want to read.

Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Six-time champion Jack Nicklaus is back at Augusta National as honorary starter and as nostalgic figure basking in anniversary glow of the most memorable Masters.

The Golden Bear held court here in a news conference that focused on his stunning 1986 victory at age 46 and strayed to topics covering the whole spectrum. For the golf enthusiast, there are not many better days than when Nicklaus spews forth at length with his take on all things golf.

He likes to weigh in. We like him to weigh in. And neither side likes the session to end. In the scrum after the formal interview, Nicklaus kept going, running through “couple more questions” stop signs of a rally killer in a green jacket.

He doesn’t have Arnold Palmer’s charisma. He isn’t out there with animated answers like Gary Player. But the most decorated member of the old Big Three has an E.F. Hutton aura about him when he answers questions.

A sample of one person’s favorites, latest version:

•Nicklaus on Gary Player’s exercise regimen during their prime: “If Gary worked out a half or one-tenth as much as he said, he would not have time for meals or golf.”

•On swing changes: “I think teachers should work with the swing a person has. Jack Grout did that with me. I had the thing with my (flying) elbow. He didn’t try to move it in. Then it wouldn’t have been my swing.”

•On players working with instructors at tournaments: “Jack Grout never once set one foot on the practice tee here at the Masters (to work with me). Or at any tournament. The thought was I had become a pretty good golfer and could correct myself. It seems like guys today all go back to teachers (too much). I think they’d be better players if they didn’t run back all the time.”

•On how many players had sports psychologists during his prime: “Not anybody that won. Actually, I had one: my wife. If I ever wanted advice, I’d ask her and she’d give me a smart, reasonable answer.”

•On whether Tiger Woods (14) will break his record of 18 major victories: “He’s gotta win five more, and that’s more of a career than anyone else playing.”

•On driving down Magnolia Lane now versus his first trip in 1959: “These trees look exactly the same to me now. I get the same thrill driving in there, still get a big charge. I look around and think about teeing up. Then I look at my body and say, ‘No, no.’ ”

•On a longtime friend’s stature and success: “Pound for pound, Gary Player probably was the best player ever to play the game.”

•On his rivalry with Arnold Palmer: “The rivalry is still (going) today. One doesn’t want the other to get ahead. I think it’s healthy.”

More tidbits:

•In a huge Masters upset, Nicklaus beat Player, 8 and 6, here. It’s a rarity when someone’s interview transcript contains more pages than the Black Knight’s.

•If the shotmaking here in Augusta this week is as poor as it was in the NCAA hoops final, something like 40 over par will win the Masters.

•The winner of the Masters will come from this list of 11: Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.

•Now that Mickelson has won Houston, the 2011 Masters finally has a favorite other than the pimento cheese sandwich.

•Gentleman’s proposal: I’ll take surnames beginning in M or W and give you the rest of the field and 6-5 odds.

•In the Masters interview area, Mickelson works the room. As for Woods, the room doesn't seem to work.

•Shockingly, no one asked Woods what advice he has for Charlie Sheen at his pre-tournament news conference.

•In an answer to a question about whether Woods will finish in the top 5 at this week’s Masters, Ian Poulter retweeted, “Not this year.” Three simple words caused a stir and prompted someone to get Woods’ response. “Poulter’s always right, isn’t he?” Woods said.

•Someone asked me, “Who is the best player ever, Nicklaus or Woods?” My take (until further notice): Woods formerly is the greatest player ever.

•The Masters for the first time will make a limited number of Thursday-Sunday tickets available by random lottery in 2012. People can register on Masters.com. Without revealing a specific amount, chairman Billy Payne said a “significant number” of tickets will be available. Then he added, “It’s not a real good chance, but it’s a chance.”

•Here’s another idea for Mr. Payne: Sell the available tickets to winners of a “Why I Want To Attend the Masters” essay contest.

•Players have swing coaches, personal trainers, nutritionists, sports psychologists, agents and caddies. Some have public-relations consultants. But if they really want to improve their PR skills, they’ll sit in on a Nicklaus news conference.

•It wasn’t that long ago when Muhammad Ali seemingly was the only athlete with an entourage.

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