Tour and News

All Things Augusta: 2011 Masters Survey

2011 Masters
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
The 2011 Masters will be held April 7-10.

Golf Magazine anonymously polled 40 PGA Tour pros at four Tour events in 2011. All respondents had played in at least one Masters and cumulatively they'd played in nearly 200. The fan polling was conducted over four weeks on Golf.com. Of the 2,736 respondents, more than 80 percent said they have been watching the Masters for at least 10 years and nearly 30 percent said they have been tuning in for more than 30 years. Two in three fans said they plan on watching more than 10 hours of this year's Masters coverage.

WHAT THE PLAYERS THINK
What's the coolest Masters tradition?
Par-3 Contest: 40%
Champions Dinner: 22.5%
Green jacket to winner: 20%
"You would have to live in outer space not to know its significance."
Others receiving votes: No. 2 - 2.5%
"It's so not Augusta, which makes it cool."

What's the scariest tee shot at Augusta?
No. 12: 60%
No. 7: 12.5%
No. 1: 10%
No. 11: 5%
No. 13: 5%
No. 18: 5%

Do you think the tournament is less exciting since the course was lengthened?
Yes: 65%
"Yes, it's less exciting, especially on Sunday for obvious reasons. But they set it up right all four days last year."
No: 32.5%
"I think Billy Payne's done a good job of making it more exciting and bringing it back. Last year was very exciting."
Don't know: 2.5%
"I never played it before it was lengthened."

On which hole are you most liable to card an 'other'?
No.12: 37.5%
No. 11: 25%
"The drive is brutal and the hole is over 500 yards to a green you're 50 feet above."
No. 13: 10%
No. 15: 10%

Which hole should be bulldozed?
None: 32.5%
"Are you kidding me? There's too much history."
No. 7: 17.5% "The back tee should be bulldozed."
No. 11: 17.5%
"You're hitting a long iron into a small green guarded by water. It's too severe."
"It should be shortened, not bulldozed. Bulldoze the tee."
No. 4: 12.5%
Others receiving votes: No. 5 - 5%

If you could be guaranteed that one part of your game stayed in top form throughout Masters week, which would you choose?
Putting: 85%
Driving: 5%
Iron Play: 5%
Chipping: 5%

What's your biggest pet peeve about the event?
That the grass is mown green-to-tee to reduce roll: 45%
"Such a petty way to screw with the players. It's already long enough out there, and mowing it like that makes it very inconsistent for chipping around the greens as well."
Nothing! It's perfect the way it is: 27.5%
"It's my favorite tournament every year and I can't wait to go back there."
Course changes of last 10-plus years are too drastic: 20%
"It could lose 100 yards."
Invitation policy creates the weakest field of the majors: 7.5%

How soon before Augusta National admits a woman member?
Never: 62.5%
10 years: 17.5%
20 years: 12.5%
5 years: 7.5%
"I would say they will admit a woman member when the right woman member comes along."

Does it bother you that the club's membership excludes women?
The players say... No: 90%
"Nothing about the club's policies bothers me."
"It's their club. They can do as they like."
"You're asking the wrong people this question."
Yes: 10%
"Yeah, I care, and you can quote me on it." —Bubba Watson

Would you rather win one Masters, two U.S. Opens or three PGAs?
Three PGAs: 52.5%
"No brainer."
"That's a tough one. No Australian has ever won the Masters."
Two U.S. Opens: 35%
One Masters: 12.5%
"Double major-winner is big, but PGAs go unnoticed."
"Ooh, good question. Very good question."

Do you wish former champs would hang it up when they've become uncompetitive?
No, they've earned the right: 72.5%
"They've earned the right to play as much as they want."
"As long as they don't shoot 90 and hold up play."
"The fewer guys I have to beat, the better."
Yes, give someone else a chance: 27.5%
"Move on if you can't break 75. The field strength needs to be better."
"An age limit or a competitive limit makes sense."

Is Tiger or Phil more likely to win the 2011 Masters?
Tiger: 57.5%
"Something good has to happen for that guy."
Phil: 40%
"Phil's the favorite until he says he's not." It's a coin flip: 2.5%
"You guys are too obsessed with two people."

If you didn't receive it for winning the Masters, would you ever be caught dead wearing a green jacket?
No: 80%
"I got one for winning the Jisan Open in Korea, and it's never seen the light of day."
Yes: 20%
"For Christmas."

Which senior star is more likely to win the 2011 Masters: Fred Couples or Bernhard Langer?
Couples: 90%
"Hard to go against Freddie. He still bombs it and you need that at Augusta."
Langer: 10%

Should the club invite Gary McCord of CBS Sports back to the telecast?
Yes: 77.5%
"Yes, but they won't."
"What'd he do? That's all he said? Then yes, he should be invited back."
"Absolutely."

The roars at Augusta National are...
...as loud as advertised: 82.5%
...overrated: 12.5%
...louder than advertised: 5%
"Man, are they cool."

Which player would you most like to see win his first Masters?
Ernie Els: 37.5%
"How many time can you come that close?"
Davis Love III: 22.5%
Steve Stricker: 17.5%
Kenny Perry: 10%
Lee Westwood: 7.5%
No opinion: 5%

Tiger hasn't won a green jacket since 2005. How many more will he win?
One: 10%
Two: 37.5%
Three or more: 47.5%
I don't care: 5%
None: 0%

Do you believe Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne did the right thing when he publicly scolded Tiger Woods at the 2010 Masters?
No: 70%
"No, in the same way that Barack Obama shouldn't have said anything about Michael Vick. It's beneath him."
Yes: 27.5%
"Someone had to say it."
No comment: 2.5%

Does it bother you that the Masters field is the smallest in major golf?
No: 65%
"About right, I guess."
Yes: 30%
"Still not enough players in the field to match the other majors' strengths."
Don't know: 5%

WHAT YOU THINK
Do you believe the Masters should further extend its TV coverage?
Yes: 76.6%
No, the Masters' mystique is part of its charm, and limiting the coverage helps protect that mystique: 23.4%

The Masters' website offers additional live coverage of specific holes. Is online viewing an appealing option to you?
Yes: 70.9%
No: 29.1%

If you couldn't record the telecast of the fourth round, would you rather...
...stay home and watch on TV: 68%
...or play a round for free at the best course in your area: 32%

Do you believe Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne did the right thing when he publicly scolded Tiger Woods at the 2010 Masters?
Yes: 53.3%
No: 46.7%

Does it bother you that the Masters field is the smallest in major golf?
No: 89.6%
Yes: 10.4%

Does it bother you that the club's membership excludes women?
No: 78.1%
Yes: 21.9%

The Masters' tinkling piano music...
...is a great tradition: 73%
...needs a tune-up: 21.3%
...makes my skin crawl: 5.7%

Would it bother you if Augusta conserved water and let the fairways go slightly brown?
Yes: 66.1%
No: 33.9%

Which player would you most like to see win his first Masters?
Ernie Els: 37.5%
"How many time can you come that close?"
Steve Stricker: 20.4%
Davis Love III: 14.3%
Kenny Perry: 11.4%
Lee Westwood: 10.2%
Sergio Garcia: 6.2%

Tiger hasn't won a green jacket since 2005. How many more will he win?
Zero: 12.7%
One: 27.9%
Two: 45%
Three or more: 14.4%
I don't care: 5%

Phil Mickelson has three Masters titles at age 40. Will he catch Jack Nicklaus, who won six?
No: 94.3%
Yes: 5.7%

To which would you most like to win two tickets...
A state dinner at the White House: 13.7%
A party at the Playboy Mansion: 13.4%
The Super Bowl: 7.6%
Rounds 3 and 4 of the Masters: 65.3%

What was the most thrilling Masters of the last 25 years?
1986 (Nicklaus wins at 46): 41%
1997 (Tiger wins his first Masters by 12): 17.5%
2004 (Mickelson wins his first Masters): 13.8%

Would you rather play Augusta or attend the fourth round of the Masters?
Play: 90%
Attend: 10%

How much would you pay to play Augusta?
Up to $300: 36.6%
$300-$499: 23.7%
$500-$999: 17.2%
$1,000-$2,000: 9%
Whatever it takes! 13.5%

The Shots You Need to Win the Masters

Peter Kostis
Dennis Murphy/D2 Productions
Peter Kostis believes that chips from tight lies, approach shots from awkward lies and short wedge shots are the shots you need to win the Masters.

I start working with the guys I coach on the specific shots they need to play well at Augusta National months before the event. But while everyone knows you need to turn the ball right-to-left with certain tee shots and putt well on those super-fast greens, we also work on a few shots that you might not know are just as important to play well at the Masters.

