I sat down with Dan Jenkins for an interview in the media center at Whistling Straits last Sunday — his 206th major, a record that will never be broken because “among other things, there won’t be golf writers someday!” — as play was getting underway. When I showed up, he was looking at the giant leaderboard in the front of the room and rifling through the names, deciding who would make the best winning story to write. “Rory [McIlroy] and Dustin [Johnson]. I guess Nick Watney. That’s about it,” he said. In other words, we didn’t want to write about anyone else.
Before I walked away, Mr. Jenkins imparted some words with me I’ll never forget, including a few pieces of advice. First, meet his daughter, Sally (pictured above). Then, he encouraged me to keep pushing through the industry and hoped I continued to cover golf. He said I needed to do two things: Listen to those who have been doing this for a long time (and know what they’re doing — in other words, be very discriminatory), and read — and not just his books.
The interview is published over at the Wall Street Journal. But here are some snippets that didn’t make it. Oh, and I asked him about the infamous Yang tweet, too.
This part was edited out of Mr. Jenkins’ response to why he’s not the biggest Tiger fan:
You look at some of the guys [Tiger] beat in his majors. Yeah, there’s Phil and there’s Ernie, but there’s also Chris DiMarco and guys who had never won and still have never won. That was problem A. Problem B is they never gave him a battle. So you go back and try to really dig down and assess his career, you have to look at who he beat when he won the majors. I suppose when he won Medinah against Sergio in ’99 that was the turning point — that was a big one because at the time, Sergio considered to be his equal. Tiger won the first battle and then he went on to win all the other ones and Sergio hasn’t done anything yet — and he probably won’t; Sergio seems more in line on giving it up.
This didn’t make the final copy:
Do you think Tiger will break Jack’s majors record?
I wouldn’t think he’s going to do that now. I thought he was going to because of the level of competition he’s facing. I once said the only two things that are going to stop him are injury or a bad marriage. So he got the bad marriage, but I guess that’s his own fault. It’s tough to sustain [the game?] Jack’s the only guy to sustain it for a long period of time — 20 years. I don’t think anybody will ever do that. I don’t think Tiger will do it. I don’t think he wants to do it. I have no idea what’s in his head. I don’t know him. I don’t think anybody knows him. I think he’s kind of a sad, lonely person, but I’ve always thought that. He never should have been married.
But these did:
Who are the top five best players in the history of golf?
[Ben] Hogan’s the best shotmaker and Jack [Nicklaus] is the best winner. You’ve got to put [Bobby] Jones in there. Then, Byron Nelson because of his record. I’d say [top-five in this order] Hogan, Jack, Jones, Nelson and Sam Snead are the five greatest players. Tiger doesn’t make the top-five. You have to have Arnold [Palmer] in there somewhere because he probably did more for golf in this country than anybody. He popularized it, he took it to the people. Tiger took it all away.
What do you think of the tremendous negative reaction to your now infamous Yang tweet?
It was obviously a joke. At the time people said, “People don’t like it.” Number one, I don’t care what the people think. (Laughter.) But I had just ate at P.F. Chang and I thought they sounded the same. I was just being funny. I hate political correctness. It’s killing the country. It’s killing the world. It’s amusing. I wasn’t bothered by [the backlash], I laughed.