The Loop

The Loop

A quarter century after magical Sunday, Jack is still Jack

April 05, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. --    Famously, as his competitive powers waned, Jack Nicklaus said he didn't want to be a ceremonial golfer. Now, at age 71, he carries ceremony in his hip pocket when he walks in a room. His Masters press conferences have become celebrations of the game and none more so than the meet and greet with the media that took place on the 25th anniversary of his final Masters victory in '86.

The topics are rarely confined to Nicklaus himself, though he did acknowledge he's tried dozens of times to duplicate the putt he hit on the 17th green that Sunday but that it has never broken back toward Rae's Creek at the end the way it did that afternoon. His conversation, for that's what it has become, is more skewed to the state of the game than the state of the Golden Bear. When someone asked him if he thought a player older than him (Nicklaus was, of course, 46 when he won his sixth green jacket) could win, Jack deadpanned, "Somebody over 71?"

When someone else wondered about Tiger Woods breaking Jack's record of 18 major championships, Nicklaus responded with an aging man's homage to time, "If he breaks it, I'd like to be there." Then, more seriously, he added, "The longer it goes, the tougher it's going to be. It's simple mathematics." Even if there's nothing that simple about it.

Nicklaus talked effusively and humorously about his good friend and old foe, Gary Player. "If he worked out one tenth as much as he says he did, he wouldn't have had time to eat," he said, before allowing that pound for pound, Player might be the best golfer who ever lived.

The topics ranged from grandchildren to grand occasions, all with the knowledge that 25 years ago, a 71-year-old man was responsible for one of the grandest.

*-- Jim Moriarty