With the 2005 British Open getting underway on Thursday, it's time to say goodbye to Jack Nicklaus, who, a couple of months ago, announced that this would be his last tournament, except for maybe some other tournaments that he will play in, whatever that means. Needless to say, Nicklaus has been in high demand these days, which is why I wasn't that surprised when he never answered my e-mail requesting an interview, especially considering that the subject title of my e-mail to him was "Yo, Jack — holla back." Bad choice on my part. Nevertheless, Jack's "people" have given me permission to print what I think he would say with regards to several important topics. And by "Jack's people" I mean no one in particular. No matter. Let's get started.
Me: Hey Jack! Good to see you. You look much slimmer in person.
Jack: What's that supposed to mean?
Me: Nothing. Anyway, according to my notes, you used to be pretty good at golf. Is that true?
Jack: Well, I don't want to brag, but I DID win 18 major tournaments.
Me: Wow — that's a lot. But what do you consider to be a "major" tournament? Would it be one with like, free hot dogs at the end?
Jack: Ummm, actually, it's nothing I personally consider to be "major." The PGA has defined the four "major" tournaments as The Masters, The British Open, The U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship. I'm glad to see you've done your research for this interview.
Me: Was that a zinger? I think it was. I'm glad we can joke around like that, Jack. Actually, you and I have a lot in common. For example, we both have two first names. Isn't that weird?
Jack: Uhhh, yeah. I guess.
Me: Okay, let's get down to business. Why have you chosen the British Open as your final tournament? Don't you think it's unfair to give only British people the pleasure of seeing you play one last time? What about us Americans, who supported you for all these years by clapping ever so softly after a nice chip shot?
Jack: Well, I certainly didn't mean to slight anybody. I chose the British Open because the St. Andrews course holds a special place in my heart. I've had much success here in the past — I won here in '70 and '78 — and it just feels like the perfect place to leave it all behind.
Me: Would you say that St. Andrew is the patron saint of courses you like to play on?
Jack: Uh, I don't think I'd put it that way, but I do like playing here.
Me: When you say "here" do you mean St. Andrews, or my basement, which is where we actually are right now?
Jack: St. Andrews. Your basement actually smells like a litter box.
Me: Listen — I had an idea that I wanted to run by you. When you're walking the 18th hole for the last time, why don't you carry a torch that says "World's Greatest Golfer" instead of your putter, and meet up with Tiger Woods on the green, and pass it to him as a symbolic gesture that you are passing the torch to him, but instead of "symbolically," the announcers can say "literally." And then you can hug each other, but make sure that you don't catch on fire, because that would ruin the whole thing. What do you think?
Jack: That's probably the worst idea I've ever heard. For one, I'm in no position to name Tiger Woods the "greatest golfer in the world." It would be a slap in the face to all of the other great golfers on tour. And this isn't the freakin' Olympics — torches aren't normally allowed on golf courses. Plus, I don't want to make a spectacle of myself like that. It's just a bad idea all around.
Me: Are you shooting down my idea because you hate Tiger Woods, and because you're worried that he will break your precious record of 18 majors?
Jack: No, I shot down your idea because it stinks. And I don't hate Tiger Woods. Records are made to be broken, and if he does ever break my record of 18 majors, I'll be right there to congratulate him.
Me: With a torch?
Jack: No — with a handshake. Forget about the torch already.
Me: Is it true that another reason you are retiring is because you are sick and tired of people confusing you with Jack Nicholson?
Jack: People don't actually confuse me with Jack Nicholson — they just mix up the names sometimes. It's not like people are stopping me on the street and saying, "I loved you in 'Batman.'"
Me: Yeah, me too. Jack — you won The Masters in 1986 at the old age of...however old you were then. But you're much, much older now. Do you think you can actually win the British Open this year, and quiet all of the critics who have complained that you haven't won a major in almost 20 years?
Jack: Well, I think that my critics realize that I'm well past my prime now, and nobody feasibly expects me to win the Open this year, including myself. I'll be happy just to make the cut. Although it would be nice to go out on top! (laughs)
Me: Like Jay-Z, right?
Me: Nevermind. Anyway, it's obvious that you've had a brilliant career, and it's hard to believe that this very weekend, we'll be witnessing your final tournament on the PGA tour. I think I speak for the entire golf-loving community when I say that we're going to miss you, Jack Nicholson.
Jack: That's "Nicklaus."
Me: Hey — you have two first names!