Imagine one of those commemorative prints, the kind they hang on the wall of a Mixed Foursome Room, such as Ladies' Day at Minchampton, or Jones at the Road Hole, or, for that matter, Deane Beman at Appomattox, and you get an idea of what could be in store for Jack Nicklaus. He has won the Grand Slam of professional golf in 1975 and now he is depicted by the artist in a green jacket from the Masters and a fez from next week's U.S. Open at Medinah, a course the Shriners have contributed to American culture. A cloud of gray mist hovers over his head from the British Open at gloomy Carnoustie, and by his side is a four-ply, steel-belted radial from the National PGA at Firestone.
"You're totally crazy," Nicklaus said the other day. "I can't think about the Slam until after the Open. If I've won at Medinah, then of course it will enter my mind."
It hasn't already? Come clean.
"It has and it hasn't. It has to the extent that I know I'm a better golfer now than I was in 1972 when I won the Masters, and the Open at Pebble Beach, and almost won the British Open at Muir-field with a good last round. But you can't think in terms of all four. There's so much preparation that goes into just one major championship, you can't let yourself think beyond it. I was never more ready to play well in a tournament than I was before Augusta this year. And I knew it. I had never worked any harder on my game, for one thing. Now I'm hoping to regain the same control of the golf ball for Medinah."
Does it trouble you that Medinah is not the best type of Open course for you? It certainly has more trees than any Open course in the last few years. The greens are relatively flat, and may not be as speedy as you would prefer.
"You have to drive straight in any Open. It's a strong golf course. In the Western Open at Medinah in 1962, I think I shot 291 and tied for sixth. The winner shot 281. I don't think there's a 'my kind of course' anymore considering the caliber of players we have today. We've all won at places where we weren't expected to, like me at Harbour Town. It depends on your game that week."
But it can hardly be to your liking that Medinah will be the kind of course where almost anybody could shoot low if he's on, or high if he's hitting it crooked. In the only other Open there Middlecoff shot a couple of 75s, but he also shot a 67 and a 69. In other words, unlike the killer Winged Foot last year, Medinah can yield.
"You can't shoot much lower than Miller and Weiskopf did in the last two rounds at Augusta. Medinah has an interesting group of finishing holes, from about the 13th in, where anything can happen. It has this in common with the Augusta National."
Three times in the past you've won two major championships in the same year. Incidentally, Jones and Hogan are the only other players who could say that. And you've been flirting with the Slam for four years. But you're an even better golfer now? In what way?
"I'm a much better driver and a better wedge player. I knew this going into the Masters. When I came out of Doral and Harbour Town my swing pattern was just like I wanted it. But there was one thing I didn't know. I didn't know if I could still win a major championship. That's why the Masters was important."