Jack Nicklaus plays hardly any golf these days, but he still has a lot to say about the game. Nicklaus, who will turn 71 Friday, didn't hold back when he did a telephone interview for 15 minutes Tuesday morning on Golf Channel's new show Morning Drive.
On the state of his game: "I play once a month and I never hit balls. I played last month and I hit the ball so badly I then hit balls the next two days. If I break 80, I feel like I'm playing well."
Nicklaus said he's probably not played a complete round since he holed a birdie putt on the last hole of his second round in the 2005 Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, where he missed the cut. He's not exactly right there, in that he's played a bit on the Champions Tour. Nicklaus and Tom Watson won the Champions Skins Game in Maui last year and will defend their title Jan. 28-30.
Mind you, the format is alternate-shot, so in that sense Nicklaus won't be playing a full medal play round.
On his record 18 major championship wins: "I never thought about [the number] one way or the other. Eighteen was just the number I ended up at. I didn't play much from 40-50; I caught lighting in a bottle at the '86 Masters (which Nicklaus won). But for all intents and purposes my career was over at 40. I never worked at it maybe as I should have after that. Had I known Tiger was coming along I might have. But that's okay."
Woods has 14 major titles and has said his goal is to surpass Nicklaus's record.
On golf's rules: "The whole rule book should be redone. The game should be simple. A USGA guy told me last week that it's harder to pass the rules test than the bar [admission]exam."
Viewers of a certain age remember Johnny Carson playing Carnac the Magnificent on his show: Carnac, the mystic from the East who knew everything. The appellation has been applied to Nicklaus as well. But it's not as if he hasn't been there, done that, and won everything there is to win in golf.
Okay, he never did win the Canadian Open. He finished second seven times. He couldn't win the tournament - once called the "fifth major," and yes, that's true - even on the Glen Abbey course in Oakville, Ont., which he designed. But he's Nicklaus. And Nicklaus knows. When he talks, golfers listen. And, no doubt, the number of viewers increases.
ALSO FROM LORNE RUBENSTEIN:
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 11 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider's Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); and his latest, This Round's on Me (2009). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .