June 12, 2019
By Jerry Stewart
Legend Jack Nicklaus sitting for a one-on-one interview is one thing. Nicklaus being interviewed by another legend is an entirely different thing.
The stars collided Wednesday, as longtime award-winning CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz and Nicklaus got together for a one-on-one interview in front of an audience of members at The Golden Bear’s esteemed The Club at Pasadera in Monterey.
When the U.S. Open was at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 2000, Nicklaus was on hand for the grand opening of the club. This time, Nicklaus was in town to celebrate The Club at Pasadera’s new ownership group and direction.
But there was also some talk regarding Nicklaus’ career and own game–including his famed 1-iron shot on Pebble’s par-3 17th to win the 1972 U.S. Open.
“I love Pebble Beach,” Nicklaus said. “Like I said before, if I had just one round to play, I’d want it to be at Pebble Beach.”
Now age 79, Nicklaus admitted he doesn’t tee it up much anymore. But he’s still got game. On Tuesday, he went out and played a round at mystical Cypress Point Club. He’d go a ho-hum even par through his first 13 holes before settling for a 79.
“On (the famous par-3) 16 I played a second ball. I played it how (Ben) Hogan always did. Hit it on the left side and pitch up,” Nicklaus said.
As per his 1-iron shot on the 17th at Pebble in ’72, which secured a three-shot victory over Bruce Crampton, Nicklaus still recalls all the details.
“No one knows what a 1-iron is anymore,” chuckled Nicklaus. “I had 219 yards and a three-shot lead. I just didn’t want to screw it up.”
Throughout his career, Nicklaus hardly ever mucked things up. Nantz, noting that he wasn’t slighting Tiger Woods, called the Golden Bear “the greatest player of all time” and reminded the audience that while Nicklaus won 18 majors, he was also runner-up an amazing 19 times.
“Choker,” replied Nicklaus to laughs.
But turning more serious, Nicklaus started pondering the what ifs? What if he could have gotten to 20? 25?
“I never counted how many majors I had won,” Nicklaus told Nantz. “When I won at St. Andrews in 1970 a reporter told me that was 10. Then I later passed Hagen (Walter Hagen, who won 11 majors from 1914-1929). I didn’t have a record to chase after that. After turning 40, I played for enjoyment. I was more interested in what my kids were doing. My win at the 1986 Masters was lightning in a bottle. Had I known there would be a guy named Tiger Woods coming, I would’ve worked harder.”
Regardless, at least for now, the 18 majors remains the number to beat. And, at least for one more day, Nantz was there to make the call.