So the Presidents Cup is still almost eight months away, but the PGA Tour held a conference call with the two captains of the respective squads — Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. There were lots of pleasantries throughout the proceedings, before Player, who has never seen hyperbole that he couldn’t embrace, started talking about horseback riding. Yep, you heard that right.
Player: I think it’ll be one of the big sports that have [photopress:GaryPlayer.jpg,full,alignright]taken place in Canada.
Golf is obviously growing a great deal there. I’m sure Jack has designed some golf courses there. I’m doing my first golf course in a place call Cranbrook. In fact, I did my site visit on horseback. Thank God I’m a horseman; otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to walk the next day.
Ummmm, hold on there, horseback riding? I hear an Ennio Morricone soundtrack starting up in the background. Now that we have the appropriate background music, please continue Mr. Player:
Player: When I went there (ed note: on horseback), to Cranbrook they were all talking about the Presidents Cup, which was very, very encouraging for me to hear that, and I had a lot of the Canadians that are down in Florida this time of year playing some tournaments down in Florida, they were all saying how they’re looking forward to it.
So the hype is being built up, and I believe they’ve improved the golf course.
Player noted that Mike Weir, a Canadian, could be on the team and attempted to clarify whether Stephen Ames is indeed a Canadian (he is.) Both have a shot at the team and Player said he’d be thrilled to have either on the squad — but they’ve got to produce:
Q. Gary, I had a question about Mike Weir. As you know, he’s stumbled well down the rankings. He’s now 21st. Is there any scenario by which Weir would not be on the team for a Presidents Cup in Canada?
GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, it’s my job as captain and you’re correct, he’s 21st. It’s my job as captain to put in the very best team. I can’t just put a Canadian in because we’re playing in Canada and the people would love to see it. It’s my duty as captain to put in the very best team.
Now, I am really pulling for Mike Weir because it would really be fantastic to have a Canadian.
Some questions were then raised about Royal Montreal, the Dick Wilson course that had a complete overhaul at the hands of Rees Jones. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment, but some member feedback to me has been less than gushing. Anyway, it is clear Jack hasn’t seen it yet.
[photopress:nicklaus.jpg,full,alignleft]Nicklaus: Royal Montreal is a good golf course. It’s been changed totally since I was there, and I think I can remember my one Canadian Open I hit a 3 wood in the water at the last hole laying up. I should have hit the driver over the corner to win the tournament. Barbara kept sending me back to Canada. She kept saying, “Go back until you do it right.” I finished second seven times and didn’t make it (laughter). But anyway, it’s okay.
And just as the drama was being built up, listeners got this clunker:
Q. Gary, in about a month you’re going to hit a pretty amazing milestone. Could you just talk about what that means to you and what kind of experience that’s going to be?
GARY PLAYER: I think the best milestone for me this year has been married for 50 years. I think I’m playing at Augusta for my 50th time, but having been married for 50 years, particularly being married to I think it must be really difficult to be married to Jack or myself or Arnold because we’re always saying goodbye, and the three of us have been absolutely blessed to have the wives we’ve had. Through our wives we’ve been able to accomplish and do things in the game which has been of great sort.
Once that was behind us, the great golf scribes turned their attention back on the issue at hand. The question everyone wants to know is will Tiger come? Jack seemed to indicate yes, but he gave every indication he’d understand if the answer was no.
Jack: I often put myself in Tiger’s shoes and I say, you know, here I am, I’ve just finished winning two or three major championships, I’ve just finished playing a year end tournament that was designed to get me to play again, and now I’ve got to go play again for the glory of the game every year? That is a tough thing. It’s not tough, but it’s something… it’s not questioning whether it’s tough because more than likely everyone is going to do it. The problem is how do you get yourself up to play after you’ve played and won a couple of major championships and then played in the….
Now, for the top two or three guys on each team that can be that case.
Oh, and it all comes to an end with a question about golf design, Tiger and Phil and their respective design plans, and who is the best golf architect in the world (answer — Tom Doak or Bill Coore.) Apparently Player doesn’t agree:
GARY PLAYER: I think if you asked me today who’s the best golf designer in golf today, not because Jack is sitting here, but without a question I would say it’s Jack Nicklaus today. Nobody started because we all start and we’re all learning, but today I think Jack Nicklaus builds the best golf courses in the world.
Why? Because he was a hacker, believe it or not, at one stage in his life, then he became a reasonable player, then a better player, then the best player in the world. So he could look at a golf course from all different angles, whereas no other golf architect who’s a 15 handicap can ever possibly do that. It’s quite impossible for him to do it.
Gary Player is a great personality. A great player. But not a great golf designer. Proof, I guess, that some 15-handicappers are better designers than guys who won all four majors.