COLUMBUS, Ohio — Now 72, Jack Nicklaus jokes that he can't remember what happened yesterday.
Yet he never has forgotten what it was like to hit the most famous shots of his illustrious career.
"I can still feel it, it feels the same," he said Monday at a charity luncheon affiliated with the Memorial Tournament, which he founded and hosts. "You can still feel the shot, the way it came off your hands, 30 or 40 years later. I still have that same feeling. I haven't matched it lately. I do know that feeling, though. And it's kind of fun to know what it feels like in golf."
The years have not dimmed the sweet spot he hit on the 1 iron that he drilled through the wind and off the pin at 17 to take the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, or the 5 iron with a slight draw at 16 that helped him win the 1986 Masters at age 46.
Nicklaus, who helped raise $275,000 at the luncheon for Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, appeared with defending Memorial winner Steve Stricker and two-time U.S. Open champion and golf analyst, Andy North.
For his charitable works and golf feats, the House voted to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on Nicklaus. The honor is awarded to prominent military leaders, public servants, athletes and artists. The legislation now goes to the Senate for a vote.
Though he no longer plays much — he said his five kids and 22 grandchildren all lead busy lives and don't usually have time — Nicklaus said he hasn't forgotten his signature shots.
Funny, he said, how many of them were 1 irons — a club rarely used anymore. There was the shot at Pebble Beach that helped him hold off Bruce Crampton. There was another 1 iron at Augusta National, with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller chasing, that led to his Masters victory in 1975.
Stricker remains impressed by the 5 iron that Nicklaus carved into the back-left pin placement on Sunday at the '86 Masters.
"I still can't get over that shot," Stricker said. "… One little flick over there and you're in the water."
With some embarrassment, Nicklaus said that shot was memorable because of his reaction to it.
"On that particular shot, I made probably the cockiest remark I've ever made in my life on a golf course," he said. "It was 175 yards and a 5 iron that I had to take a little off of, but I hit it exactly the way I wanted to hit it. I hit it just to the right of the flag, with a slight draw. I hit the shot and I knew where it was. I reached down to pick up my tee and (son) Jackie, who was caddying for me, said, 'Be right!' I said, 'It is.' "
To loud laughter, he added, "That remark can get you in a lot of trouble when the ball's still in the air."
North said all of those shots are memorable but it was much shorter ones that made them so.
"When I think of Jack Nicklaus, I think of (those), and 100,000 8-footers he made when he needed to make them," he said.
Bubba Watson's hooked wedge shot from the trees right of the 10th fairway in a playoff at this year's Masters ranks with the greatest shots of all time, Nicklaus said. Watson's dramatic shot landed on the green and spun within range of an easy two-putt par that gave him his first major championship, defeating Louis Oosthuizen.
Nicklaus said it was hard to even imagine the difficulty of the wedge shot.
"I'd never been where he was," he cracked.