Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino got ready for one more round together, but also wondered if they’d ever play with each other again.
The four golfing greats also offered differing opinions on Tiger Woods’ uncertain future.
The Hall of Fame foursome gathered at The Woodlands Country Club on Saturday to play an exhibition in conjunction with the Champions Tour’s Insperity Championship. Before they teed off, each of them weighed in on Woods’ chances of reaching Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship victories.
Nicklaus and Player think the struggling Woods can rediscover his game and win more majors. Trevino and Palmer aren’t so sure.
”At the current situation, he’s going to have trouble,” Palmer said. ”That’s my feeling.”
Woods is stuck on 14 professional majors, and he missed the cut at this weekend’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. The 36-year-old Woods ended a 30-month victory drought with a win at Bay Hill this year, but then had his worst performance as a pro at the Masters last month.
Palmer thinks Woods’ swing has become too technical and he needs to rely more on his natural ability and knowledge of the game. Trevino goes a step further, saying Woods needs to work on his game alone, without advice from a swing coach.
”He’s a little confused in the golf swing right now. Tiger is starting to play mechanically, and Tiger was always a feel player,” Trevino said. ”"What he needs to do is go off by himself, (with) nobody else, and take it out of the ground. That’s what I did, that’s what these three guys did, Mr. (Ben) Hogan did it. All of the old pros used to take it out of the ground, there was no instructor, there was no guru, no sports psychologist and all this other stuff.”
Woods’ last major victory came at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He had left knee surgery shortly after that, and his personal life sank into scandal at the end of 2009. He started working with new swing coach Sean Foley in 2010, but he acknowledged Friday that he still reverts back to what former coach Hank Haney taught him.
Woods said after his round Friday that he seems to hit bad shots when he feels comfortable over the ball, and hits good shots when he feels uncomfortable. Trevino and Nicklaus said they were confused by Woods’ comment, but Nicklaus is still confident that Woods will find his game in time to match his record.
”I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of desire,” Nicklaus said. ”I think his desire his whole life has been built around breaking my record, and I still think his chances are very good.”
Player is also optimistic, and hopes that Woods can regain his form for the sake of the tour.
”I think he will come back and play well, and it’s imperative that he does for the tour, because of the (TV) ratings,” Player said. ”He’s very young. Jack won the Masters when he was 46. I won the Masters when I was 42. So we mustn’t become too serious about it. He’s got time on his hands, and I think he can do it.”
Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino, meanwhile, wanted to make time to meet up in Houston. The quartet has a total of 188 PGA Tour victories and 40 major championships, and Trevino seemed to be the most excited of the four to play here.
”This is a great day for me,” Trevino said. ”At our age, we just don’t know when we’re going to get together like this again, if ever.”
Nicklaus was hopeful the grouping could be organized in the future. He, Palmer and Player made the ceremonial opening tee shots at Augusta this year, but they stopped after the one shot.
”I don’t think there’s any reason why we wouldn’t get together to play again,” he said.
”Well, some of us might have a reason,” the 82-year-old Palmer quickly responded, prompting laughter.
Nicklaus joked that the thousands of fans who endured the sweltering heat to see them on Saturday might be thinking twice once they saw them play. Trevino plays 3-4 times a week, but Nicklaus said he hasn’t played in public ”in a long time.”
”They won’t want to see us after today,” Nicklaus said. ”I think our combined clubhead speed will be about Bubba Watson’s speed.”