1. Chipping Off Really Tight Lies: Players never see tighter lies on chip and pitch shots than they do at Augusta National. During Masters week you know you're going to face a number of shots where the lie is so tight that you're afraid you can't get the clubface under the ball, so we'll work on making a more shallow chipping swing. We'll even chip off putting greens to practice. You've heard about how hard putting is at Augusta. Chipping can be even more difficult.

2. Approach Shots From Awkward Lies: We talk so much about length at the Masters—and it is important—but Augusta National is still a second-shot golf course where you have to land your shot plus or minus one or two yards north, south, east or west to score. Augusta National doesn't reward good shots, only great ones. The difficulty is that the vast majority of the time players are going to be in situations where they have to control their balance and ball position to play from an uneven lie. One of the reasons Jack Nicklaus was so successful here was because he had such strong legs and could maintain his balance and get the ball high from uneven lies. Players with active leg action in their swings, like Greg Norman, have more difficulty with the uneven lies.

3. Half-Wedge Shots From 125 Yards and In: The most dangerous shot at Augusta National might just be a little half-wedge for your third shot on 15, because players don't appreciate just how downhill the lie is. Why do you think you see so many balls go into the water? No. 13 is another hole where you need this shot, especially with a back-tier pin that makes you lay up. Players need this half-wedge shot to make birdies on these holes, but they also need it if they get into trouble with their tee shots on 10 and 11, pitch out and need to save par. These shots just might be the difference between winning a green jacket and finishing in the middle of the pack.

Peter Uihlein's journey in the game has just begun

Peter Uihlein
Scogin Mayo
I still have another year left at Oklahoma State, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

Golf has always been a part of my life. My parents have footage of me in a walker swinging a plastic club. If I didn't play golf, I would have been a baseball player. I could sit and watch baseball all day. The mentality of a golfer is like the mentality of a pitcher. If you're standing on the tee telling yourself, "Don't hit it there," or if you're standing on the mound saying, "Don't throw it down the middle," that's exactly what's going to happen.

I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and I'm a huge Red Sox fan. I've probably been to Fenway 40 times. I've been pretty lucky as a sports fan because the Patriots have won Super Bowls and the Red Sox have won World Series during my lifetime. It was different for my parents, growing up with all those letdowns. My mom told me the story of watching the 1986 World Series. When the ball went through Buckner's legs, my dad left the room and went upstairs. She says he wasn't the same after that.

When I was 13 I told my dad I wanted to move to Florida to attend the IMG Academy. I wanted to be a golfer, and that's hard to do in New England where I could only practice half the year. I thought I was good enough to compete with the best players in the country. My dad was all for it, so we went after it. My mom moved to Florida with me, and my dad stayed north with my brother. I know it was difficult for my mother to have the family split up, and I'm thankful to her.

My dad is just like everybody else's dad. I see him as kind of a goofy guy with a great sense of humor. I try to get in a battle of wits with him, but he always gets me. I emulate him because I've never seen anyone work as hard as he does. Growing up, I would wake in the morning, and he would already be gone. He was the first one to leave the house every day. He started as a sales rep and worked his way up. He worked hard to get where he is. That's where I learned that there is no substitute for hard work. That's why I wanted to move to Florida, to play against guys who would push you every day and who never wanted to lose. Competition is the best way to get better.

The biggest adversity I ever faced was freshman year at Oklahoma State. Karsten Creek [Oklahoma State's home course] is still probably one of the hardest courses I'll ever play. You stand on a tee, and it looks like you're trying to hit it down a train track. From a mentality standpoint, I wasn't ready to handle a golf course like that. It was difficult.

Plus, the team was loaded. Rickie Fowler. Morgan Hoffmann. Trent Leon. Kevin Tway, Bob's son. Jon McLean, Jim's son. We had three guys exempt, and the rest of us were playing for two spots. And nobody could beat Kevin at Karsten; he's been playing there since he was a pup. To get hit with that freshman year took some getting used to, but I finally did. In the spring I started playing well. I tied for eighth at a tournament at Texas A&M. Four weeks later came the NCAA South Central Regional at Karsten. I finished second to Tway. At the time that was probably one of the greatest tournaments I had played.

When I got picked for the 2009 Walker Cup team, yeah, I heard those snickers that I didn't deserve it. It was hard not to. But that just goes back to my mentality. I'm not out to prove anyone wrong. I play because I love playing. When my coach told me I was playing all four matches, I built some confidence off of that. [Uihlein went 4-0.] The thing I remember most was playing a nine-hole practice round with Fowler and Hoffmann. It was just the three of us, and we knew it'd be the last time we'd all be together because Rick was turning pro. We had so much fun playing. Then we went out and won 16 1/2 to 9 1/2. The three of us like to say it was Oklahoma State 10 1/2, GB&I 9 1/2.

What ever happens I've decided to stay four years at Oklahoma State. I just love it. When you play golf for OSU you're representing a golf tradition that's second to none. I've always equated OSU golf to Duke basketball. That's what tradition is, to win all the time, to be the best and have everyone gunning for you. I love that. In Oklahoma, when you go to a restaurant and have on a Cowboys shirt, people come up and talk to you and ask you how the season's going.

I still get goose bumps when I think about winning last summer's U.S. Amateur. Having my brother and my parents there—and that it happened on my birthday—was pretty crazy. That week always flashes back to me. I can't wait to go to the Masters and see Phil Mickelson up close [the Amateur champ plays with the Masters champ for the first two rounds] and see in person how he hits shots. The guy is one of the greatest players of our time, and I'm looking forward to seeing his game and seeing how I measure up and where I need to improve. I know you have to work the ball both ways and that Augusta is long and wide, so I feel as if it sets up well for me. I'm always working the ball and hitting different shots.

I had my U.S. Amateur trophy at Karsten forever, but now I have it in my room. I never really looked at it until about a week ago. The history of it, seeing the names on it, is just crazy. Woods. Mickelson. And, being a New England boy, seeing Francis Ouimet up there? Now that's pretty cool.

At age 36, Justin Hicks is a rookie on the PGA Tour

Justin Hicks
Brian Smith
Among many other menial tasks, I washed clubs and piloted the ball picker at PGA National.

Some people think that PGA Tour pros all follow the same path—silver spoons, training academies, All-America awards, Tour riches. That's never been true. There have always been guys like me.

My family was lucky enough that we could join a country club when I was nine, thanks to my dad's job as general manager at an environmental waste-management company in Michigan. From 12 on, I was a golf addict, and while that led to a reasonable high school career, not many colleges were banging down my door.

Michigan had recruited my brother, Todd, to play football, and I never forgot the trip I took with him to Ann Arbor, so that's where I went. It was a wonderful school with a challenging golf course but not a great golf reputation. I made the team as a walk-on and remained a walk-on for four seasons. As a fill-in player, I would compete in only two to four tournaments a year, but when I graduated in 1997, I decided to try professional golf. A lot of people from my hometown and my home club essentially said, What?

I couldn't blame them, but they didn't know one thing: I always played better in the summer, without the distractions of school and social activities. That fact gave me courage. I grew increasingly convinced that there was great golf inside me. I thought, If I played full time, who knows what could happen? Armed with a small nest egg from family and friends, I moved to Florida and turned pro.

I finished fifth in my first Golden Bear mini-tour event and made about $5,000. I thought, Wow, this is what it's all about! But after that the money went quickly. Playing golf was more difficult and expensive than I had imagined.

Within a few months I found myself working at a country club in Palm Beach County. For the next six years, at several clubs, I did everything from cleaning clubs in the bag room to picking the range to folding sweaters in the pro shop, scraping together enough money to get by. Thanks to more contributions from friends and club members, I continued to enter some mini-tour events but couldn't seem to get to the next level. It was tough seeing college friends get law degrees, Ph.D.'s and M.B.A.'s and make good money, while me and my B.A. in political science were in a bag room making $4 an hour plus tips. Or worse, getting turned down for bag-room jobs in favor of high school kids because I was overqualified.

The work itself often veered between brutish and boring, arduous and monotonous. The bag room took a heavy toll on my hands, especially during the winter, when the combination of cold air, wet rags and lifting 40-pound golf bags all day would make my skin crack with countless little cuts. I hit lots of balls with painful, bloody hands.

But I was determined to turn lemons into lemonade. The bag room became my weight room. I'd use those staff bags to do biceps curls, shoulder presses and other exercises. I haven't been that fit since. A Walkman made picking the range less mind numbing, and I'd try to schedule that work for weekends when I could listen to the PGA Tour, which helped keep my ultimate goal top of mind. One surreal memory: riding the ball picker while listening to the NBC telecast from Doral after I had Monday-qualified and missed the cut earlier in the week.

