Originally created 06/19/02

Golf's elder statesmen say new generation - Woods excepted - lack discipline



KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's the familiar refrain of Grumpy Old Men: Kids these days.

No discipline.

Got things way too easy.

This wasn't a group of retirees lounging around a coffee shop, though. These were five of golf's all-time greats - Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Tom Watson, who have 212 PGA Tour victories and 51 majors among them.

The targets of their barbed comments: today's PGA players - except Tiger Woods.

"I think Tiger's the most disciplined player out there," Nicklaus said at a news conference before the Children's Mercy Hospital Golf Classic at Blue Hills Country Club. "I don't see any other disciplined players out there."

Woods has the other players "buffaloed," Nicklaus added.

"Not once did I ever evaluate my chances against these four guys and say, 'I don't have a chance,"' he said.

Player said many golfers today are happy to finish second or third.

"I get so (ticked) off at that," he said. "The only person who remembers if you finish second is your wife and your dog - and that's if you have a good wife and a good dog."

And until other players start winning majors on a consistent basis, Palmer said, golf will continue to lack great rivalries.

"Rocco Mediate made the statement that he was not going to play the British Open because the course didn't suit his game," Palmer said, drawing a laugh from spectators as he pretended to rub away tears of sympathy. "He's one of the strongest and best strikers in the game. I helped nurse him along. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

Mediate's attitude wouldn't have cut it in the past, Nicklaus said. In his generation, "Nobody cares what the golf course is - you take your game and you go play golf."

Blame the comfortable living that golf can provide even middling pros, the five said.

"Tiger Woods won $1 million for winning the U.S. Open," Palmer said. "The total prize money my first year on the Tour (1954) was $750,000. ... If you weren't in the top one or two, in a couple of years you were back home mining coal."

Now, Player said, on the Super Senior circuit for golfers age 60 and up, "If you don't fall out of the golf cart you can make 10 grand."

When golfers of his generation turned pro, Nicklaus said, "We played the game for the game. We all said the same thing: 'If you play well, the money will take care of itself."'

One name that came up as a possible rival to Woods was that of Phil Mickelson, who is still trying to win his first major.

"If I could just teach him to putt," Trevino said.

Watson, a Kansas City native and five-time British Open winner, has played host the charity event for 23 years.

Woods declined his invitation to play, Watson said, citing a desire to concentrate on his Tour play and his own foundation work in Florida.

"He's doing what he needs to do," Watson said. "I have no problem with that."



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