Shooting Star: James Caan

James Caan
Jerry Avenaim/Corbis

Interview by John O'Mahony

What kind of club would Sonny Corleone favor — on and off the course?
A nice solid wedge.

You're fairly new to golf, at 67. Are you intense on the course?
Yeah. I can sing for the president or go on stage in front of the queen, and it doesn't bother me. But I'll get uptight playing with someone new. I feel I've got to prove myself to them, which is idiotic. I should probably take tranquilizers.

You've said you always felt like an athlete until you started playing golf.
I played football, baseball, basketball and rodeo, but golf was humbling. Everything I had done up to then was — bang! — all muscle. Everything. So it was hard to understand why I couldn't muscle the ball and make it go where it's supposed to go. The ball is just sitting there, waiting for you to hit it! It's funny. Yet you get all these great athletes from other sports, and golf makes them look like they've left the hospital ward for the physically impaired.

Any old injuries from your days on the pro rodeo circuit?
I have so many — bad back, tendon damage everywhere — that every morning I get up in sections.

In the '70s you briefly lived at the Playboy Mansion. You think Hef makes the bunnies caddie?
I have enough problems reading greens. You have to keep your head down. With a bunny caddie, how would you do that?

You play a casino owner on Las Vegas. Do you gamble on the course?
Yeah, but it's the winning that's important. The $20? That just gets you a sandwich.

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