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Q&A With Nick Price

9 questions with the '94 Open Champion

July 2009

If you've played and struggled with golf, you've probably tried to snap out of a funk by imitating a famous move -- left heel off the ground like Jack, hard rip like Arnold, or perhaps quick strike like Nick Price. Crisp. Nothing wasted. A perfect one-two volley. Price won 18 times on the PGA Tour from 1983 to 2002, and for almost a year after he won the British Open and PGA Championship in '94, he was the No. 1 golfer in the world. Then came Tiger Woods, followed by a decade of equipment revolution that Price says cost him his competitive edge. "It's hard to race if you've only got a four-cylinder engine," he says. "You're not going to have much chance against a bunch of V8s. My engine was out of date by the early 2000s."

Price took his precision game to the Champions Tour in 2007, but it wasn't until earlier this year that he rediscovered his love for competition and won for the first time, in his 39th event. Now 52, Price has found a healthy balance between family and golf that has allowed him to play when he wants -- and skip British Opens and PGA Championships to spend summer vacations with the family.

The British Open returns to Turnberry this year for the first time since you won there in 1994. Are you going to play?
No. I'd rather give my spot to a guy who has a chance to win. Find a 25-year-old Nick Price. I know I can't win since they've made the course longer. I might have gone back without the changes, but I'm not going over there just to try to make the cut. Those days are gone for me.

But you love Turnberry. Where does it rank for you among the Open courses?
Muirfield, St. Andrews and Turnberry are 1-2-3 for me. I'm surprised they haven't gone there more. On a beautiful day with a 10- to 15-mile-an-hour breeze and the sun shining, I don't think there's a prettier golf course to play. It's exquisite.

You've won almost 50 times worldwide, won three majors and were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003. What's your proudest moment in golf?
My proudest moment was taking the claret jug to my mom after I won in '94. For us foreigners, the British is the golf championship of the world. After coming close in '82 [T-2] and '88 [second], to actually have that claret jug and take it to Mom the morning after was special. She lives in Norfolk, England, and I told her, "The main reason I got this is because of you." She's such a great mom. My dad died of cancer when I was 10, so my mom and I became very close and still are.

Were you as surprised as we were that it took you more than two years to win on the Champions Tour?
Yeah, I've had my chances. I'm playing against guys who are still playing a lot. They play as much as when they were in their 20s. I can't do that. I have too many other things going on. Their kids are grown up or in college, so they're like rookies, just playing. I can't dedicate that much time. Plus, my game went south around '04-'05. It's starting to come back. It's fun.

Price

How does Nick Price's game go south?
I lost my game in an effort to hit it farther. My swing went awry, and I'm just sort of getting back to where I was. You adapt in this game or you die, especially as you get into your late 40s.

Could you have done a better job adapting to new equipment technology?
There was no way. My game was really strong in the early '90s, but my strength was driving the ball. You had to be in the top four or five in total driving to win the money list. It was almost a prerequisite. You can't say that's true today. A guy like Vijay was 150th in driving accuracy. That just makes a mockery of the game as far as I'm concerned.

Average driving distance on tour has barely budged since 2003. Do you still think golf needs to roll back the ball?
I think everything needs to be rolled back -- the driver, the ball. Here's a stat: From 1930 to 1996, the ball averaged a foot-per-year increase in distance. Twenty-two yards in 66 years is pretty manageable. From 1995 to 2003, it increased the same amount!

How much has fitness contributed?
Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman were all physically fit, and they didn't hit the ball significantly past the other guys. Fitness does contribute, but the main factors are, the sweet spot is so big now, and the ball's not going to fly off line. If you look at an old persimmon driver head, the sweet spot was about the size of a pea. Now it's bigger than the ball. The art of driving the ball is swinging the club through an arc 20-plus feet and returning it to that point. That's what made great drivers, and that's where you would find cracks in a guy's swing. Especially under pressure.

You told Golf Digest six years ago that you might retire from competitive golf at 54 so you could fish the world and attend some of the big sporting events like Wimbledon and the Monaco Grand Prix. Still thinking that way?
I am. My children are 17, 15 and 12. My son's a high school junior, so he'll be off to college next year. When the middle one goes to college, I'm going to quit and go fishing. I'll play a little bit, but I'll cut back. Golf has dictated my life since I started playing competitively. I've loved every minute of it, but there will come a time when I want to do the many things I've wanted to do. I don't want to be too old. Life is too short. Make the most of it while you can because you never know how long you'll be around.

Walter Iooss Jr.

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