Ours was not a glamorous lifestyle. My wife, Kathryn, and I missed out on countless friends' weddings because we didn't have the money to buy plane tickets and a gift. We certainly caught some flak, but that was where we were—living paycheck to paycheck.

Kathryn, who was in grad school working to become an occupational therapist for the first three years of my career, was always amazingly supportive of my ambition, as were my parents. Still, there were a number of times when Mom or Dad would happen to mention alternative careers. They had expected me to go to graduate school. There were certainly periods, especially when I was injured, when I thought about getting an M.B.A. and working in the golf business. Looking back on it, I see that my parents handled my career choice with more grace and composure than logic might have suggested. Thankfully, there were enough early signs of success to keep that pressure from building too much. Plus, my parents knew how hard I was trying—up at 6 a.m. every day to get in two hours of practice before work.

Those were lean years but not hard times. I learned a lot from my coworkers and made great friends. I met all kinds of people and learned how to relate to everyone. And I met a lot of guys who worked their way up, either as players or as head professionals. I also witnessed the opposite. Guys who didn't have a lot in terms of golf ability but had plenty of financial resources. And I saw—and still see—players who are trying to make it rack up massive credit-card debt without working to supplement their golf incomes. It's hard to see people who won't bite the bullet to make ends meet. I learned the value of a dollar.

I was always the turtle in the race, and it wasn't until 2004—seven years after turning pro and only a year removed from the bag rooms—that I made it to the final stage of Q school, my third attempt. People don't realize that between the entry fee and expenses, you're looking at $10,000 or more to play in that tournament. It's a big gamble. I wound up with limited Nationwide tour status and had a few good rounds on that circuit, but then I injured my hand, which set me back for more than a year.

I returned to the pro shops, making $9 an hour answering phones and folding sweaters. This was probably my low point. Kathryn and I had just moved into our new home, where I could look out my back window and see people playing golf. The game was all around me, yet I couldn't take part in it. I could swing a club without pain—but if I tried to hit a ball, the impact felt as if someone were taking a hammer and nail to my palm. To see elderly people knocking a ball around when I was in the prime of my life and unable to do what I loved, all because of a hairline fracture in one little bone in my hand, was torturous.

After surgery, I returned to the Nationwide tour in '07, where I tied for second in the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic. Yes, I'd had those good moments on the Florida mini-tours, but I wasn't sure how indicative they were of playing with seasoned pros, traveling and everything else that goes into building a career on the PGA Tour. So as crazy as it sounds, after a decade of chasing the dream, that Pete Dye Classic was the first time I started to think, Maybe we can make a go of this.

If my name rings a bell, it's likely because I was the "journeyman" who shared the lead after the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Though I faded back into the pack—my moment in the sun was somehow eclipsed by the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff—I experienced the pressure cooker in its entirety. I had my first big press conference. I hit shots while the voice in the back of my head said, I wonder what Johnny Miller and Dottie Pepper thought of that swing. You may not care, but you know they're saying something, because you're leading the tournament and you're not supposed to be.

I must have taken something from the experience because two weeks later I won my first Nationwide tour event, the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic. Still, I finished outside the top 25 on the Nationwide money list and ended the year without my PGA Tour card.

I won again on the Nationwide tour in May 2010 and spent the rest of the season inside the top 25, but by the time I had reached the season-ending Tour Championship, I was near the bubble. I played reasonably well for 3 1/2 days but then made five bogeys coming home to shoot 41. There were still several players on the course who could have knocked me out of the top 25 and out of the big time.

Part of me thought, The universe is good, and we've done enough this year for it to work out. But another part of me knew that if you give things the opportunity to go wrong, they generally do. I walked off the 18th green feeling that the opportunity had slipped through my grasp, and I was sick to my stomach.

In the end the universe was good, at least to me. Other players slipped back, and I was the last player to earn his Tour card, number 25 on the money list, with only $2,010 to spare. Intense joy collided with intense relief—fireworks and waterworks. Making the PGA Tour means everything to me. Ever since college the goal has been to play against the best and see what I'm capable of. I've been a pro golfer for 13 years—13 years of blood, sweat and tears. I'm 36 years old, but I feel like I'm 23 again.

Cinderella story or not, I don't want to simply make an appearance at the dance and rush home. The goal is to make a life on the PGA Tour. Much of this season will be about taking advantage of opportunities and finding a way to stay sharp when I'm not getting into events. The competition is harder, but I know if I bring my game, I can succeed, and I'm going to work as hard as anyone. I'll try my best on every shot in every round, whether I'm in contention or miles from making the cut. This turtle is in the race for the long haul.

The Hicks File
Age: 36
Hometown: Wyandotte, Mich.
Career highlights: Two-time Nationwide tour winner.
Did you know? He's often confused with another Justin Hicks, a teaching pro in San Diego who has played in a handful of PGA Tour events. Once he was dropped from a Nationwide tour field because officials saw that a Justin Hicks was playing in a PGA Tour event the same week.
The latest: After missing the cut in his first two starts on the PGA Tour, Hicks finished 67th at last week's Mayakoba Classic.

Yani Tseng's life couldn't be better. Now, let's talk

Yani Tseng
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
I was honored that the four biggest newspapers in Taiwan traveled to Thailand to report on my play.

When I was preparing for the new season I knew there were huge expectations for me to play well. Last year I won two majors, the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open, and became the youngest player to win three major championships. (I won the LPGA Championship during my rookie year, in 2008.) It was a huge honor to be awarded 2010 LPGA Player of the Year.

This year I had the pressure of playing my way to No. 1 in the world, which has been a dream of mine since I was 12. Another goal is winning this year's U.S. Women's Open, which, at 22, would make me the youngest player (male or female) to win a career Grand Slam. These are big deals, and there was only one person I could talk to who would understand.

I went to see former No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, who is not only my friend but also my role model. We met at her house in Florida in January, and I asked her for advice on how to handle the pressure. She told me that I can't be afraid and need to embrace the opportunity.

Annika's advice was helpful. I won my first four starts in 2011, and now I'm No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings. In January I defended my title at the Taifong Ladies Open, an LPGA of Taiwan event. My mother, Yu-Yun Yang, was caddying for me, which made the victory even more special. A few weeks later I traveled to Australia to defend my title at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, and I won by seven shots. Before the final round I got an e-mail from Annika that said, "Great playing in Australia. Keep up the good work and bring it home." The next week I won the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters and moved to the top of the world ranking. I followed that up two weeks ago with a victory at the LPGA opener, in Thailand.

While I was there I was excited and proud that all four big newspapers from my native country of Taiwan covered the tournament. The local media gave me the nickname Queen of Golf. I laughed and said, "Thank you, but I don't think I'm there yet—I need to continue to work hard."

I feel honored to have a friend like Annika. At the 2008 Women's British Open she predicted that I would be No. 1 in four years. When the media told me what she said, I thought it was a joke. When I found out they were serious, I was in shock—my idol believed I was going to be No. 1.

Since I was 12 I wanted to be like Annika and play with her on the LPGA tour. Watching her on TV inspired me to practice and work hard to achieve my goals.

I actually live in Annika's old house at Lake Nona in Orlando. When I first saw the house in January 2009, I knew right away that I wanted to buy it. I think that's because it made me feel closer to Annika, who now lives about 300 yards down the street.

I went through a minislump for about two months in 2009 after I missed the cut at the U.S. Women's Open. When I became No. 1, I looked back to that time when I felt frustrated and shed many tears. I felt I had all the tools, but there was something missing in my game.

During my postseason meeting with my team, I expressed a desire to get advice from Annika. However, I was too nervous to approach her, so my longtime adviser, Ernie Huang, reached out to her. Annika even offered to walk to my house. Over a bottle of good red wine, we talked for 2 1/2 hours. It was extremely generous of her to share her experiences with me, and to learn from the best player in the world was inspiring.

Annika chatted about putting the pieces together for success. She advised me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. Then I could work on my weaknesses and complete the puzzle. We discussed setting short-term goals, which were winning tournaments and improving my overall putting and driving-accuracy stats, along with long-term goals, such as winning Grand Slams and qualifying for the Hall of Fame. Annika also reminded me to focus on what I could control, such as staying in my own routine, and always being excited about the opportunity to compete. After Annika left that evening, I locked myself in the library and went through the notes I had taken. I was immersed in trying to understand and digest Annika's advice.

