8 Masters musings from a riveting interview with Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus at the Masters.

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will kick off the Masters on Thursday at Augusta National (although this time without fans).

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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. Part I, on Monday, covered the feat this year’s winner will be in position to accomplish that no one has before. Part 2, on Tuesday, was on the shot that won Tiger Woods the 2019 Masters. Part 3, on Wednesday, was on player-caddie relationships.

And now it all begins. Thursday at Augusta. The Masters. Some of the most interesting hours of my life have been spent hearing Jack Nicklaus talk about the Masters, or hearing Jack at the Masters talk about golf. My colleague Sean Zak had a taste of what that’s all about when he and I talked with Nicklaus about golf and Augusta last month at Nicklaus’s home in North Palm Beach, Fla. Afterward, Sean and I went out for nine holes of golf on a public course Nicklaus designed in North Palm Beach. Good times.

Here. Lightly edited, are some cutting-room floor bits from our session with Nicklaus. More good times. Merry Masters to all, and to all a good week!

On whether Nicklaus watched the scoreboards at Augusta:

“I looked at the scoreboard. I think if you don’t look at the scoreboard, you’re an idiot.”

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On being color blind and looking at an Augusta National scoreboard, in 1963, with its red numbers for being under par:

“I have trouble seeing red and green, separating them. I’m red-green color blind. I looked up at the board, there were maybe half a dozen 1s on that board. And I looked at Willie [Peterson, his caddie], and I said ‘Willie, how many of those 1s are red?’ He says, ‘Just you, boss.’”

On playing Augusta National:

“I think that Augusta is a pretty straight-forward golf course, except for about six shots.”

They are: tee shot on 2, approach shot on 11, tee shot on 12, first and second shots on 13, second shot on 15.

On whether golf’s governing bodies will introduce new requirements on golf-ball design:

“It looks to me, at least hearing from the USGA and the R&A, that they’re going to do something with the golf ball here probably next year. They would have probably done something this year, but because of Covid they didn’t. I think they’ll bring the golf ball back.”

On whether Masters officials could have a ball just for Masters play:

“They could, and I think that Augusta thought about it and considered it for a while. But I think they felt like that would put them above the rules of the game of golf. And so I think that they would like to see the golf ball come back a little bit. I think most the players would like to see the golf ball come back. You ask any of the players and they give you an honest answer, they say, ‘It’s a joke.’ They’re not going to say that [publicly], simply because the manufacturers won’t let them say that.”

On Augusta’s second hole, a downhill par-5:

“I think the second hole is a terrible golf hole. I think it’s the worst hole in championship golf. And the reason I say that is you’ve got a bunker on the right side of the fairway that should be on the left side of the fairway. If you hit the hole properly down the left side, you’ve got all the trees hanging out, you’ve got a green that wants to accept a left-to-right shot. You’re standing on your head. The only thing you can play is a hook in a green that doesn’t want it. That’s not a good golf hole.”

On Augusta’s best holes:

“Ten, 12 and 13.”

A par-4, a par-3, a par-5. A golf course in three holes.

On why he played so well at Augusta for so long:

“I just learned the golf course.”

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.

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Michael Bamberger

Golf.com

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and contributes to GOLF.com. He also participates in podcasts, primarily in tandem with Alan Shipnuck. Earlier in his career, he was a senior writer for Sports Illustrated for 23 years and a reporter on The Philadelphia Inquirer for nine years before that. He has written a half-dozen books about golf and other subjects. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on a utility golf club called the E-Club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.