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Reggie Jackson once hit three home runs in a World Series game.
Reggie Jackson once hit three home runs in a World Series game. (Courtesy of Major League Baseball)

Mr. October goes golf nut: Reggie Jackson on Tiger Woods' place among sports' legends

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,

SAN DIEGO - Reggie Jackson reaches into the cooler next to the 16th tee marked "players only" and pulls out a water bottle. The San Diego cop assigned to this hole in the U.S. Open looks like he's about to say something and then decides against it.

Because it's ... well, Reggie Jackson.

Mr. October - the man current Yankee fans wish Alex Rodriguez would play like in the playoffs - still brings a presence even as he approaches social security age. Jackson may have walked the final playoff round of a U.S. Open that further built the Tiger Woods legend wearing one of the standard media inside-the-rope-access blue sleeves, but Jackson wasn't in any danger of being mistaken for a reporter. Or any average hanger-on.

Plenty of people at Torrey Pines South did seem surprised to see Reggie Jackson walking along behind Tiger and Rocco Mediate that extra 19-holes Monday though. Wearing a Yankees cap, a white T-shirt, khakis and Footjoy golf shoes, Jackson almost blended in for several holes. But by the back nine, more and more people in the gallery started calling out hesitantly, "Hey, isn't that Reggie Jackson?"

It turns out the baseball icon who smashed three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series is something of a golf fanatic. One who plays most days of the week as he works as a special advisor to the Yankees - while living in the San Francisco Bay area. One who finds himself turning into a fan when there's an opportunity to watch Tiger Woods up close.

Of course, some golf fans who saw Mr. October up close had more severe reactions. One guy sprinted under the ropes to talk to Jackson for several moments before security arrived and ushered him away.

"I don't blame you," Jackson called out to the departing rope crasher. "It's worth a try."

The man with five World Series rings - the one with his own plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park - has a sense of humor.

In BadGolfer.com's exclusive interview, you'll see that and get Jackson's first long comments on his new game of choice.

BadGolfer.com: What draws you to golf? Why would you travel from your San Francisco-area home to watch the final round of a U.S. Open in person rather than another sport?

Reggie Jackson: I'm not a golf fan as much as I'm a Tiger Woods fan. Just getting the chance to watch from inside the ropes as the best, maybe the best ever, does his thing is something I don't want to miss. This guy turns me into a fan.

I'd pay to watch Tiger Woods play golf. And I can't say that about many athletes. In fact, I can't think of another modern athlete I'd pay to watch play."

:Q: Have you followed Tiger around during a round before?

Reggie Jackson: I did it in 2000 at the AT&T (Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) too. Followed him around for all 18 like this. I'll watch him on TV of course, but it's different when you see how he beats these guys up close, how he psychs them out.

BadGolfer.com: Does it remind you of yourself? Does seeing Tiger come up clutch in these big events bring you back to when you hit three home runs in that World Series game?

Reggie Jackson: He's better than me, better than I ever was. He's a Jordan, a Montana, a Bill Russell, a Bob Gibson.

He's almost as mean as Gibson to these other golfers, too. He has an ability to focus for competition down to a straw. He focuses down to a straw's tip. Nothing else around the game distracts him from the game. That's reminiscent of Bob Gibson and Bill Russell.

BadGolfer.com: Is there even more of an appreciation for that when you've played in tense major professional sports?

Reggie Jackson: I can still learn from watching Tiger Woods. I'm 62 and I can still learn something about keeping the heat on. I'll try to use it in my own matches.

BadGolfer.com: How good of a golfer are you?

Reggie Jackson: I'm somewhere between a 5 and a 7 handicap, depending on what the stakes are. (Laughs)

BadGolfer.com: How often do you get to golf?

Reggie Jackson: I play four or five times a week. I try to find a way to play four or five times a week. It doesn't always work out, but I'll go to the driving range and hit balls if I can't find a way to play a full round.

BadGolfer.com: Back in the day, when George Steinbrenner was really George Steinbrenner, when you played for him and The Boss legends got built, would he have had a problem with you playing golf?

Reggie Jackson: Do you know what some of those guys on those Yankee teams were doing? (Laughs) Do you remember who our manager was? I don't think George was going to get too worked up if somebody golfed in their free time.

BadGolfer.com: Who's the best golfer on the current Yankees?

Reggie Jackson: It's not [Derek] Jeter. It's definitely not Jeter.

BadGolfer.com: Yankee Stadium is closing after this year, with a new ballpark replacing it. Would you rather get a few more hacks at the old Yankee Stadium or play a round of golf with Tiger?

Reggie Jackson: There's always another stadium. There's only one Tiger Woods.

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Reggie rocks

    William K. Wolfrum wrote on: Aug 8, 2008

    Growing up in So. Cal, my opinion on Reggie flipped 180 degrees when he left NT and started playing for the Angels. You have to respect a guy who ran out every ground ball he hit.
    Plus, did anyone see him talking during baseball's home run derby? He was flat-out poetic. Count me as a fan of No. 44.