From “one of the best sportswriters in America” (The Washington Times)—the New York Times bestselling story of the friendship and rivalry between golf legends Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, whose sparring matches defined the sport for more than a decade.
The first time they met, at an exhibition match in 1967, Tom Watson was a seventeen-year-old high school student and Jack Nicklaus, at twenty-seven, was already the greatest golfer in the world. Though they shared some similarities—they were both Midwestern boys who had learned how to play golf at their fathers’ country clubs—they differed in many ways. Nicklaus played a game of consummate control and precision. Watson hit the ball all over the place. Nicklaus lacked charm and theatrics, and he was thoroughly despised by most golf fans because he had displaced Arnold Palmer as king of the golf world. Watson was one of those Arnold Palmer fans. Yet over the next twenty years their seemingly divergent paths collided as they battled against each other again and again for a place at the top of the sport and drove each other to ever-soaring heights of accomplishment.
Spanning from that first match through the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977 to Watson’s miraculous near-victory at Turnberry as he approached sixty, and informed by interviews with both players over many years, The Secret of Golf is Joe Posnanski’s intimate account of the most remarkable rivalry and (eventual) friendship in modern golf.
Posnanski, author of the bestselling Paterno, explores the relationship of golf greats Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, as well as each man's personal connection to the game of golf. A former sportswriter for the Kansas City Star, Posnanski has an obvious bond with the native-Missourian Watson, so most of the story is told from his perspective with Nicklaus's role being more peripheral a legend to be chased. But when Watson finally catches Nicklaus at the 1977 Open Championship at Turnberry in Scotland, the two players' acquaintance becomes less one-sided and more collegial. Interspersed among remembrance of some of the players' best battles against each other and themselves are "secrets" like "Expect Bad Shots" or "Overestimate the Wind" that these two champions think all players need to know to improve their games. Posnanski's light touch is deft as he lets the players' own words do the talking, though he could do more to explain how Watson's drinking affected his playing. As Watson and Nicklaus's connection shifts from dispassion to a professional rivalry to a friendship, Posnanski demonstrates the ups and down of life and sport to create a work that will resonate with avid golfers and sports fans alike.