Shooting the Breeze with Jack

By Rich LernerDecember 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
Editor's note: Golf Channel reporter Rich Lerner spent some time recently with Jack Nicklaus at The Del Webb Father/Son Challenge at ChampionsGate, Fla. Here is part of their casual conversation.
RL: You were always known as an intimidating player. Who was the most intimidating opponent for you to handle?
JN: (Lee) Trevino was probably the most intimidating player for the simple reason that he talked all the time. You could never get away from him. As a result you were thinking about him and he wanted you to think about him. That was an intimidating factor to me.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus' final major was in the 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
RL: How intimidating is Tiger (Woods)?
JN: Tiger doesnt even have to play well. He just has to show up and be near the lead. Everybody gets intimidated just by the name Tiger. I dont think anybody does it on purpose. I dont think anyone is trying to intentionally do something. I certainly never did. The only thing I did was try to play the best I could. If that was intimidating then its intimidating. I dont think Tiger tries to do anything. He just does it. Arnold (Palmer) was just loved by the people. Trevino? He just liked to talk. You have to remember that golf is really an individual game. You cant control anything but yourself so you have to go out and control your own emotions and control your own inner self and stay focused on what youre doing.
RL: This April will be the 10-year anniversary of Tigers 1997 Masters win. What do you remember about that?
JN: I remember he shot 40 for the first nine holes and I guess I was driving to the airport after the last round and heard that he was making birdie after birdie after birdie. And I said, 'Well, I guess my (tournament scoring) records gonna go,' and just went on to the airport.
RL: Where do you think hes headed?
JN: The way he plays and as good as he is and with his work ethic who knows what his limits are? I think his limits are only what he wants to make them. Hes a good kid. He handles himself well. Hes considerate of the other guys. He doesnt try to intimidate anybody. He just does it with his golf game, with his golf clubs. Thats where he does his talking. And I think thats the way it should be done. Hes as good as Ive ever seen.
RL: Ive always wondered about the pose you struck on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach at the 2000 U.S. Open when you sat on the fence.
JN: I said, 'Id like to have a picture of me on the 18th tee.' Seriously, thats exactly what I thought: Id like to have a picture of me on the 18th hole! I said, 'Somebody will get a good picture of this. That will be my last hole at the US Open.' And they did. And thats the picture everybody ran. But the funny part about it is I never planned anything in my life that way. But I did. I said, 'I think Ill walk over and sit down and theyll get a good picture of this and I think one leg should be up,' and I choreographed it perfectly and got a nice picture. I just wanted it for me. I didnt really want it for the world, but it was OK!
RL: What about your farewell at St. Andrews last year when you stopped to wave on the Swilcan Bridge?
JN: I was gonna do that. That was one I couldnt avoid, but that was also a great picture. There was a friend of mine who took this picture down to get it framed. Now, you want to talk about an experience to bring you back down to earth. He went back down and said Id like to get the picture back and the guy said, 'You mean the one with the man in front of the house?' That was the description of the picture: Man in front of house!
RL: Not 'Legend at Old Course'?
JN: No, 'Man in front of house'!
RL: What are your favorite holes in golf?
JN: Holes that meant a lot to me. Fifteenth at Augusta; 16th at Augusta; 13th at Augusta; 12th (at Augusta) -- those are all favorite holes of mine because I played them well and they were strategic holes for me. The eighth hole at Pebble -- that whole stretch has always been one of my favorites. I love the 14th hole at Murifield Village, a little short par-4. I think its spectacular. I always loved the 10th at Riviera, a little short par-4. Ive copied the idea of that hole 20 times on golf courses. Its a wonderful strategic, little golf hole. The 18th at Riviera Ive always liked. Its an uphill, blind tee shot just like the eighth hole at Pebble -- a lousy tee shot but a wonderful second. Ive always loved the scene coming up the 18th at Baltusrol. There are certain shots that you like and certain scenes that are part of your career and part of your life, like the 18th and 17th at St. Andrews. I mean the 18th at St. Andrews is a nothing golf hole but what it is, where it is, and all the things that happened there, all that makes it spectacular. I mean the 17th, the shot into the Road Hole is one of the toughest shots there is. I love the little par-3, the 12th hole at Lytham; its one of my favorites. Ive copied the theory of that hole many times. I like the collection bunker there.
