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In search of the real Masters

Early on Thursday morning, Gary Player joined Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as honorary starters of this year’s Masters for the first time. As good as that was, the press conference was even better.

So who was the longest off the tee? “I don’t think any of us can see that far,” said Nicklaus. “We hit it so short we can still hear the ball land.” For the record, Player outdrove them all.

There were questions about what changes they’d like to see in golf, the impact of technology, future golf course design trends and so on. Nicklaus and Player answered them at length. Palmer simply nodded, and added, “I agree with that. When’s breakfast?”

A couple of times Palmer had to ask Nicklaus to repeat a question he hadn’t heard. At one point Nicklaus put his hand behind Palmer’s head and said with a smile, “You need a bit of help this morning, don’t you?”

“I agree with that,” said Palmer.

One reporter asked if they sought each other’s advice as to how best to retire from the playing of the game.

“You didn’t call me at all,” Nicklaus said to Palmer.

“You called me. You wanted to go fishing,” Palmer replied.

“And you haven’t taken me up yet.”

“I’m going to.”

“OK. Monday?”

“Too soon.”

“Jack and I said we’d retire at 35,” added Player.

“That’s right,” said Palmer. “You guys said you were going to quit at 35. I said, ‘bullshit’. If I could do it I’d be doing it right now.”

There were thousands of people watching these three giants of golf tee off on Thursday. But there was one person who stood out. Phil Mickelson had woken up early to get to the course and see the tee off. You can’t help but think that even he envies the time these three had together. It’s a relationship competitive golf will never again see in the world of money and marketing today.

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