Nicklaus enjoys his new image, which is that of a man who has taken on the look of a celebrity. His dress is neat yet individualistic, at times even colorfully mod. His hair is long now and golden. And he's trim. As his wife Barbara has said, "He's getting too cute."
With it all, Nicklaus has emerged as friendly, immensely articulate, at times very humorous. In effect, a true statesman of the game.
"Yeah, I like whatever my so-called image is now," he grins. "I guess you could say I like myself better. What was I coming out 10 years ago? A fat kid with a crew cut who beat Arnold when nobody wanted him to lose."
If Jack Nicklaus is ripe to win the Masters, it could be for no better reason than the simple fact that he has not won it for five years. The only man ever to win it back to back, and the man who co-holds the course record (64), and holds the 72-hole record (271), has not taken the Masters since 1966. And that is too long, on his course, with his game, with his desire.
What saves the Masters, as well as the sport itself, are all of those Charlie Coodys who are waiting to pounce when Nicklaus mysteriously fails. For like Jones and Hogan and Palmer, Jack Nicklaus has finally arrived at a point in history when his losing makes almost as much news as his winning.
And that, as somebody surely must have said before now, is true fame.