The 2012 golf season has been interesting, entertaining and full of storylines. Golf fans have seen the rise of Rory McIlroy as the game’s best player, Ernie Els got back into the winner’s circle at a major, Tiger Woods has returned to win three tournaments and would be Player of the Year if not for McIlroy, the debate about whether the belly-putter should be taken away from the game has picked up steam and the season isn’t even over yet. With the Tour Championship this week and the Ryder Cup on the Horizon, Greg Norman came out with some surprising comments about Tiger. Norman made mention that the golfer who always used to put fear in the competition, Tiger Woods, is intimidated by the 23-year-old McIlroy. Jack Nicklaus gave his thoughts on it all.
Jack Nicklaus joined ESPN 980 in Washington D.C. to talk about Greg Norman’s comments about Tiger Woods being intimidated by Rory McIlroy, on the pressure Tiger has put on himself in the chase for 18 majors, why he always kept his cool on the golf course, if he thinks the golf ball needs to be dialed back or if the driver size needs to be smaller and what he thinks about the long putter.
What he makes of Greg Norman’s comments about Tiger Woods being intimidated by Rory McIlroy:
“Quiet Greg, quiet. Down boy. I think Tiger had a pretty darn good year this year. It’s the first time he has gotten himself back into contention in the majors, he didn’t finish them and I think by his own admission he said he had a hard time finishing them. That’s like anything else. He had a pretty big event in his life that changed a lot of things and he has to learn how to go back and play again. I think he’s learned how to play again, now he has to learn how to finish again. I think Tiger has a lot of wins left in him. He does have a lot more competition. During the couple of years when Tiger wasn’t really there all of the sudden you have Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and I could probably name a half dozen other guys that have all won and learned how to win in Tiger’s absence. They’re not scared of him anymore. Before Tiger just showed up coming down the stretch and everybody said ‘oh there’s Tiger and I wilt.’ They don’t do that anymore. Tiger’s got his work cut out for him but I don’t think Tiger is by any means finished. I just think Tiger is too good of an athlete and too good of a player.”
On the pressure Tiger has put on himself in the chase for 18 majors:
“If I were him I would find that very difficult and to get where he’s gotten to I think is pretty good. In my case Bobby Jones had 13 majors and frankly I never even counted them, that’s the honest truth. I came into the press tent in 1970 at the British Open and Bob Greene, the AP guy, says to me he says ‘Jack that’s 10. Only three more to tie Bobby Jones.’ I said ‘what are you talking about?’ He said ‘that’s your 10th major win.’ I said ‘oh really?’ Seriously I had no clue because we never counted. It wasn’t important. We were just playing golf and if we won the U.S. Open we won the U.S. Open. If we won the British Open we won the British Open but then all of a sudden I started counting too and once I got past 13 it was just a number beyond that point. Now all of the sudden my number became 18. Tiger comes along and he’s had that on his closet forever and for him, that’s all he thought about is how am I going to win 18 majors? That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid for his whole life I think. His dad did a really good job with Tiger, teaching him how to play golf and how to handle himself as a young man and I think Tiger has been great for the game of golf. He hasn’t done a bad job of winning.”
Why he always kept his cool on the golf course:
“You don’t really accomplish anything by getting mad. Some people get mad and it charges them up but I always found that if I got my emotions too high by making two or three putts and I got really excited than I wouldn’t be concentrating the way wanted to on the next one. Likewise the same thing if I got upset so I tried all my life and people said ‘well Jack doesn’t have a lot of emotion.’ I had plenty of emotion I just contained it because to me it would work against me if I did it the other way. I was 11-years-old when I threw that golf club. I hit the shot in the bunker and I threw the club almost in the bunker from behind it. My dad said ‘go pick your ball up’ and we left. Pulled me off the golf course. (Host: Were you stunned?) Yeah but it was the best lesson I ever had. I did the same thing with my oldest boy before the ’72 Open at Pebble Beach. We were playing Spyglass, we played the first hole and he got done and was whacking clubs and we walked clear down that hill and I said ‘okay we’re off the course.’ We walked right back up the hill. He never forgot it. It’s something, hey if you want to play this game you have to play it right and you have to treat it right. My dad always said, he said you know ‘if a guy plays well and he beats you then smile and shake his hand and make him feel like he really did something.’ If you’re done and you want to go into the locker room and beat your head against the locker that’s your own business but while you’re out there you handle yourself properly and be genuine about it.”
If they have to dial back the golf ball or the size of the driver:
“I think both. I think it all starts with the golf ball. I think the USGA will probably end up doing that in the not-too-distant future. (Host: How about a tour ball?) More for the game of golf. The game of golf has three problems. It’s too hard, it’s too expensive and it takes too long. If they dialed the golf ball back it would reduce all those costs. The costs of maintaining the golf course, the cost of land and all those things would be dialed back and as an added benefit there’s only one golf course in this country that is not obsolete to the pros and that’s Augusta National, they’re the only people that have enough money to build the golf course and do the things they needed to do. Every time they have an event what do they do? Build new tees, new bunkers and do everything. It doesn’t make any sense. The simplest thing to do is fix the golf ball.”
Whether he thinks the long putter needs to be banned:
“That’s the other thing. To me the long putter, I’ve tried it and I can’t use it but that doesn’t make any difference. (Host: Would you ban it?) I’m sort of in the middle of the road. I don’t know how much it really helps and I know a lot of guys, Arnold (Palmer) is very strong that it should be banned, I think something anchored to your body is probably not in the nature of what the game of golf is and up until Keegan Bradley won, nobody had ever won a major with one so I didn’t think much about it but my guess is it will probably go.”