Fast Chat: 'You Don't Get That Excitement Anymore

Jack Nicklaus, who had a total hip replacement four years ago, is the spokesman for a new promotional campaign by Stryker Corp., the company that made his hip. He talked with NEWSWEEK's David Noonan and George Hackett about two topics of life-and-death importance: health and golf.

How's that high-tech, ceramic hip of yours feeling?

It's fine. If the rest of my body felt like my hip I'd be out training for the Olympics. Before I got it I really couldn't play golf because I couldn't walk. I couldn't go shopping with my wife because I had to sit down every 30 yards.

It seems like a lot of middle-aged people just ignore their aches and pains.

The whole point of it is, if you catch it early enough and get yourself on a postural-exercise program you can prevent your hip from degenerating further.

What do you think about what the new golf balls are doing to the game?

It's absolutely ridiculous. I'm 63 years old, I don't have near the club-head speed I had in my prime and I hit it the same distance. It's totally the ball. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy, but I just hate to see the wonderful golf courses--the Shinnecocks, the Winged Foots, the Baltusrols, the Merions--all become obsolete because of the golf ball.

Extralong rough seems like another popular trend on Tour.

And what is so exciting about watching a guy drive it in the rough, take a sand wedge and hack it out? If we had courses like this years ago, nobody ever would have heard of Arnold Palmer. I don't mean that nastily. What I mean is, Arnold made himself popular because of his recovery shots. Arnold was not a good driver when he started. He was in the trees, he hit it under this, he hit it over that. And that's what excited people, they loved it. You don't get that excitement anymore because it's all "Hit it in the rough, chop it out."

You won the Masters six times. Do you like the changes to Augusta National?

By lengthening it and doing what they did, they eliminated two thirds of the field and basically ruined the golf course from a competitive stand-point. But I think they probably made the right choice for them. They redesigned it to fit what is the dominant part of the game. When I played most of my golf, I think 20 percent of the game was power. I think 80 percent of the game is power now. Some people are saying that Tiger Woods was in a slump this season because he didn't win a major, though he has won four times so far on the PGA Tour.

We should all be in a slump like that. But I had exactly the same experience in '68 and '69. I won six or seven tournaments but didn't win any majors. And I felt like I was playing like absolute crap.

Was the 1970s the worst decade ever for fashion on the Tour--all those plaid pants and white belts?

Don't laugh, it'll be back. And if you think that was bad, look at some of the hairdos and clothes that guys are wearing today. Ugh.