Nicklaus says '13 Masters is critical for Woods

Tiger Woods (left) talks with Jack Nicklaus after winning the 2012 Memorial.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – At 73, Jack Nicklaus is still a great interview. Having won six Green Jackets also makes him the oracle of how to play Augusta National during the Masters Tournament.

Starting his Masters career in 1959 and winning his first Green Jacket in 1963, Nicklaus clearly played enough rounds to advise not only Tiger Woods when he came calling, but Rory McIlroy, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts – who asked for advice last weekend – and eventually 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, who actually asked for an audience this week with the Golden Bear via email.

“I just try to find out what they are thinking and what they are trying to accomplish, what they are trying to do, what are their goals and how do they approach what they doing,” Nicklaus said. “I told Nicolas the other day, I said, 'There’s going to be half a dozen golf shots on this golf course that make or break this golf course that can kill you, not so bad if you hit it good. But if you hit it poorly, you’re down the road.' ”

Nicklaus says he never found a bad putt from the middle of the green on any of the 18 holes, looking at birdie every time.

Translation?

Sometimes you will go for it, taking a chance and sometimes you will look for the middle of the green. When and how you make those decisions is why there’s a tournament.

Nicklaus talked honestly about Tiger Woods' drought. Woods, who has four Green Jackets, hasn’t won the Masters since 2005 and hasn’t won a major championship since the playoff win at Torrey Pines in 2008.

“Obviously the older he gets, and if he doesn't win, it makes my record move out further,” Nicklaus said of Woods' quest to surpass his record 18-major total. “But I've said it, and I continue to say it, that I still expect him to break my record. I think he's just too talented, too driven, and too focused on that.”

Yet even Nicklaus concedes Woods has had a great spring with three wins – but that all could be for naught in predicting major success if he doesn’t win his fifth title this week.

“From this point, he's got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37,” Nicklaus continued. “He's played very, very well this spring. I think if he wins here, I think that it would be a very large step towards regaining the confidence that he has not won a major in, what, 5 years . . . He's going to have to figure it out.

"But I think if he figures it out here, it will be a great boost for him. If he doesn't figure it out here, after the spring he's had, I think it will be a lot tougher for him. “

And a little thought on the second major of the year, the U.S. Open at Merion playing at less than 7,000 yards?

"Merion will do just fine," Nicklaus said. "Merion has got six or seven holes that you can abuse. They have got six or seven holes that will abuse you. Merion will do just fine."

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