RL: Whats your view of 17 at Pebble, where you hit flag in the 72 Open?
JN: Seventeen at Pebble Beach to me was a hole where you were not necessarily rewarded for what you did. You had to get a little bit lucky. My ball had to hit the pin. It could have gone through the green. That was a wonderful golf shot but I couldve been penalized by it. And to me, I like a hole where you get actually what youve done and not where you can end up with a screwy result. I dont like screwy results.
RL: Speaking of screwy results, Carnousties back in the major rotation next summer. It doesnt get any screwier than 1999, does it?
(Jack shakes his head and raises his eyes skyward.)
JN: I talked to Jean (Van de Velde) about it afterwards and I said, 'Jean why?' and he said, 'Its just a golf tournament,' and I said, 'Jean, its not just a golf tournament; this is your life, this is your career.' And he sort of took a lighthearted approach to it. He picked the wrong club off the tee and got away with it. Now all hes got to do is take a 9-iron and a 9-iron and win by three strokes. You talk about giving away a tournament! That was the worst display of giving away something Ive ever seen. I feel badly for him. He lost his place in history. Or maybe he gained a place in history, I dont know?
RL: Who were the greatest characters in the game when you played?
JN: (Sam) Snead was a character. He was a piece of work. Trevino was a real piece of work. Gary was a piece of work. I suppose we all are in ways. There wasnt more of a character than Lee Trevino. Lees wonderful. I love Lee. Hes a terrific guy and the older hes gotten, the better hes gotten as a personality and a person. But the things he used to say to people? Ohhhhh! He was the only guy in the world who could get away with it! He was wonderful.
RL: Any stories?
JN: Nothing you could put on the air.
RL: We dont seem to see as many characters today.
JN: I think the guys today travel with their business agents, their fitness guy, their mind guru and their teacher. Theyve got their entourage. When we started out on tour I mean, sure, I had a plane, Ive had it since my second year on tour, but we used to go to motels and wives would look after other wives kids while they went and watched their husbands play and the next day theyd switch around. Nowadays, guys pick their courses based on how good the day care center is. I mean this is ridiculous. We took care of our kids. Thats the way it is today. They have everything handed to them and as a result, I dont think you become much of a character.
RL: Curious, what do you think of Johnny Miller as an announcer?
JN: I sit down with him a lot and talk to him about it. He says, I just say it like I see it, and I say Yeah, but dont be rude; be a little careful of somebodys feelings with what you say. Youre supposed to call it the way you see it, thats your job, thats why you get good ratings, but be careful. And Johnny says, Youre right. I think Johnny does a good job.
RL: Youre talking about his harsh analysis of Craig Parrys swing at Doral, where he used the word puke?
JN: Thats the kind of stuff Johnny and I have talked about. I say, Johnny, you dont have to say that.
RL: How much did you enjoy your travels with Arnold in your early days?
JN: Arnold and I had some great times traveling through the years. Arnold was great to me when I was young. Arnold had a plane when I first started and we used to travel a lot to play in exhibitions and we got in his Aero Commander 500 and off wed go and the two of us would bounce around in the sky and off wed go to play an exhibition in 30-mile-an-hour winds and laugh about it and get back in the plane and go to the next place.
RL: People might say, 'I thought you were fierce and bitter rivals.'
JN: We were! Even when we got out of the airplane and went and played the round of golf wed try to beat each others brains out. Wed get back in the airplane and had a great time. But thats competition. That was the fun of it.
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm