The No. 1 Stroke-Shaver: Robert Duvall

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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