AUGUSTA, Ga. — With no offense to the GOAT, I’ve always found Jack Nicklaus to be a touch dry in his press conferences. That was not the case at all during his Tuesday visit with the media at Augusta National.
It started the moment the Golden Bear walked into the new – and absolutely massive –media center. “So this is the new press shack, huh?” he said as he took a seat.
He was just getting started.
Here are six quotes that had the entire assembled press laughing, ranked in order of pure Jack-ness.
1. When asked about the Lexi Thompson rules controversy…
“I mean, if you’re going to penalize somebody, penalize them. At least let them know and that’s when they have the ability to be able to correct it, or try to do the best they can. I mean, I had a big argument with Mike Davis about that at the Open [when Dustin Johnson was retroactively hit with a two-stroke penalty]. I said, ‘You can’t do that to the guy,’ Davis says, ‘Oh, we did it the right way.’
“I said, ‘Mike, I don’t think so. That was not the right way to do it. You need to really — you’ve got to tell the kid right away and he’s got to know where he stands.’
“Mike said, ‘No, I think you’re wrong.’
“Well, okay. I went to Ireland and next day I’m coming back from Ireland and Mike Davis found me over the Atlantic. And he says, ‘Jack, I want to apologize. I think you were right.’
“And I thought that was very nice that he did that. The USGA, you don’t often hear them say they think they were wrong very often.”
2. When asked if he had kept any of his balls from his six Masters wins…
“I gave most of them to the Club here. I felt like sort of an idiot at the presentation in 1963, I walked off the green and Ralph Hutchinson, I was getting ready to throw the ball out in the gallery. Ralph said, ‘No, no, no.’ He says, ‘Give that to Bob Jones at the presentation. So I gave Bob Jones the golf ball, I finished with at the presentation, and I felt like sort of an idiot. He says, ‘What?’ He looked at me like, ‘Why are you giving me the ball.’
“So I didn’t give him anymore balls. I thought one was enough.”
3. When asked if he ever found himself trying too hard while playing Augusta National…
“It’s a golf course that on a few occasions during my career, and ’65 was probably the time that I had zero problem with this golf course. I was hitting the ball a long way. The golf course, the greens were firm but they were holding. I was only hitting 9‑irons and wedging into them. It was a very easy game and never got off balance that week because I shot 271, is that what I shot, something like that.
“But then came right back the next year and I said, ‘Well, they’ve raised the height of the fairways.’
“‘Oh, no, we would never do that.’ Yeah, right. They can control this thing pretty much however they want it.”
4. When asked to say something about Arnold Palmer that doesn’t get said enough…
“Our wives were close friends. I always love ‑‑ well here’s something. Barbara said it. I don’t know if I’ve said it very much. But she said that she thought Winnie handled her life, Arnold’s life and their life better than anybody that she had ever seen.
“Well how did she do that?
“She said, ‘Well, on Tuesday if I got mad at Arnold, I would be afraid to say anything because I was afraid of ruining his game. And then when Sunday night rolled around and I could say something, I had forgotten what I was mad at him about.’”
5. When asked how he felt about a handful of green jackets recently being sold at auction…
“Are you serious? Champions? Really? Goodness. I didn’t know that. I wonder what I could get for this? Well, they probably knew that I might do that so they didn’t give me one until 1998. That’s the first one I got.”
6. When asked if he thought Jason Day’s family-man lifestyle could make Day a better golfer…
“You know, I just happened to start my family early. Barbara and I, we decided when we were about 20 years old that we’d like to get married and have kids and we didn’t want to wait to have kids. We wanted to grow up with our kids, so that’s what we did. And so we got married and we waited 14 months before our first one. Sometimes the first one usually comes anytime. The second one takes nine [months].”