As the host of this week's Memorial Tournament, Jack Nicklaus had some housekeeping matters to attend to prior to Thursday's tee-off. For one, he had the privilege of (emotionally) introducing his friend and former rival, Tom Watson, as this year's tournament honoree. So what did Tommy do shortly after receiving the honor? Joked that The Golden Bear ruined the game of golf for everyone else.
The premise behind Watson's jape was clear: young golfers tend to emulate and mimic the best player at that time, especially when it comes to the golf swing. Youth during Nicklaus' peak years were no exception to that trend, as Watson discussed recently.
"I don't care who you are, you pattern yourself after the best player in the game," Watson said followingthe Memorial ceremony. "Today's kids, I don't know whether they do that. They have swings that are very similar. We tried to pattern ourselves after the guy that swung it best, like Jack. I was upright and I drove my legs, the reverse C into the ball, hit the ball straight up in the air, that's what I patterned my game after.
"Tom Weiskopf was awfully good, but Jack was awfully good with the 1-iron, and he ruined more people's games because they had to be like Jack. They had to have a 1-iron rather than the hybrid," said Watson, who won eight majors and famously got the best of Nicklaus in the Duel in the Sun to win the 1977 British Open at Turnberry.
"When I grew up I had a hybrid in my bag when I was a kid. We had this Wilson 3½ wood, had a sole plate. It was beautiful. And I used that until I wanted to be like Jack, and I had to hit a 1 iron. I could never hit a 1-iron. There was only one guy that could hit it, and it was Jack.
"So he ruined a lot of people's games, and maybe that was part of his thought process: I'm the only guy that can hit a 1-iron, everybody is trying to be like me, and that's good."
Kids definitely still do that today, Mr. Watson. Personally, I can recall trying to hit a 2-iron stinger not too long ago because Tiger Woods was able to do so at will. Only thing I ever got out of my effort was a sore wrist and a broken 2-iron I had to explain to my father.