'Say What' with Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly

July 11, 2007
By John Bush PGA TOUR Staff

Rick Reilly is in his 23rd year as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times. He is the author of the weekly "Life of Reilly" column, which runs on the last page of SI. Among some of the books Reilly has authored are Shanks for Nothing, Missing Links and Who's Your Caddy? -- with the latter novel focusing on his exploits as a caddie for everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Donald Trump. The book rose all the way to No. 3 on the New York Times best-seller list. Reilly had a chance to sit down this week with PGA TOUR Media Official John Bush for another edition of "Say What?" Reilly was in Columbus for a Pro-Am event at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational -- a first-year event on the Nationwide Tour.

What do you consider the greatest sporting event??

It would have to be the Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot. But after that my favorite is the Ryder Cup because guys are just gagging their brains out playing for their country.

What is the most memorable event you've covered personally??

Jack Nicklaus, five behind at the 1986 Masters. He can't even see the ball. Tears are in his eyes. Haagen Dazs ice cream operators are leaving their ice cream carts and running to see him. It was madness and as loud as I've ever heard it at Augusta.

What is the funniest things you've seen at a sporting event??

One time I saw a guy at the Masters hit his ball into Rae's Creek. His ball is sitting in the creek, and he takes off his right shoe, then his right sock and then rolls his right pant leg up to his knees. Then he steps in the creek with his left foot. That was pretty funny.

Who is the best sportswriter of all time??

Jim Murray with the L.A. Times. He was not only the best sportswriter, but he might have been the best newspaper man of all time. You have to take him, and then close behind would be Damon Runyan, Red Smith and Jimmy Breslin. I would say those are the four best.

What is your first childhood memory in sports??

I was the batboy for my brother's little league team. I was 5 years old and I didn't have any idea what I was doing. But I was just thrilled to be inside the fence ... and in a way it is still thrilling to be inside the fence. That is why I love covering golf tournaments, because you guys give us those little passes that let us inside the ropes. But at the same time, that is why I respect the Masters the most because they won't let you in. They have real standards.

If you could trade places with any commissioner in sports, who would it be and why??

I would trade places with Bud Selig in Major League Baseball. I would get these slow, boring baseball players in the box. You don't need to totally re-adjust your cap, glove and shoes because the guy just threw a ball to you. Just get in the box and maybe we can get home before dinner.

Which athlete have you enjoyed covering the most??

My favorite guy is Charles Barkley. He is hilarious, smart and has a memory unlike any other. I've seen people come up to him and go, "I don't know if you remember me, but ..." Then Charles will say, "Yes, Lindsay, I signed a visor for you three years ago in Salt Lake City. You were with your best friend, uh, Megan." They can't believe it. He is a genius and so funny. One thing you can't do with Charles though is rub his head, and this one guy kept rubbing his head. So he finally got sick of it and threw him through a plate-glass window. His agent told him that he had to apologize and show the guy some regret. Charles told his agent, "Regret? The only regret I have is that I wish we were on the second floor."

Who is the most misunderstood athlete??

I think Lance Armstrong. I think some people think Lance cheated. I don't think he did ... at least I hope he didn't. He is a great, fun guy.

What comes to mind when you think of Michael Jordan??

Very expensive suits. He always had the most gorgeous suits. Every time we saw him it was never the same suit.

What thoughts do you have on Arnold Palmer??

Five bucks. I took five bucks off of him one time at Isleworth. He said he could hook it between two trees and over another tree. I told him, "I don't care who you are ... Arnold Palmer or anyone else ... you can't do that." You know what I did with that five bucks? I bought an Arnold Palmer.

What are your opinions of Tiger Woods??

I just think that if you are a parent today, you can't do better than Tiger Woods. He never shows up in the criminal section of the newspaper. He'll never show up with drugs. He's never going to show up having busted someone's head open. And he is the most watched person in the world. But he never messes up. I think it is amazing and I like Shaq O'Neal for that same reason. I think Tiger is the most-skilled athlete at what he does that we have ever had. I don't think anyone has ever been better than he is right now ... or at least in 2000. I think that year was as good as anyone has ever done sports. I mean, he beat the best players in the world by 15 shots at the U.S. Open.

What is your favorite golf course??

Old Head Golf Course in Ireland. It is just this incredible place built on a peninsula. You can walk along single fairways and on each side there is a 250-foot drop. It is in this incredibly beautiful town called Kinsale, which is like some little storybook town that was dropped right down from Heaven.

What is your best round??

My best score was a 71. I was with my son in a Father-Son Tournament at the Denver Country Club. It was great and we got our names on a trophy forever and ever.

What is the strength of your game??

The strength of my game is definitely storytelling.

What is your biggest weakness??

The weakness is storytelling because I don't concentrate on my own darn game enough.

Who would be in your dream foursome??

John F. Kennedy, Jim Murray -- the great L.A. Times writer -- and Bill Gates. I'd put Bill in there because he stinks and I could take lots and lots of money from him. I mean, he is going to bet millions, right? Kennedy was pretty good ... so me and Kennedy against Gates and Murray -- because Murray was terrible too.

If you were not a sportswriter, what profession would you be in??

I think I would be really good in advertising. I always think of good slogans. I've got a great idea for one of these instant-photo places. You have this woman and she is sitting by her mailbox. She has been sitting there forever and there are cobwebs, right? She starts singing, "Some day, my prints will come." Prints, get it? It is a photo place. (To Media Official) When you hear something funny, do you laugh?

Speaking of slogans, the PGA TOUR uses, These guys are good. Would you change that?

How about, These guys are rich.