My playing style is different from Annika's—I'm more aggressive—but she has helped me a lot with the mental side of the game. I reached a turning point at last year's Women's British Open, where I overcame the pressure of going into the final round with the lead and won.

Annika sent me an e-mail the night before the final round, saying, "Great to see you on top of the leader board. That is were you belong. Keep up the good work, trust your ability and have fun!" I wrote these words in my yardage book. That Sunday at Royal Birkdale, I walked away with more than the trophy—I gained the confidence to truly believe I knew how to win and get to the next level mentally.

Annika is such a classy player and person, and I aspire to be like her not only inside the ropes but also outside them. I think giving back is important, so I'm looking forward to the Founders Cup (March 18-20, in Phoenix). The LPGA founders gave us a stage to show our talents and fulfill our dreams of playing golf professionally.

The Founders Cup will be another opportunity for me to connect with fans and share my story. I don't think most people know that I can speak English. Obviously, there are many Asians on the LPGA tour, and it's hard for fans to know who can speak English. I want American fans to know they can talk to me in English. I'm happy to have conversations and interact with them. I learned to speak English mostly by talking and listening to people when I turned pro and moved to the U.S. (I was 18 but had spent summers in America since I was 12.) I'm fearless, so I'm not afraid to talk with anyone, even if my English isn't perfect.

During the short off-season last December, I took a one-month English class, which was really fun. I learned a lot and improved my grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. I wish I could go back because I hope to perfect my English language skills, but I probably will have to wait until the end of the year.

I want to communicate better with fans, tell them how I played, about my plans for the season and convey how I'm feeling. I'd like to show them my personality. If you can't tell, I'm outgoing and bubbly, but I have a sensitive side too. I turned 22 in January, but I still want to be a good role model for younger people and junior golfers—just like Annika.

I'm living my dream and enjoying being No. 1—even though it still seems a little unreal—but I'm going to continue working hard because I want to finish the year atop the ranking. Now that I am No. 1 it's interesting to think back to the low points.

I can't wait to return to Orlando. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see Annika when I get back, so I can thank her personally.

The Tseng File
Age: 22
Homeland: Taiwan
Career highlights: Three-time major winner, including last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Women's British Open.
Did you know? Turned down a $25 million endorsement from a company in China last year because it came with the stipulation that she change her citizenship to Chinese.
The latest: Has vaulted to No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings on the strength of four straight victories on multiple tours in 2011, including the first event of the LPGA season.

Mark Calcavecchia is still hungry after all these years

Mark Calcavecchia
Gary Bogdon/SI
My wife, Brenda, has been my caddie for years. I prefer her to the overzealous types that have popped up since I started out.

I must be the oldest 50-year-old in the game. I started playing on Tour in 1981, and I've been playing 25 weeks or more per year pretty much since. I've played with all the guys I grew up watching: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino. J.C. Snead. You learned how to play Tour golf playing with J.C. We got paired together early in my career. On one green he starts screaming at me, "What are you doing?"

"Marking?"

"You're in my line," he said.

I didn't think I was anywhere near his line.

"If I miss this putt, you're in my line for the next one, stomping around with your big-assed feet," Snead said. Nobody called it the through line then, but that's what Snead was talking about.

You can't play the Tour perfectly. You're going to make mistakes. If you learn from them you have a chance at sticking around. There are no J.C. Sneads today. Davis Love III will teach a kid the correct way to handle an unplayable, but he'll be nice about it.

Golf is hard if you have a temper, and I do. One year at Disney, I get up on this elevated tee. I'm already peeved at something. A double bogey, more than likely. I go to get a paper cup from the dispenser. You know, you can never get just one. I get like 10 of them. Now I've really got the red-ass. The watercooler is sitting on a bench. I give it a solid karate kick right in its belly. Next thing I know the cooler is barreling down the tee, going down the cart path, and it looks as if it's going to steamroll my ... mother. I yell, "Fore!" She jumps out of the way, and when I pass her later, she says, "Watch it, buster." Actually, I'm sure it was stronger than that. Like mother, like son.

Tour players, like everybody else I know, do some crazy things, financially and otherwise. My wife, Brenda, and I just built our dream house in South Florida, not too far from Tiger's new place. It has a two-lane bowling alley and one fridge just for my beer. We love it. It cost — I don't want to say exactly — millions. I'm going to have to play my butt off on the senior tour to pay for it, and play well in some regular Tour events, too, while I still can. But you know what? It's good for a Tour player to feel hungry, maybe even a little desperate. I stopped practicing for a while when I was 40. I wasn't hungry. Now I'm starving. I know it doesn't show. But I am.

I'm a bundle of nerves when I play. I think a lot of guys are. At some of these senior events there's nobody out there. No spectators, no TV cameras, no anything. And I'm more nervous than I am on the regular Tour. On the Champions tour, I know if I play well, I'm going to be in contention, and getting in contention makes me really nervous. I haven't won on the old men's tour yet. If I don't win this year, you'll see a for sale sign in the front yard. (Just kidding, Brenda.)

I won my first Tour event in 1986, the Southwest Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas. That night I was walking around the airport with this giant cardboard check for $72,000. Next week I'm playing in the Southern Open in Columbus, Georgia. The caddie I had won with in Abilene didn't want to work it. I get to the tournament, and this tall, skinny kid named Jim comes up to me in the parking lot and says, "Mr. Calcavecchia, if you don't have anybody working for you, I'd love to caddie for you. I know the course like the back of my hand." I liked his manner and I needed a guy, so I said sure. Years later Fred Couples gave Jim a nickname: Bones.

Jim Mackay did a good job, but my head wasn't really in it that week. I shot 73-74 and missed the cut. First day I shot 30 on the front nine with a lost ball, then 43 on the back. Second day I shot 31-43. I got on a plane that Friday night and flew to Molokai in Hawaii for a one-week vacation with Ken Green and his sister, Shelley. Back then we were like the three amigos. Later Shelley married Slugger White, a rules official. Now they're grandparents. Time flies.

Look where those 25 years have taken Bones. Kenny, too, for that matter. One thing for sure is that life will throw you surprises. I'm hopeful that Kenny, on his prosthetic leg, and I will play in the Legends of Golf event in Savannah in April.

The Tour caddie has become a way bigger deal over the course of my career, way more involved with the player. Brenda caddies for me most weeks. It's great to have her out there even if she's still learning the whole through-line thing.

I was paired with Tiger the first week Steve Williams was on his bag, at Bay Hill in 1999. Stevie was way overcaddying. Every shot it was, "Good swing, mate!" Or, "Right club, that, mate!" You know the accent. I thought it wouldn't last a week, but it's turned out to be a great thing for both of them. Of course Tiger could have won with the transportation lady carrying his bag. But he won more because he had Steve Williams.

I've played a lot with Tiger, in tournaments, in practice rounds, in the Ryder Cup. We go to these dinners for British Open winners when the Open is at St. Andrews. We're friendly. He'll talk about sports, tell you a dirty joke, but he's careful about what he says, even with guys he has known for years.

At those Open dinners, it looks as if he always has one eye on his watch. Maybe I was the same way. If I have one regret from my playing career, it is that I really didn't stop to smell the roses. I'd grumble about U.S. Open rough or the pin placements at Augusta instead of being grateful that I was even in a U.S. Open or a Masters. Tiger doesn't have the luxury of stopping to smell anything because people will just bombard him.

In 2000, when the Open was at St. Andrews, he and I stayed at the Old Course Hotel, by the 17th tee. We played two practice rounds together, starting at 6 a.m. in the middle of the second fairway, 200 yards from the hotel's back door. Giving him pars on 1, he played those two rounds in 17 under. I never saw better golf or a better swing. Not too many people saw that golf, but I'm glad I did. The tournament was over before it started.

I still don't know why I didn't go to the local bookmaker and put down a few quid.

The Calcavecchia File
Age: 50

Hometown: Tequesta, Fla.

Career highlights: 13-time PGA Tour winner, including the 1989 British Open, which he won in a playoff over Wayne Grady and Greg Norman.

Did you know? Mark and his wife, Brenda, used a picture of a British Open streaker on their Christmas card one year.

The latest: Calc finished fifth at the ACE Group Classic on Feb. 20.

After 13 roller-coaster, injury-filled years, it may be time for Harrison Frazar to call it a career

Harrison Frazar
Darren Carroll
I cherish the time I spend at home with (from left) Ford, Harrison, Slayden and Allison.

