Jack Nicklaus has shared his secrets and strategy about Augusta National with anyone who wanted to learn from a six-time Masters champion, a list that includes Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Nicolas Colsaerts. But not Tiger Woods.
Nicklaus said he’s never had a sit-down with the man who is trying to break his records.
In fact, he said they hardly talk at all.
“I never really had a conversation with Tiger that lasted more than a minute or two — ever,” Nicklaus said Thursday morning after hitting the ceremonial tee shot. “He stayed away from me from a conversation standpoint. Never had a conversation on the Masters in general. I’ve said, ‘Hello, how are you doing? Nice playing this year. You’ve played very well.’ End of conversation. People ask me, ‘Has Tiger ever talk to you about his record?’ Never one word.”
Nicklaus said he was surprised Woods hasn’t talked to him about the Masters, though he’s not the least bit offended. Woods, after all, figured out the course quickly. He won the Masters three times in his first six years as a pro.
“He’s got his own focus and what he does, and I respect that,” Nicklaus said. “I respect when somebody is involved in their deal. They concentrate on what they do and not what you did. That’s OK. It’s not my position to go talk to him about it. I respect that. I wouldn’t intrude on that.”
It offered some insight into the relationship between Woods and Nicklaus, with whom he has been linked ever since Woods was a kid and kept a timeline of the milestones Nicklaus achieved in his career.
“We actually probably have more conversations in years at the Presidents Cup when he’s captain,” Woods said after opening with a 70 in the first round at the Masters. “I see him at Memorial. We’ll have a chit-chat here or there. We have a few conversations here and there. But he’s right. We haven’t spent that much time. Here is a totally different week. It’s a major championship. We’re all in our own little world. He gets it. He was there himself.”
Nicklaus was Presidents Cup captain four times. He runs the press conference for winners at Memorial, which Woods has won five times. Nicklaus shared one story from the Presidents Cup when he noticed Woods and Phil Mickelson spending time together. Nicklaus had ready plenty of stories about the tension between them.
“I said, ‘You guys seem to get along.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we get along fine.’ I said, ‘What all this about that other stuff?’ He says, ‘I don’t know. Just press stuff.’ So I said, ‘You guys want to play together?’ And he said, ‘I’d rather not.’
“The point being, he’s got a little bit of his number,” Nicklaus said. “And he doesn’t want anyone to get really close to him because he feels like he’s got a little dominance over them. I understand that. You’ve got to respect that.”
Nicklaus and Woods played together only once in the majors, the opening two rounds of the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. They also were teammates in the old “Battle at Bighorn.” Woods once told a story of asking Nicklaus about all the rivalries he faced during three decades, and how Nicklaus told him, “Just make sure you’re always part of the conversation.” Nicklaus said even that chat in South Africa didn’t last very long.
Woods moved from Orlando, Fla., to the West Palm Beach area last year after building a home along the ocean with his own miniature range. The speculation was which golf club Woods might join, and he settled on The Medalist. Several other pros are members at The Bear’s Club, which Nicklaus built as his home course in Florida.
“I asked him when he came to Florida if we wanted to come to The Bear’s Club,” Nicklaus said. “He stayed away from it. He didn’t want to intrude where I was. He never told me why, but other people told me, ‘He says he didn’t feel comfortable being there where I was because that was a record he was trying to break.’ I said, ‘I don’t care about that. We’d like to have if you want to play and be part of it.’ He comes out and plays quite often. I’d include him in everything.
“But everybody has their own personality. That’s not a fault. It’s not a criticism. It just is what it is.”