This is an article from the July 26, 2010 issue
THE GOLDEN BEAR
The winner of 18 majors—four more than Tiger Woods—played his final British Open in 2005 at St. Andrews, where he won twice
Dan Patrick:When's the last time you weren't at St. Andrews for a British Open?
Jack Nicklaus: This time [laughs].
DP:Tougher course: Augusta or St. Andrews?
JN: Oh, Augusta. I don't think St. Andrews is a particularly difficult golf course. The conditions make it difficult.
DP:Tiger is 34. At what point in your career did you feel like winning majors got a little more difficult?
JN: Probably once I got over 40. When I was 39, I had the worst year I ever had on Tour, and I didn't think I was ever going to win anything again. And then I changed my golf swing, and I won two majors at age 40. I suppose that I could've played well beyond that point, and I did play well on a few occasions beyond that point, but the game was never really the same to me. After that, I felt like my career was basically over. I was playing because I just enjoyed playing, but I was never into it like I was before.
DP:What if somebody had been ahead of you with, say, 20 majors? Would that have impacted how long you played or how seriously you would have played?
JN: I'm sure it might have. But that wasn't the case. I passed [Bobby] Jones when I was . From then on I played golf because I enjoyed it and enjoyed the competition. I wasn't trying to set a record for majors. It never even entered my mind.
DP:Do you still feel like Tiger has a good chance to catch you?
JN: Oh, he'll probably catch me. Tiger's too focused not to. He's still a young guy, and he's got at least 10 more years of really competitive golf, if he wishes to do so.
DP:Have you talked to Tiger recently?
JN: No, not at all. Obviously I saw Tiger at the Masters when he came back. It was the first time I've seen him [in a while]. I've always gotten along well with Tiger. He's been on my Presidents Cup team that I captained four times. He's a terrific player, and I wish him well. After he hurt himself after the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines [in 2008], I gave him a call a couple days afterward. And I said, "Tiger, obviously I don't want you to break my records, but I don't want you to not break my records because you're not healthy enough to do that."
DP:What do you think is fair game for the media with his personal life?
JN: I don't think it's any of their business. This is his own private life. He's entitled to his privacy on that. I know he's not going to get it, but I think that he and his wife have to figure that out themselves. It's certainly none of my business.
DP:If it impacts his game, isn't it something that the media has a right to explore?
JN: You're going to anyway, no matter what happens. I had some financial issues in the mid-'80s. That became a big topic of conversation. "Jack, are your financial issues going to affect how you're playing golf?" Tiger has been living his life a certain way for a long time, and he's been playing golf. I don't think that's going to impact him, just like with my financial issues. When I got to the golf course, those financial issues were behind me. That solved those financial issues. I'm sure he'll solve his own personal issues.
• Batty Idea
Tony Gwynn, who is now the coach at San Diego State, recently turned 50. I asked the eight-time batting champ if he could hit .240 for the Padres. "I doubt it," he told me. "I could probably swing the bat, but I couldn't run to first. Rickey Henderson used to tell a joke that I would do the hitting and he would do the running. If I could do that, then maybe it'd be a little different."
• Just Win, Baby
Tony La Russa, who has managed five All-Star Games, told me he'd like the midsummer classic to get back to its more competitive roots. "I understood where adding the prize of home field advantage [in the World Series] was coming from, because it was becoming way too much of an exhibition. The friends that I have that manage this game share this: It doesn't make any difference that we're playing for home field. We want to just win for our league. To jazz the guys on the other side."
• Line of the week
Golf Channel anchor Rich Lerner on the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which features six different tracks: "When the one that's called the New Course is a century old, then you know the Old Course is damn old."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Bob Costas on major league baseball's All-Star Game.
2. Actor Don Cheadle discusses playing ball with movie stars.
THE FINE PRINT: The Red Bulls signed French soccer star Thierry Henry. He showed up at the press conference with his wife, Posh Henry.