I have grown weary of lazy golf reporters asking Jack Nicklaus whether Tiger will break his record and what is wrong with Tiger’s game. During a recent Golf Channel, Gary Williams absolutely badgered Mr. Nicklaus into commenting on questions he clearly did not want to answer. When Williams asked what was wrong with Tiger’s game, Nicklaus demurred. Williams persisted; Nicklaus sidestepped. And then finally, Nicklaus made a comment about Tiger’s driver and mental game, which was then trumpeted around the internet as some sort of journalistic triumph.
No one who actually watched that interview, however, could conclude that Nicklaus’ judgment was anything but a ploy to get Williams to stop pestering him so he could get back to talking about his charities. When watching the piece live, I kept thinking: Gary … he doesn’t want to answer that question … move on.
Golf Channel is still broadcasting a cut version of the piece. On Sunday Morning’s Morning Drive, Damon Hack twisted the whole thing around and wondered whether Nicklaus was “playing mind games with Tiger.” The house psychologist, Gio Valiante, then responded in the best possible stir-up-controversy manner, saying that Jack was “firing a shot across the bow” and that he was “calling out Tiger.”
These media trolls exhaust me. I have never met Mr. Nicklaus, but I am certain beyond a doubt that he is NOT playing mind games with Tiger. And he is certainly not trying to “call him out.” As a living legend, Nicklaus is far beyond such petty grade school games. This is just about the media trolling for another easy story.
What, exactly, is Nicklaus supposed to say when asked about Tiger and his record? The only classy answer—and Nicklaus is nothing if not classy—is to say “yes,” even if the evidence does not support it. If Nicklaus answers in the negative, he will be accused of calling out Tiger, or of not showing respect. Nicklaus is not going to do that, so his answer will always be that Tiger can still pull it off. When goaded, he might give some opinion on Tiger’s game, but even that won’t be what he actually thinks. Saying that Tiger had historically struggled with his driver and that he has some mental difficulties to overcome is as vanilla an answer as anyone could give. Even the most casual of golf fans could come to those conclusions. What Jack didn’t say is what everyone else is actually thinking: that Tiger has the yips and that he may not—as so many others did not—ever recover.
I plead with the media to stop asking Mr. Nicklaus these questions. It is unseemly. Find another story. There are plenty of great stories out there on the Tour right now. You’re just going to have to work a bit.