I love golf. I always have. I believe in everything that's good about the game: the honesty and integrity and reliance on self that it demands. It still amazes me that I can make a ball go 300 yards and land exactly where I'm looking. Hitting a shot just right and watching the ball fly against the sky is still one of the most thrilling things I can imagine. But as much as I love golf, I'm not sure I want to play it for a living any longer.

I turn 40 this July and have spent 13 years on the PGA Tour, along the way making more than $9.3 million and nearly as many friends. I've proved I belong on Tour and provided a nice life for my high school sweetheart, Allison, and our three sons, Harrison, Ford and Slayden (11, 8 and 4). But there's also been plenty of disappointment. I've never played in a Masters or a British Open, and despite a bunch of near misses, I've never won a Tour event. I've put winning on a pedestal for so long that it's hard to imagine walking away without a victory. It's not so much for me anymore. I want it for Allison and my parents and my friends and poor Randy Smith, my teacher at Royal Oaks in Dallas, who has had to put up with me all these years. I especially want it for my boys. But the last few years I've felt as if I were banging my head against the wall, wearing myself out physically, mentally and emotionally.

Last summer I blew out my hip and underwent the fourth significant surgery of my career, putting me on the shelf for the rest of the season. For my first month at home I was antsy and angry. But then, slowly, I could feel more than a decade of anxiety start to melt away. I started sleeping better. Old friends began commenting on how much they had missed my smile. Allison and I felt closer than we'd ever been. For the first time I was able to be an assistant coach for one of my boy's teams, in this case Ford's lacrosse squad. It was a joy to watch the kids develop and get to know their parents and have that bonding time with my son.

In December, I began gearing up for my return to the Tour, and my demeanor changed immediately. I started to get stressed out and snappy. If the line at Starbucks moved a little too slowly, it would drive me crazy, whereas a few months earlier I would've been happy to chat with the people in line. Allison drove me to the airport as I was leaving to start my 2011 season at the Hope, and she gave me a great pep talk. "You're not the same man you were six months ago," she said. "Just have fun and be yourself."

During the first round of the Hope, I birdied two of the first four holes. The whole time I was laughing and joking with my amateur partners and having a great time. There was a backup on the 5th tee, and as we waited, my mind began to wander. One overpowering feeling hit me: I don't like this. I want to go home. I pushed the thought out of my mind and kept playing, but six weeks later I'm still at a crossroads, struggling with my emotions. I know if I play my best, I have enough game to win a tournament. Maybe more than one. But I also know the commitment it will take to play at that level — is it worth the mental anguish and wear and tear on my soul? And if I decide to go for it, will my body hold up? I don't know the answers to these and many other questions.

I haven't given up by any means. I'm going to play hard for the rest of this year, see what happens and then make a decision. But I'm coming to grips with the fact that this very well could be my final season on Tour.

I always had a complicated relationship with golf, going all the way back to when I was a junior. The game didn't come that easily for me — especially compared with my lifelong friend Justin Leonard — and I always felt I had something to prove. This continued at Texas, where the coaching staff had a habit of referring to me as a "diamond in the rough," which I interpreted to mean that my game wasn't very polished. What most people know about my college career is that I was Justin's roommate, but I was also a three-time All-America, and my coach, Jimmy Clayton, called the 65 I shot on the final day of the 1994 NCAAs "one of the three or four best rounds in the history of Texas golf." I tend to play my best when I'm at my loosest. I once went 61-29 in a Saturday morning 27-hole qualifier. I did it on 45 minutes of sleep, my arm still stained red from having mixed some very strong Kool-Aid in a trash can at a late-night frat party. The heavily structured team environment at Texas left me pretty burned out. After graduating with a psychology degree — I also minored in Spanish and earned an advanced certificate in business — I married Allison and took a job as a commercial real estate analyst in Dallas, with a starting salary of $22,000. Allison began teaching fifth-graders. We got a house and a dog, and for months at a time I hardly touched my clubs. It was a nice life.

But I've always had an insatiable need to prove to people that I'm not a quitter, so after a year in the real world I went to Q school in the fall of 1996, earning a spot on the Nationwide tour. I won the '97 South Carolina Classic and finished 13th on the money list, sending me to the big leagues.

The Texas swing during my rookie year remains one of the highlights of my career. At the Nelson, I opened with a 64 and wound up in Sunday's final pairing alongside Fred Couples. I played well and tied for second. The next week, at Colonial, I again played in the final group, this time finishing fourth. In two weeks I went from being seen as merely Justin's ex-roommate to a potential force on Tour, thanks to a power game that at season's end left me third in the driving-distance stats.

Over the next few years I had more chances to win. At the 1999 Phoenix Open, I played in the final group with Tiger Woods — that was the day he talked a dozen fans into moving a very large loose impediment — but I shot a rocky 73 and faded to sixth. The close call that still bugs me the most came in 2000 at New Orleans. I had played beautifully all week and was leading by a stroke on the 71st hole, a par-3. The pin was on the left edge of the green, hard against a water hazard. I knew the proper play was to hit my tee shot 30 feet right of the flag and settle for a par, but I didn't have the mental discipline to do it. For a long time I had this morbid desire to prove to the world that I was unconventional. I liked my identity as an aggressive player, so I wasn't going to back down or bail out. Ever. I tugged the shot just a touch and my ball bounced into the lake. I made a crushing double bogey, ultimately slipping to third place.

In 2001 I suffered my first serious injury — a torn labrum in my right hip that required surgery — but I've always had physical issues. There is a history of rheumatoid arthritis in my family, and a lot of relatives have hip and shoulder problems. I've battled tendinitis and bursitis in both shoulders going all the way back to college. I don't think fans understand how much wear and tear there is on tour pros. Go get a metal stick and hit the ground as hard as you can. Then do it 300 more times. Now do it every day and see how your joints feel. In 2005 I had surgery on my right wrist to clear out years of accumulated scar tissue. That cost me six weeks of tournaments, but I could afford it because I was coming off my best season, during which I finished 48th on the money list with $1.44 million. (I lost a playoff at the 2004 Hawaiian Open to Ernie Els, but that never bothered me because I played well on Sunday and was simply beaten by one of the best players in the world.)

The 2006 season was when my life on the Tour really started to change. Until then Allison, Harrison and Ford had traveled to most tournaments with me. It was a big expense and occasionally a big hassle, but we loved being together and having various adventures on the road. By the spring of '06, however, Allison was pregnant with Slayden and she could no longer travel. That fall Harrison started kindergarten at an excellent public school that was pretty strict about limiting student absences. Allison and I had built our dream home in Dallas's Park Cities neighborhood, close to both sets of parents. It's a very Norman Rockwell kind of place to raise a family, and we wanted the boys to have stable lives, rich with sports and other activities. So we decided the family would no longer travel with me, except occasionally in the summer.

In 2007 I played a typically heavy load of 32 tournaments and quickly discovered that being a road warrior can be a very lonely life. I came to dread empty hotel rooms and still do. Sometimes I'll hang out in the lobby, drinking coffee and surfing the Internet — anything to avoid the feeling of having four walls closing in on me. I see lots of movies and try to meet other players for long dinners, and in a typical tournament week I will read two or three novels, usually mysteries by the likes of Lee Child. But none of this fills the void of my missing family. I talk constantly to Allison and the boys on the phone — in the morning before school, before their games, always at bedtime. It often makes me miss them even more.

Without the family around, I missed the cut in 21 of those 32 starts and had to return to Q school for the first time in a decade. The next two seasons were also struggles, as I had a lone top 10 in each. But 2010 was when things really began to fall apart.

During the first few months of the season I was having problems with my back, hip and elbow, and I spent more time in the fitness trailer than on the range, simply trying to get all the aches and pains to go away. I also endured a series of cortisone shots. That was nothing new; for a long time I had been averaging eight or nine a year. My frustration with my broken body turned me into a pretty big grump, and that bad attitude carried over to the course — from Pebble through the Players, I missed nine cuts in a row, the worst slump of my career. I kept soldiering on because I didn't want to be seen as a quitter or a whiner, and I was worried that people would think I was a hypochondriac. Justin once said, "It's an odd-numbered year, so that means Harry's going to have surgery." The comment was made in jest, but it stayed with me. Is that what people really thought?

At the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, my back was tight, my left hip was killing me and I had a sharp pain in my elbow, but I played on, missing another cut, of course. The next week in Hartford, during the first round, my left knee went out. My swing had so many compensations for injuries, I didn't know what to compensate for anymore. That night I was feeling pretty down when I called Allison. She was at a college reunion and didn't pick up, so I left her a long message. When she called back I could tell she had been crying. She said, "I don't care whether you ever play golf again. Just come home so I can take care of you."

