Nicklaus has a slightly different view of the difficulty, and the day after he left Augusta he began to make what would amount to a significant change in his game. As an amateur and a young pro, he had always faded the ball, depending on his tremendous strength to make up for the loss of overspin that one gets from a hooked shot. But after he had been on the pro tour for a while, where faders are not in fashion, he began to hook the ball. He once jokingly said, "You don't feel like you are part of it out here if you don't hook." It is the hook that has contributed to his wild-ness, and Jack is now telling himself he never wants to hit another one. He is working to regain his fade and was hitting the ball to the right last week in the Tournament of Champions at Las Vegas.
When Nicklaus began this year with a win at the Crosby he had hopes this would be the truly big season—perhaps even the Grand Slam year—that he has shown he is capable of. Now it has become more of a rebuilding year, but there is little doubt that he will manage to get his swing grooved again.
Player is yet another case. He has flatly decided on a very limited tournament schedule, even though he knows that competition is the answer for what is wrong with his game. "My family is too important to me," he said one night during the Masters. "I don't want my children to grow up through years in which I have always been away. Right now I am playing a lot better than some people think I am, but I am not scoring well because of my chipping. There are not many courses where you can practice chip shots, and you need competition to keep them sharp. When you don't play enough, that is where it shows." And it did show at Augusta, where Player repeatedly failed to save pars when he had missed greens. But none of this is going to change his plans.
"I have proved what I can do," Gary said. "I know what you have to do to be on top. But you have to keep doing it. You can be famous this year, have the gallery with you, but if you don't keep winning you won't have the same thing two years from now. You have to keep performing in golf, keep winning, and the only way to do this is to blot everything else out of your life.
"What I really hope is that I can keep doing things as I am now. I hope that a year or two from now I'm not going to suddenly think, 'Gary, you could still be the best, and you've got to prove it. You've got to get out there and play 30 tournaments and be the leading money winner again just to show them how good you are.' I really hope I don't decide to do that."
In retrospect, the final noteworthy thing about the Masters was something that has been thoroughly analyzed already but still must be mentioned—the courage of Gay Brewer. It was splendid to see and fitting, too, considering the unfortunate lapse that cost him the Masters on the 18th green the year before. But more than that, it proved that Brewer is a golfer who is now quite ready to win any tournament. Part of Brewer's success is that he struggled for a long time with a hook and has since become a fader. He has stuck with the fade, even on courses like Augusta, which appear to give the right-to-left golfer a big advantage. He has also made another decision: to become an aggressive golfer. After a number of lackluster years, of which he says, "I had an inferiority complex," he read Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking and two or three other psychology books. Somewhere they must have contained the message that a man with a loop in his backswing can succeed on the pro tour. There is no doubt that Brewer was both aggressive and nerveless on the last nine at Augusta. Nothing short of that would have sufficed to hold off runner-up Bobby Nichols, who also happens to be an old friend of Brewer's.
"Well, how about that?" said Nichols, when told last week about Brewer and Dr. Peale. "I didn't think Gay had ever read a book in his life."