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
July 25, 2010
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.