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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Jack Nicklaus Rates his Game

I was reading Jack's book, Golf My Way, published in 1974.  Jack is still the best player I've ever seen.  His record in Major championships, especially when you consider top three finishes, is one that will likely never be equalled.  However, in golf, you should probably never say never.

In concluding his book, Jack rated his overall game.  At this point, he had 51 official tour victories, 34 second place finishes, and 25 third place finishes.  He had won 12 Majors and two US amateurs.  He wasn't finished of course, winning another six Majors before he was done.  Jack felt he was a better player than he had ever been, finding a way to improve every year, other than one three year stretch.  He was at the height of his powers.  But, he was very candid about the fact that he played anything but perfect golf.  He wrote:

  "My highest rate of failure occurs, of course, in execution.  Maturity and experience have brought me to a point where, when I'm concentrating properly, objective shot analysis presents few major problems.  How much I compromise depends on my confidence level, but when it's high I can be lretty resolute about attempting the proper shot.  In terms of execution, I feel the nearest I've ever got to the goals I've set myself is about 75 percent.  At my worst, I probably do not reach 33 percent.  Over-all, day in and day out, at the present time I'm probably averaging about 60 percent."

Jack then went on to rate his overall game.  He felt his driving was rated at 85 percent.  His fairway woods were rated at no better than 65 percent, in part because he seldom needed to use them, and because he probably didn't practise them enough.  Jack rated his long and mid irons at 90 percent, considering them to be the strongest part of his game.  For short irons, and especially wedges, Jack admitted that he lacked the sort of finesse and total control he felt he should have and said he would be hard-pressed to give himself better than 50 percent.

In terms of short game, Jack admitted that chipping was "still definitely a weak link in my armor."  But felt this was because he didn't miss many greens and wasn't called upon to chip that often under competitive pressure.  He felt he was good out of firm sand, rating himself he at about 80 percent.  Out of powdery, silica sand he felt he was more like 50 percent.

While he is always remembered as a great pressure putter, Jack had the following to say about his putting:

  "Putting has always been an in-and-out game for me, depending a great deal on how well I'm concentrating and, to a lesser extent, on the type of greens I'm playing.  For example, I've never putted as well on slow greens as on fast.  But you have to be realistic about putting, and accept the fact that you're probably never going to putt as well as you think you ought to.  Realistically, I'd rate my putting so ewhere between 70 and 80 percent on an over-all basis, with lows of about 30 percent and occasional highs of about 90 percent."

So, having made it clear that, while he may have been the best player on the planet at the time, his game was far from perfect, Jack summed things up as follows:

  "In my experience, when all is said and done, success at golf boils down to four pretty straightforward factors.  First I would place adherence to a few time-proven mechanical fundamentals and a resistance to the passing gimmick.  Second, I think a vital--and often overlooked --success factor is how effectively a golfer can maximize his greatest natural physical assets in molding and maintaining a playing method.  Third, I would select the ability while playing to define objectives and then concentrate on achieving them to the exclusion of all else.  Fourth, and most important of all, there is the matter of desire.  If you have enough of that it's amazing what you can do at golf, or in any other area of life, for that matter."