e ˘ I broke my back surfing when I was a teenager and was
4-F for Vietnam because of it. It was an unfortunate thing
that it happened, but it may have been a blessing because it
kept me out of Vietnam. Sometimes you don’t know at the
time the impact something might have on your life.
˘ There’s a satisfaction in still being relevant at my age
and convincing people golf is still about scoring instead of just
how far you can hit the ball. I’m enjoying this stage of my career.
˘ There are two words I never use. One is “try.” Try signing your name and then try to duplicate it intentionally. You’ve
got no chance. It’s all in just letting it happen. If you try to do
something, you can’t. It has to be in your subconscious.
˘ The other word is “hit.” You don’t hit it in the hole. You
roll it in the hole. You feel it in the hole. And if you do that,
you don’t have to take a long time.
˘ The maddest I ever got watching another player was
Scott Hoch when he backed off that putt against Nick Faldo in
the 1989 Masters playoff. I was screaming at the TV because
I knew he was going to miss it. That’s what happens when you
try. Being more careful and cautious is b.s. Just let it go.
˘ People ask me if I’m a Hall of Famer. No, I’m not. I
haven’t been elected. I don’t lose sleep over it. I don’t do
what I do to get awards.
˘ But it’s my own fault. I was known as “The King of the
Corporate Outing,” and I put outings before golf. I was planning my tournaments around where I was doing outings.
Today’s players don’t understand the value of the pro-am
or corporate-outing experience. It’s a lost art. In my day the
money was made on the side.
˘ One of my few regrets was having a lead going into the
final round at Augusta in 1974 and not winning. After the
third round I meant to put lead tape on the back of my Ray
Cook putter because the greens were quite slow. But I was
in the press room 90 minutes and forgot about it. I should
have won that tournament.
˘ The best players from virtually every era are more
mentally gifted than physically gifted. Trevino is a perfect
example. One of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
˘ I’ve never won a playoff. I don’t know why. It might be
because I always had a battle plan going into a golf tournament on how I was going to play the 72 holes. In a head-to-head playoff there is no plan. Maybe I should have had one.
˘ It was much tougher being Ryder Cup captain than
playing in it. The two I played in were foregone conclusions
we would win. At Kiawah we hadn’t won in eight years so
there was a lot of pressure. I put my heart and soul into it.
I stopped doing corporate outings. I spent a year and a half
of my life convincing people the Ryder Cup was a big deal.
And it came to pass.
˘ The europeans were more classy in defeat than I
think we would have been. For the closing dinner they
had two buses. We got almost everyone on one, but had a
couple people too many. Ian Woosnam says, “Stocky, not to
worry—Pavin’s small.” And he just picks Corey up and carries him onto the bus and sits him on his lap. So much for
the “War by the Shore.”
˘ Just because you win golf tournaments doesn’t mean
you’re smarter or your view of the world is better. There
are some guys who think winning means what you have to
say is suddenly more important. I’m not buying that.
˘ I’m glad they’re banning anchoring. I came from an
era where tiddlywinks was a more popular sport than golf.
It was a sissy sport. Now we’re getting better athletes. But
anchoring doesn’t look athletic to me. There should be
some nerves in golf.
˘ A great modern player’s son has never been a great
golfer. That points to how difficult golf is. It shows how important the mental aspect is. Genetically, they’re likely going to be
stronger. But you never know how their mind is going to work.
˘ My dad told me that you should never hit more than
five practice shots in a row with a club. It’s good to practice
by moving around. A 7-iron to a 4-wood to a wedge. Most
people just like to hit a thousand balls the same. But that’s
not how you play golf.
˘ The job of an instructor is to make the student comfortable. And that’s different for every player. There’s no
“system” for teaching golf.
˘ You need to enjoy the life of a professional golfer to
succeed. I’ve always embraced it. I carried 3-by- 5 cards for
each city I went to, and the card would tell me the radio station I liked, the hotel, the room numbers I wanted to get on
the quiet side of the hotel, the restaurants to visit and so on.
Everywhere I went felt like home.
˘ Having a wife who understands tour life is crucial. My
wife is the only blind date I ever had. Late in 1964 I was on
the road and sick as a dog. I called her up and told her I
couldn’t wait till the following summer to get married. She
moved the date up to February. Her mother explained the
wedding gifts to her over the phone because we didn’t go
back home until October. We went everywhere together. It
was us against the world. Still is. We’ve done it together. n
72, 1970 AND 1976 PGA chAmPiON, ReDLANDS, cALiF. ˘ interviewed by e. michael Johnson, Photographed by King Lawrence