Back in Dallas I spent three hours in an MRI tube. They found tendinitis and arthritic flare-ups in most of my joints and a cyst on top of my left femur. In July, I went in for surgery on the cyst and my doctor discovered a lot more damage in the hip — the cartilage was so shredded, it was basically bone on bone in there. The doc performed microfracture surgery on my hip. When I was briefed on all of this in post-op, I felt an overwhelming relief that there really was something wrong and those close to me would know I wasn't making it all up as an excuse for my poor play. Since I was out for the rest of the year anyway, I had another surgery in August to fix my right shoulder.

As I've returned to the Tour this year — playing on a major medical exemption — the challenges have been more mental than physical. When I stand on a tee I find myself thinking back to all the bad shots I've hit in previous years. I have to go through a pretty significant thought process to get rid of the negative images. Some of the anxiousness has returned. In my season debut at the Hope, I finished 54th, and then I missed the cut at Torrey Pines. I flew home from there, and Allison and the boys met me at the airport. She said that as soon as she saw me she almost burst into tears because she could see that emotionally I was right back to where I had been six months earlier.

But two weeks at home perked me up, and I went to Los Angeles and played pretty well. I opened 69-74 to make the cut, and on Saturday, I shot my lowest round in 16 months, a 65 that tied for low round of the day and propelled me to a tie for seventh place, five strokes off the lead. The 65 actually wasn't a great ball-striking round, but I managed my game well, made a bunch of putts and holed out a sand wedge from the 7th fairway. On Sunday, I tried not to think about the magnitude of the opportunity, but I was still really, really nervous, just from not having been in that situation in a very long time. A series of mental mistakes and loose swings doomed me to a 77 that dropped me to 51st. Still, I left L.A. feeling encouraged. That 65 was a reminder that deep down there's still a pretty good player in there.

If you grow up a golfer in Texas you have your choice of icons. Byron Nelson was always my hero, and I was privileged to become friends with him through the years. There are some interesting parallels in how we both feel about tournament golf. It wasn't everything to Mr. Nelson. He used his talent to get what he wanted — a beautiful ranch and a quiet life. I'm pretty sure Mr. Nelson never had any regrets about leaving the game in his prime because he was more at peace with himself than anyone I've met. Of course, Mr. Nelson accomplished so many great things in the game. For me there's still some inner turmoil because of the nagging feeling that I was not quite committed enough to reach my potential. I regret letting the game beat me down. I wish I had been stronger. But as I'm slowly making peace with my up-and-down career, I've begun to seriously contemplate my future without competitive golf.

What would I do for a living? I'd like to stay connected to the game I love. Maybe I could be a tournament director or work for the Tour as a player liaison, or maybe as an agent. All of these jobs would come with a pay cut, but that's O.K. Allison and I have done a good job of saving, and we're willing to make some lifestyle adjustments if necessary. Anyway, I like to think I've conducted myself as a gentleman all these years and that I'll have a few options. But I'm not ready to start having those conversations yet. I'm still focused on playing.

One of the things that still drives me is wanting to play well for my sons. I've always instilled in them that trying your best is the key to success. Naturally Ford equates that with trophies. He's always asking me when I'm going to bring one home. One of the most bittersweet moments of my career came out of the 2008 Q school. I shot a 59 during the fourth round and won the tournament going away. I called home afterward, and the boys were so excited because they had watched the finish on TV. Ford got on the phone and was yelling, "Dad, you won! You won! I can't wait to see your trophy!" I had to explain to him that they don't hand out trophies at Q school. He thought that was pretty silly, and Harrison agreed.

Unbeknownst to me the boys talked Allison into taking them to a crafts store to get supplies. They painted a piece of wood and glued on the lettering #1 DAD. They presented this "trophy" to me when I got home. I know how lucky I am to have played golf for a living, and I'm truly appreciative for all that the game has given me. But no matter what happens the rest of this year, and beyond, that little homemade trophy will always be my most precious reward.

The Frazar File
Age: 39
Hometown: Dallas
Career highlights: In 2008 he shot the second 59 in PGA Tour qualifying school history at PGA West en route to victory. Frazar has four second-place finishes on the PGA Tour. Did you know? After graduating from Texas, Frazar worked for a year in real estate before fellow Longhorn Mark Brooks persuaded him to turn pro.
The latest: Playing on a major medical exemption, Frazar has made the cut in two of his three starts this year on the PGA Tour.

Golf has never had a greater champion than Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Tiger Woods, right, is four majors away from tying Jack Nicklaus's record of 18.

In 2007, Alan Shipnuck and I had a debate in this cyberspace about who was the greatest golfer of all-time. My young colleague took Tiger. I took Jack. I've been taking him ever since. After listening to his hour-long press conference from the Honda Classic Wednesday morning, I'm proud to be taking him all over again.

Woods is, surely, the greatest golf talent ever, greater even than John Daly. (Yes, that JD, who for a while there could get a golf ball to do anything.) Woods, surely, is the most dominant professional golfer of all-time, more so than even Young Tom Morris and Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer. (Bobby Jones, as an amateur, was the most dominant golfer ever, winning 13 majors in eight years.) But Nicklaus is the greatest golfer.

There were dozens of reporters ready to pose questions to Big Jack on Wednesday morning. Here are some of the reasons why:

• This April will mark 25 years since Jack's win at Augusta in '86, at age 46, in an era when 46 was considered old for a golfer. He said on Wednesday that he felt he was out of the tournament on Sunday when he made a bogey on 12. And then he went crazy, playing the final six holes in 20 shots and winning his record 18th major.

• Nobody is more qualified than Nicklaus to talk about whether Woods, who has been stuck on 14 majors since his U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines in 2008, will ever break Nicklaus's record. Nicklaus said on Wednesday that he still believes that Tiger, now 35, would get to 19 or more, because of "his work ethic," among other reasons. Nicklaus did say he was surprised "it has taken as long as it has" for Woods to return to his dominant form.

• At 71, Nicklaus has become the game's most authoritative grand old man. He's been at the center of golf since the mid-1950s. He's seen trends come and go. So when he says this is an interesting moment in golf, with the five highest-ranked players all European natives, he's considering other European heydays, including the Seve Era, the Jacklin Era and even, because he knows the game's history so well, the Vardon Era.

He joked on Wednesday that he would barely qualify as an avid golfer under the guidelines of the National Golf Foundation, having played maybe 15 rounds last year. His design business is working on more courses, most of them overseas, than Jack will play this year. He takes the grandfathering thing very seriously and you'll see Jack at high school football games up and down the South Florida Atlantic coastline.

The next time you'll see Nicklaus swing a club in anger is at the Augusta Par-3 tournament. That event might be a hit-and-giggle for some of the players, but Nicklaus can't hit a golf ball and not take it seriously. Last year, playing with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, he tapped some of the most beautiful, controlled wedge shots that anybody of any age could play.

My friend Neil Oxman caddied for Tom Watson in January in Hawaii when the ancient team of Watson and Nicklaus won the 18-hole Champions Skins Game over a bunch of kids, like Mark O'Meara and Fred Couples. Neil told me that Nicklaus drove it in play and hit it about 260 off the tee and at one point hit a beautiful punch, 140-yard, into-the-wind 6-iron. Nicklaus said of the shot that he "took the spin right off it," the kind of class shot that is played by golfers who actually know what they're doing.

And that's why Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all-time in my book, or part of the reason, anyway. It's not just the 18 majors, although that's a lot of it. It's the fact that he could talk with such appreciation about the 140-yard 6-iron he hit on a January day in 2011 with such love of craft.

And it's that he could talk with equal verve about the day in 1953 when Joe Dey of the USGA warned Jackie, age 13, about the importance of getting to the first tee well before your tee time. Nicklaus never had the problem Dustin Johnson did last month at Riviera.

Part of Nicklaus's greatness is the 19 second-place finishes he had in majors, which says more about the men that had enough bottle to beat him down the stretch than it does about Jack. And in that category, the bigger part of his greatness is the class with which he handled those runner-up finishes. He never said second sucks. He shook the winner's hand and answered questions meaningfully.

Sam Snead won more tournaments. Woods, I still believe, will win more majors, although 18 is a much better bet. (One every other year for the next 10 years? It will be hard to do, but I would never bet against him.) But Nicklaus is the greatest of all-time, to me, for his body of work.

To describe that body of work you'd need a book. But it includes the vast charity work Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, have done, including this week's Honda Classic, which raises money for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation. It includes raising five kids, too. It includes his grace and patience with sportswriters and fans and sponsors. It includes the excellent pro bono work he did on rehabbing the muni course in his backyard in North Palm Beach. It includes his good manners, as when, upon being asked about Tiger's marital woes, said, "It's none of my business."

