When Golf Magazine asked me to be the guest editor of its third-annual No. 1 Issue, I was honored but also curious. I asked, “What does a guest editor do?” They said I would take over the magazine to share my unvarnished thoughts on the very best, and a few of the worst, things in the game. “Oh, so you want me to talk golf and pull no punches?” I asked. “Yeah, I can handle that.”
My surefire slice fix. My favorite -- and least favorite -- swings on Tour. And why I said "thanks but no thanks" to coaching Tiger Woods. If you watch me on NBC, you know I have plenty of opinions. As Golf Magazine's guest editor this month, here are my No. 1s of just about everything.
No. 1 Greatest Ballstriker
I've studied the swings of pretty much every great player, and Sam Snead was a genius. He was hometaught, not professionally taught, and he had a great physique and a swing as smooth as melted butter. He could hit literally any shot -- high, low, draw, cut -- and he used them all the time.
No. 1 Greatest Putter
For a whole career: Ben Crenshaw, who won two Masters with that stroke. When you think "putting genius," you think of Ben. A close second: Tiger Woods, who had the most efficient stroke ever.
No. 1 Greatest Pressure Player
To be able to play well under pressure is a gift. Hitting pressure shots precise distances on Sunday afternoon is what golf is all about. It's close between Tiger and Jack Nicklaus, but I lean toward Jack. He has 18 majors against Tiger's 14. Jack played against more great players than Tiger had to. Jack had to beat Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Tom Weiskopf and myself. Those guys were closers, not chokers. That's the defining difference between the two: Jack beat tougher guys.
No. 1 Overachiever
Some guys aren't big and super-coordinated. Tom Kite was a golfaholic. Still is. His idea of a good time is hitting 600 balls -- on his day off. He never had great talent or a gorgeous swing, but all that hard work paid off when he won the U.S. Open at Pebble [in 1992]. You gotta give it to Tom, who can't love golf enough. He shows what sheer will can do.
No. 1 Underachiever
Tom Weiskopf was a Dustin Johnson type -- big and athletic, with a great, rhythmic swing. He hit the ball a mile and could pull off any shot. Just one problem: He was in awe of Jack Nicklaus. Tom idolized him so much that he couldn't see himself beating Jack. He had too much respect. Tom had a good career, but if he had been cockier and more motivated, he could have had a Hall of Fame career.
No. 1 Favorite Swing on Tour
What's a great swing? One that's repeatable and combines power and balance. He has a small frame, but 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen hits the ball a long way with little effort. His swing is efficient, effortless and without power leakage. If you could steal any player's swing, his is the one you'd want.
No. 1 Least Favorite Swing on Tour
Kevin Na's driver waggle.
No. 1 Weirdest Swing That Works
Jim Furyk does some great things through the hitting zone, which is the only part of the swing that the ball knows about. Sure, he takes the club above the plane, and his right elbow flies, but then he drops the elbow back in coming down. And he keeps the club square through impact longer than anybody I've ever seen, besides Nicklaus. His club stays dead straight down the line, and that's why he's had a great career.
No. 1 Best Swing of My Career
The drive I hit on the last hole at Oakmont in 1973 at the U.S. Open was special. I'd hit every green that day, and my average birdie putt was about 10 to 12 feet. To this day, I've never seen a major championship round of that precision, with tee shots and iron shots, by anyone. That sounds like bragging, but I've seen a lot of rounds. The drive on 18 is difficult. I knew that if I made par [to shoot 63], I had a great chance of winning. Instead of babying it, I took my driver way back, paused, and hit it as hard as I could, dead center. It was the longest drive of the day by anybody.
No. 1 Worst Swing of My Career
In 1975 Tom Watson and I were tied coming to the 72nd hole of the British Open at Carnoustie. Bobby Cole and Jack Newton were playing behind us. I thought they were a shot or two in front, but the leaderboards were wrong. I thought I had to rip my drive, so with a crosswind I aimed at the right edge of the fairway bunker—but the wind never touched my ball, and it fell into the bunker. Bogey. [Watson defeated Jack Newton in a playoff.] I was probably the best player in the world at the time, right there with Nicklaus. I’m pretty sure I would have won if I’d played a safer drive. That shot cost me the British Open.
No. 1 Anti-Slice Tip
To fix your slice instantly, try two things. First, strengthen your grip, so that looking down you see two or three knuckles on your left hand [for righties]. Then, during your downswing, rotate your right palm toward the ground through the impact zone, to square the face. It's a counterclockwise rotation of your right hand. If you practice turning your palm through impact, not only will you lose your slice -- you'll be able to hit a draw, cut, or straight ball, at will. You'll be dangerous!