This week’s Augusta National-centric Bamberger Briefly will bring you Masters tidbits straight from the man, Jack Nicklaus, culled from a recent wide-ranging interview. [Interview lightly edited.]
This week, Tiger Woods will try to win his sixth green jacket. In other words, he’s trying to catch Big Jack, who has a record six Masters titles.
This week, Phil Mickelson (among others) will try to become the oldest golfer ever to win a Masters. He’s 50. Good luck, Phil. Nicklaus won his sixth Masters in 1986 at age 46. Nobody older has ever won it, in part because putting those Augusta National greens is a young man’s game.
On Thursday morning, Jack Nicklaus, who is 80, and Gary Player, 85, will stand on the first tee at Augusta and hit ceremonial tee shots to begin this delayed playing of the 84th Masters. Today, and again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we bring you some Masters tidbits straight from the man, culled from a wide-ranging interview he gave to GOLF.com at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla. The interview was done primarily by Sean Zak. I lit the kindling and started things off by asking Nicklaus about Herbert Warren Wind, the longtime golf writer who coined the term “Amen Corner” and helped Nicklaus in his writing of The Greatest Game of All.
“Herb Wind was wonderful,” Nicklaus said. “How would you describe him. As an iconoclast maybe? He was just sort of different. He was so compassionate about what was going on. He very much cared, he was very obviously very cerebral.”
Wind was cerebral, and he was educated. He graduated from Yale in 1937, where he played on the golf team. He later received a Master’s degree in literature from Cambridge in England.
“Herb made a statement to me after about three or four years of playing,” Nicklaus said. “I wasn’t having one of my better years and he said, ‘Think about it: If you just win one [major] a year, it’ll add up a nice number.’ You don’t think about that. I never thought about that. He was probably about right, wasn’t he?”
Woods, who has 15 career majors, second only to Nicklaus’s 18, has often said something similar. In his effort to get to 18, he has said, “You don’t do it all at once. You do it over a career.” It seems obvious but it’s worth noting. Golf’s greatest careers are long.
In came Sean: “I’m always curious about that because it’s so hard to win majors.”
“No, its’s not,” Nicklaus said.
“Well you don’t think so, but for a lot of people it’s this daunting thing. Once they go a year winning one, people consider it a failure.”
Young Zak was speaking of the game’s elites: A Rory McIlroy, a Brooks Koepka, a Phil Mickelson.
“I do,” Nicklaus said.
When Nicklaus was in his prime, he loathed the idea of leaving Augusta without a green coat. It meant he couldn’t win the Grand Slam that year. And he never did. Woods didn’t either, but he did win four straight majors over a two-year period, the 2000 U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, followed by the 2001 Masters. The so-called Tiger Slam.
Whomever wins the Masters this week will be in position to do something nobody has ever done before: win two Masters titles in the space of a half-year. If Tiger can do that, he’ll have seven green jackets and 17 majors.
But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. Jack hasn’t even started the proceedings yet.
More from him tomorrow.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.