Maybe you're not even 25 and you didn't have the utter joy of watching Nicklaus win that '86 Masters. {C}The highlights are all over YouTube{C} and Golf Channel. But the point here is that you haven't missed your chance to feel Nicklaus's greatness. Watch him play that little Par-3 tournament at Augusta in April. {C}Read the transcript of his press conference at the Honda on Wednesday{C} and see the effort he put into each answer. A few weeks from now, find out how much the Honda Classic raised in the name of improving children's health. This guy did it all.

PGA Tour wives seek reality television show

PGA Tour wives
Chase Hattan, Reverb Collective
Several PGA Tour wives glammed up for a recent photo shoot.

The real housewives of ... the PGA Tour?

Well, maybe.

If a certain group of Tour pro wives can make it happen, a reality show based on their lives of golf watching, spa hopping and fundraising could be coming to a flat screen near you. Heck, you might even catch the ladies posing in swimwear, as they did during a recent photo shoot.

See photos of the PGA Tour wives who are looking to launch their own reality show.

"We're the bad girls, I don't know what else to say," Liz Estes, Bob's wife and one of the women pursuing the show, said half-jokingly in a phone interview.

Joining Estes in her quest for reality-TV stardom are Melissa Weber Jones, wife of Matt Jones and a former Miss Idaho, and Alli MacKenzie, Will's wife and a model who has been featured in a pictorial in the men's magazine FHM. (Leot Chen, Vaughn Taylor's fiancée, and Erin Walker, Jimmy's wife, who writes a blog about traveling on Tour, also partook in the photo shoot, but they said they have no interest in appearing on a reality show.)

The women have partnered with a Los Angeles marketing firm, Reverb Collective, and in its first major play to generate some buzz, Reverb has released some edgy photos of the girls.

"We were so careful not to do anything that would be offensive to anybody," Alli MacKenzie says of the shoot. "We got a bunch of old Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and looked at athletes and athletes' wives in them and made sure we didn't do anything that was more provocative than what they did."

Liz Estes, an aspiring pop musician, is hopeful that the PR push will work and that the show will find a home given that production companies have shown interest in her and the other wives in the past. "We were approached by the guys who did Pawn Stars," Estes says of the History Channel show about pawnbrokers. "We talked to them three times, but they never called us back. And then this guy from VH1 asked me to put a show together with the other girls, and I'm like, 'Well, I'm not putting it together.' "

If a show materializes it would be golf's answer to Bravo's popular Real Housewives series, "but with a cool twist," says Amir Amiri, Reverb's chief executive officer. Amiri believes the time is ripe for a program about Tour wives given the swell of attention the Tiger Woods scandal brought to the personal lives of pro golfers.

"We've talked to a lot of [television] bigwigs, and they're all interested," Amiri says. "I definitely think this could work out."

MacKenzie has experienced firsthand the public's piqued interest in the lives of golfers and their wives. When flying to Tour stops she says the first question she used to get from fellow passengers was whether she had ever met Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. "And now it's like, 'Oh, did you know Tiger's wife?' " MacKenzie says. "'Did you know any of that was going on? What's the inside scoop?' That's always their first question."

This wouldn't be the first reality show about golf; the Golf Channel produced a show that chronicled the life of John Daly and is currently airing another program that follows a homeless golfer who is trying to play on the Champions Tour. But a show about the wives would be the first of its kind to explore the social scene on Tour, which both Estes and MacKenzie say they found difficult to break into as Tour newcomers.

"During my first year I hid in my car because I was so horrified of walking into the clubhouse and player dining," Estes says. "Everyone was so cliquey."

"It's like a traveling high school," MacKenzie adds. "There are 150 or so guys and 150 or so girls, plus the caddies, plus the girls who aren't supposed to be out there."

Estes, who has been married to Bob for three years, says her husband is conservative and "completely opposite" from her, but that he is OK with her posing in provocative attire and chasing a reality show. MacKenzie says she also has husband Will's full support and that Will, one of the Tour's more colorful members, has actually been approached on multiple occasions to do a reality show of his own.

How a program about the wives would be received by the other Tour wives and the Tour itself is less clear. But it's a safe bet the cheesecake snaps of Estes & Co. will raise eyebrows out on Tour, just as sexy photos of several LPGA pros, dubbed the 'Wilhelmina 7,' drew attention on the ladies' circuit in 2008.

For her part, Estes isn't worried about any backlash from her peers. "The girls who like me, like me," she says. "And the ones who don't, don't. I really don't care about negative comments."

Who knows, one of these days you might just get to judge Estes and the rest of the wives for yourself.

Check your local listings.

SI GOLF+ PGA Tour Confidential: The state of the Tour; Tiger; favorite Tour stops and more

Tiger Woods, 2011 Torrey Pines
Robert Beck/SI
The Tour boomed because of Woods, but now some fans think that Tiger is the Tour.

SI GOLF+ convened a fivesome of veteran PGA Tour players — Ben Crane, Steve Flesch, J.J. Henry, Davis Love III and Ted Purdy — plus SI senior writer Gary Van Sickle to answer those and other questions

State of The Tour

Van Sickle: The PGA Tour has turned up some new sponsors in a tough economy. Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the Tour's future?

Flesch: It's more than just the PGA Tour. In the grand scheme of things commissioner Tim Finchem has done well to maintain 95 sponsors—45 on the PGA Tour and 25 or so each on the Champions and Nationwide tours. That's pretty darn good.

Crane: Considering the economy, I couldn't be happier.

Love: If you looked at the PGA Tour without looking at the economy, you'd say we're struggling a bit. Based on the economy, you'd say we're kicking butt. When you consider all the car companies and financial institutions that had bankruptcies and were tournament sponsors, to fill in all those blanks and not go backward is a miracle.

Henry: It says a lot about our product and the character of our players that we're fully sponsored in a down period and have kept purses up. I'm very optimistic. Especially seeing the stock market back around 12,000.

Purdy: Before the FedEx Cup it took about $600,000 [in earnings] to keep your Tour card. The first year of the FedEx Cup it took $875,000. Even though I finished 127th and missed my card by a few thousand dollars, I thought Finchem was brilliant. Then we had this down economy, and the 125th spot went back to $600,000. So I'm still optimistic, but we are losing playing opportunities for the Tour's lower third of the players—and that's my category now.

Flesch: Am I concerned about playing opportunities? Absolutely. A case in point was the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. We cut 24 spots from the field supposedly to improve the pace of play. Well, the pace of play still stunk. Was cutting a round from six hours to 5:45 worth getting rid of 24 pros? I don't think so.

Love: We're not trying to cut playing opportunities, but there are no businesses in this country where the people at the bottom aren't struggling. The guys at the bottom of the money list can say it's not fair. Golf's not fair, business isn't fair, and life isn't fair. I'm sure things will get better over the next few years. We have a great product.

Flesch: Life on the Tour is better than a lot of people think. The West Coast swing was saved this year pretty much because Phil Mickelson played almost every week. He adds the flair and excitement we need. With all due respect to Mark Wilson and D.A. Points and some of the other winners, they aren't moving the needle yet. We're lucky our TV numbers are up. Tiger and Phil playing in San Diego was a ratings home run, and there has been plenty of good drama in our events. I think the next TV packages will work out well.

Purdy: I'm grateful that Finchem is doing the next TV negotiation because he's been there. I don't think we want a new guy in there at this juncture.

Van Sickle: Finchem is pretty much batting 1,000.

Purdy: Absolutely. He's the Albert Pujols of TV contracts.

The Tiger Conundrum

Van Sickle: Tiger Woods put golf on the front page and helped quadruple the size of purses, but when he's not playing interest wanes. Has Tiger proved to be a double-edged sword?

Crane: We've been dealing with not having Tiger at every tournament for 12 years. He's the best the game has ever seen, the most recognizable sportsman in the world. Sure, everybody wants him to play. We have more to offer with him. I'd certainly rather watch a tournament with Tiger than one without him.

Henry: Me, too. The better Tiger does, the better it is for guys like me.

Purdy: The energy is simply different at Tiger events. Obviously, everything Finchem negotiated relied heavily on Tiger's exposure on weekends.

Henry: The new demographic that Tiger brought in was big. Golf was cool when I was in high school, but not this cool. Now some of the best athletes go into golf, maybe because the world's most recognizable figure plays our sport.

Van Sickle: Did the Tour get too dependent on Tiger?

