Billy's allergies have become something of a joke among the other pros; I know Billy, and I'm sure he's sincere, but the fact that his allergies never keep him out of the Masters or the U.S. Open or the PGA or the $250,000 Westchester Classic makes some of the guys a little suspicious. They figure Billy ought to just play golf and forget his allergies.
Cas'll be winning his share of the money for a few more years, but I think Palmer's definitely finished and Nicklaus—the Jack Nicklaus we've known for most of the 1960s—is through. I don't think Jack's ever going to have another good year on the tour. Of course, I'm speaking relatively; a bad year for Jack is a great one for almost anyone else. But on sheer talent, on the ability to hit a golf ball far and straight and get it into the cup, Jack ought to win one out of every three tournaments; he's that good. But, like Arnie, Jack doesn't have any goals left; he has nothing to prove.
Actually, I'm hoping that a new superstar comes along or that somebody like Nicklaus makes a tremendous comeback. My reasoning's purely selfish. We need a superstar, somebody colorful, to lift professional golf up to the next plateau, up to where the tournament minimum becomes $150,000 or $200,000, and I know old Frank's not going to fill that bill.
In the locker room I saw Nicklaus, and I thought I might be able to give him a little tip on his putting. I mentioned that he was picking up his putter when he drew it back. The rule is to bring the putter back low and slow.
"I know," Jack said. "I know I'm picking it up. But when I don't pick it up on Bermuda grass, I catch it." Jack didn't sound really depressed, the way I get sometimes, but he wasn't happy, either. I never thought I'd see him having such trouble with this game.
I was really surprised by the way Jack played. He used a new driver, one with a weak, ladylike shaft, and he lost a lot of distance with it, maybe 20 or 25 yards a drive. Every time he got to the top of his backswing that club bent like a bow. A guy like Jack ought to use a stiff shaft. With his strength, he ought to use an ax handle.
Jack is a golf champion, no question about that, one of the greatest players ever. If you judge by the past few years, the four greatest golfers in the world are Nicklaus, Palmer, Casper and Julie Boros. I have nothing against any of them personally, but they're all off by themselves. They're isolated.
Cas tries harder to be friendly than the others do, but he's still in his own world. Palmer and Nicklaus don't have much contact with anybody except each other, and that's mostly because they get thrown together in business deals. I don't think either of them really enjoys the other's company. And Boros doesn't have anything to do with anybody.
What I'm saying has nothing to do with these guys personally. I'm talking about them as champions, about the special life, the special style, of the champions. Leo Durocher once said, "Nice guys finish last." I don't go along with that exactly. I modify it a little. I say, "Nice guys don't finish first." You have to understand my definition of "nice guy." I'm really talking about just one thing. My definition of a nice guy is somebody who puts other people first, who puts their feelings, needs and desires ahead of his own. The opposite side is the guy who always puts himself No. 1 and everybody else second. My idea of the nice guy is somebody like Al Geiberger. He's as sweet a person as you could ever want to meet. He's friendly. He's considerate. And he's a helluva golfer. But he's never been No. 1, and he'll never be No. 1. He isn't egocentric enough. He isn't selfish enough. The No. 1 guys have to be almost totally self-centered (see cover). They have to possess an incredible burning for success. They have to ignore their friends and their enemies and sometimes their families, and they have to concentrate entirely upon winning, upon being No. 1. There's no other way to get to the top.