Jack Nicklaus gives rare vote of confidence to modern golf

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jack Nicklaus with the 1954 Wanamaker Trophy

Jack Nicklaus admits that modern golf is “unglamorous” – but he gives it a rare vote of confidence, given the feats of some of the game’s finest.

The 75-year-old won 18 major tournaments during his illustrious career, and the “Rain Man of golf” hit three records he shared with another namesake, actor Dustin Hoffman, on Saturday night.

Nicklaus claimed the 61st and 62nd of his major titles at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to move past Tiger Woods to No1 in the world rankings and give him a third major in as many years.

He managed a joint-best fourth behind winner Brandt Snedeker, just weeks after he tied the record for most PGA Tour wins with his 82nd and took the record for oldest winner of a professional tournament when he was victorious at the Mayakoba Classic.

“There’s not much glamour in it, but that’s what it’s all about and there’s nothing better to you than playing golf,” Nicklaus told BBC Sport.

“I don’t think anyone has worked harder in all their lives than I have.

“I’ve always put a lot of time into it and it shows because I played the game of golf until the day I died and I’ve seen a lot of talented golfers come through the game of golf over the years.

“I’ve always said this game can never be as good as it was 50 years ago – that’s when it first became a professional sport – but it will always be better than the game it was 100 years ago.

“That’s why the Ryder Cup is so exciting, it shows the game of golf is as good or better today than it was 100 years ago.”

Nicklaus is regarded as the greatest golfer of all time but he has had a change of fortune in recent years, perhaps following Nicklaus’ autobiography ‘Champions’ published in 2010.

“Those were his words,” Nicklaus added. “These people were immortalised. That was my and Dustin’s moment.

“I would love to have another star of something like that – maybe a movie, maybe a sport you play.”

Throughout his career, Nicklaus demonstrated the game was a fine art and he says he has been constantly inspired by his hero, the late Arnold Palmer.

“He was the game of golf at its best and he was like an ocean front and we followed the ocean all of our lives,” Nicklaus said.

“Arnold played every shot at the highest level. He was an outstanding gentleman and an outstanding gentleman’s gentleman.

“When you look at golf in recent years you see lots of victories by younger players and you can’t ask for a better example of that than Tiger. The young stars are coming through.

“If I ever was to reach 100 I hope that I had the opportunity to play just like Arnold played.”

Nicklaus competed in more events than any other golfer in history and remains unbeaten in 21 European Tour events.

He hit the ball as far as anyone but admits it took work to go to 18 holes in his family at 16.

“You’d have to go to bed at night and kiss the covers and tell the story of what was going on that day – why I went to bed and why I had to go to school the next day,” Nicklaus said.

“So if you want me to go to the range it’s not like I’ll go three miles away and hit it 300 yards – if I’m tired and I feel like having fun I go three miles away and run 150 yards in my socks.”

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