The No. 1 Stroke-Shaver: Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall, 80, has appeared in more than 75 films. His latest, "Seven Days in Utopia," opens Sept. 2.
Solve Sundsbo/Art & Commerce

In "Seven Days in Utopia," you play the wizened coach to a young PGA Tour pro. Why do a golf movie?
It's a feel-good story with real humanity, and it has a great message. A philosopher once said, "Don't be a farmer. Be a man on a farm." My character says, "Don't be a golfer—be a good human being, and that helps you be a better golfer."

You've never been a golf nut. Did this project get you hooked?
Golf is time-consuming. Years ago, I went to a driving range for two weeks, then played a pretty fair round in Virginia. But that's the only time I got satisfaction playing. I've struggled. I could get into it, but I'd rather deal with horses.

Still, it sounds like you have a deep appreciation for the game.
Absolutely. I once did a movie in Scotland. We stayed at St. Andrews. My room was over the 17th hole. Scotland has these wonderful trappings—the Old Course, fish and chips, cab drivers who tell you their handicap—and one morning we hear all these Texas accents out there [laughs]. Golf brings people together from all over.

What's the No. 1 facet of golf that applies to acting?
Have a clear mind. Jack Nicklaus said something like, "If I play with three things on my mind, I may as well stay home. Two things on my mind, I'll play good. One thing on my mind, I'll finish in the top 10. If there's nothing on my mind, no one can beat me."

You've played many memorable roles over the years, including Tom Hagen in "The Godfather." What advice do you think he'd give Tiger Woods?
"Keep your legs crossed."

That's some straight talk from the consigliere.
What's up with Tiger? Will he ever get his game back?

Hard to say. He has the same talent and great work ethic, but injuries are the X-factor.
He always worked hard, then? I don't understand people who have talent but don't put in all they can. Who's that big fat guy from Arkansas who never practiced?

John Daly. He's slimmed down, by the way.
Yeah, Daly. He should have worked harder. I'm sure Jones and Nicklaus practiced hard. Did you know Nicklaus was the 100-yard dash champion in high school? That's what I heard. A terrific athlete.

Your friend James Caan is a good athlete, too. Has he ever gotten you on the course?
The thing about Jimmy is, he tells you how good he is at everything—golf, tennis, rodeo—but he never offers data of his actual handicap. He looks good, but where's the proof? We call Jimmy "All- State Everything."

You're 80, and your beautiful wife is half your age. Did you "overclub," as we say in golf?
I don't know, but when I met my father-in- law, he said, "I don't know whether to call you father or son."

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