Talking Shop With the Bear on Tiger – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, golfers – Interview
Jack Nicklaus was flying on Sept. 11. But he was back in his Florida office in time for the first anthrax report. So much is up in the air these days. “We spend our lives in the air,” Nicklaus said, “but we have to keep going, don’t we?”
He has certainly been trying to keep going. “I’m worried about getting this body working again,” he said. “It’s shot. My hip’s fine [of course, his hip’s not even three years old], but the rest of me . . . My feet are improved, but my foot has gone from an E width to a 6E. Look at that bunion there and that hammertoe. I broke the bone right back in here about three years ago. It still hurts a little but not too much anymore. I’ve got arthritis in my hand, my thumb, my forefinger. I can’t close my hands anymore. I’m a mess.”
But that night on television, he picked up another crystal globe from the Shell Company.
At 58, Nicklaus was still tieing for sixth in the Masters. At 62 he won’t stop trying to do wonderful things. Meanwhile, he continues to be the standard.
“Jack and I understand each other,” Tiger Woods said, “just because of the way we play. I definitely sense something when I’m around him. We’re a lot alike.”
Reciprocating, Nicklaus said, “I think I know what he does and what his motives are, how he plays the game. He has an attitude about what he’s doing that I like a lot. It’s very similar to what mine was. He doesn’t seem to be influenced by the outside pressures. He knows the things he has to do to prepare himself. Money isn’t an issue with him. He’s interested in winning. The point is, after you’ve done everything or won everything, what keeps you wanting to compete? People say, with all this money, Tiger’s going to lose his desire. I say, I don’t think so.
“He set a goal–to break my records–and that’s going to stay his goal until he does it. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t break my records. Very surprised.”
“It’s an awfully long haul,” I said.
“At the rate he’s going, it’s not such an awfully long haul.”
“Even if he wins the 18 majors, he’s not going to finish second in 19 others.”
Or third in nine more.
Tiger’s short game is undeniably better than Jack’s. “Yes, he’s more complete,” Nicklaus said. “Tiger wasn’t as big a kid growing up. He probably needed a short game more than I did.” As for driving the ball: “I think he may drive it a little farther off line even than I did. To be honest, considering today’s ball, I don’t know who was longer. How could you tell? But I think I may have been a little more accurate at times, and he may be a little longer at times.”
Iron play: “I don’t think there’s a nickel’s difference between the two of us.” Putting: “He’s as good a distance putter as I’ve ever seen. Of course, I was an awfully good distance putter.”
Jack missed a necessary putt at the ’63 Crosby. But can anyone think of another putt on an 18th green that he had to have and didn’t make?
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