Love: You couldn't avoid it, just like there was no way to avoid Michael Jordan becoming the focus of the NBA. He was just that good. You have to promote him. Our problem is that the rest of the world got this perception that golf is Tiger Woods, but it's not. He has to have a field to beat and a platform to play. The PGA Tour is a great platform. It was a few sponsors who got hung up on, "Well, he's not here."

Purdy: Tiger's positives far outweigh the negatives. I wouldn't put it on him as the reason it's harder to find corporate sponsors. There are only so many FORTUNE 500 companies willing and able to sponsor golf.

Love: Tiger bumps the TV ratings, sure, but we have Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els and Camilo Villegas and other great players to watch. You know, there will be a time when Davis Love and Fred Couples and Tiger Woods won't be playing, and there will be new stars. It has always happened that way.

Flesch: I agree. Our Tour will create new stars. It already has. I walk through the locker room, and I don't know half of these young kids.

Van Sickle: Jhonattan Vegas proved you can create a new star in two weeks. Still, does the Tour need Tiger to perform well this year?

Henry: I think it's important that Tiger comes back and wins. Life is about second chances. People still want to see him play golf. So do I.

Flesch: There are probably some players who enjoy watching Tiger flounder—not that they'd admit it. I think they're amazed by his fall from grace and by what he has done to his swing in the last four years compared with where it was in 2000.

Love: Look, if you like golf, you can't watch only one guy, whether it's Greg Norman or Fred or David Duval or Tiger. Because eventually, that guy is going to go away. Michael Jordan did. Someday, so will Tiger Woods.

My Favorite Tournament

Van Sickle: What's your favorite regular Tour stop, the one you never miss if you can help it?

Henry: Actually, I have two. I grew up in Connecticut, so Hartford is big for me. Hartford was the Phoenix Open before the Phoenix Open. I played that event in college, and there were 120,000 fans. It was amazing. When I went to Texas Christian, I lived in an apartment that looked right down Colonial Country Club's 18th fairway, so Colonial is a special place for me. Plus, now I live in Fort Worth [Texas].

Purdy: Phoenix has grown way beyond what Hartford once was. There's not a golf event in the world like Phoenix, with the crowds and the atmosphere and the excitement.

Van Sickle: Phoenix has the world's loudest hole—the par-3 16th on Saturday.

Purdy: When the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl [in 2009], I hit a shot there to half an inch. I grabbed a Cardinals flag and waved it all the way to the green. The fans went crazy. I was playing late on Saturday, so it was amazingly loud. I only wish the shot had gone in.

Love: I would never miss Hilton Head, and I'm not saying that because I've won there. Hilton Head is a lot like home to me, and it's the week after the Masters, a relaxed atmosphere, and my family always enjoys it. This will be my 26th time.

Van Sickle: Winning a tournament five times doesn't hurt your attitude either.

Love: I suppose not. But even if I hadn't won, Harbour Town would be one of my favorite spots. It's a great week and a great course.

Flesch: I have to go with Hilton Head too. Maybe it's the Low Country atmosphere, maybe it's because it's usually the week after the Masters, but there is a lack of urgency that lets you unwind. Unless you're in the final group on Sunday, Hilton Head is very relaxing.

Crane: I answer this question the same way every time—my favorite event is the one I'm playing that week.

Van Sickle: You may have a future in politics, sir.

Crane: Thanks, I'll stick to YouTube.

One Mulligan

Van Sickle: You're PGA Tour commissioner for a day. What do you change?

Crane: Not a thing. Just keep doing what we're doing.

Henry: The Super Bowl moves around every year. Why can't the FedEx Cup playoffs move around? Why couldn't, say, Hartford and the BMW Championship switch spots on the calendar for a year?

Van Sickle: That's pretty radical.

Henry: Well, a lot of sponsors and communities have supported the Tour for years. Let everyone have a chance to host a playoff event, not just the same cities every year.

Love: I'd make the Nationwide tour bigger, make it the way to get to the regular Tour instead of qualifying school. I'd take some of the PGA Tour's weaker events and make them major Nationwide events. That would strengthen the other tour and shorten our schedule.

Flesch: Yeah, I've heard talk that Q school might become the way you get on the Nationwide, and that a separate qualifier would be held for players who lost their cards and for Nationwide players to move up to the PGA Tour. So the only road to the PGA Tour would go through the Nationwide.

Purdy: I'd increase the fields at all the big-dollar events. The bigger, the better. Our best event is the Players, with 144 players and a $9.5 million purse. They got it right with that one. Everybody says the Players has the strongest field of the year. Why limit the fields at the World Golf Championships to 60 or 70 players? Someone like Sergio García, who can get hot and win at any time, may miss them because he dropped out of the top 50 in the World Ranking.

Flesch: I totally agree. The WGC fields should be bigger—at least 120 players. And I'd add a cut so they're not freebies anymore. It's too easy for guys to shoot six or eight over par for 72 holes and still pick up their $50,000. These events skew the money lists and the rankings for the top players. They make it way too easy to maintain a top 50 ranking without playing all that well.

Van Sickle: If you add a cut, some top international players might quit coming.

Flesch: Yes, but if you want to stay up in the ranking, you'd have to play. There are too many ranking points at stake. Plus, the real problem is that the WGC events have helped make it too easy for players to reach the minimum number of events. We don't require our stars to play enough to carry the rest of the PGA Tour. That's why the Tour is downsizing, that's why the Fall Series will go away and why the Tour will downsize even more. It's going to get harder for the not-so-big stars to survive.

Van Sickle: The WGC events have diminished the importance of regular Tour stops.

Flesch: It really hurts when our stars play abroad. The field at Dubai blew away Pebble Beach. In this economy you have to bring your best to the dance, and we don't do that often enough. That's why Finchem is doing even better than you think. A lot of tournaments are putting up purses of $5 million or $6 million even though they know Tiger isn't coming and maybe nobody else in the top 10 is either. That's some impressive smoke and mirrors.

Rules Warriors

Van Sickle: This has been a year of weird rules violations. How do you feel about TV viewers reporting potential mistakes?

Henry: I'm not a proponent of fans calling in. Unlike other sports, we don't have an official watching every shot by every player. And not every shot is seen on TV, so some players are under more scrutiny than others. That isn't equal. We need to come up with a solution where a guy isn't disqualified for something he did wrong two days earlier.

Crane: Right. When a guy commits a penalty and doesn't know it, it should be a two-shot penalty, not a disqualification for signing a wrong score. All it's going to take is to DQ a leader everybody wants to see win.

Purdy: I wouldn't mind if the Tour had an 800 number. I wish they'd had that for the Heritage Classic, where Stewart Cink beat me after he moved sand from behind his ball. You can't do that except on a green. So many people called in, the officials in the rules trailer unplugged the phone. They ignored it.

Van Sickle: If justice is served, it shouldn't matter who pointed out the violation. Wouldn't it be worse if a winner got away with a violation that everyone witnessed?

Purdy: In the NFL and college basketball they review plays because they happen quickly and they want to get the ruling right. If the result of calling in is the correct call, I don't see how it's a bad thing. The more fan involvement, the better it is for us.

Flesch: Do we really need to know what viewers at home think? We don't need some truck driver calling in because he thought somebody grounded a club. Let's just put a rules official in the production truck when the telecast is on. If any violations happen on TV, he'll see them. It's pretty simple.

A Rite of Spring

Van Sickle: The public Loves the glamour and the aura of the Masters. This will be my 30th Masters, and I still look forward to it. How about you?

Crane: The Masters is like Wimbledon. It's different from all the rest. It's special.

Flesch: It's what every player thinks about when he wins a tournament—I'm going to the Masters! The course is unique, it's spectacular and it has history. You're going to the same place where Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Hogan and so many others did special things. You can go to the spot where Nicklaus made a putt in '86. It's never going to lose its luster.

Purdy: There's something to be said for tradition. There is not a better tournament to win. The allure is there. They created it. It's real.

Henry: If I could pick one tournament to win it would be the U.S. Open, but the Masters is an unbelievable experience. I remember watching on TV in the caddie room at my home course, the Patterson Club in Fairfield, Connecticut, when I was about 11, and Nicklaus made those putts—and the roars!

Love: My favorite thing is being around the clubhouse and hanging with the game's legends. It's an amazing atmosphere. It's one tournament you want to win so you can go back there every year, whether you're playing or not. It's an honor to play there.

Henry: I'll always remember driving down Magnolia Lane the first time.

Love: It's still exciting to pull into Magnolia Lane, whether it's in February or April. I'd prefer it to be April, for obvious reasons.

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