SENIOR PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 10, 2002
MODERATOR: Jack, how are you feeling? You only played nine holes in the morning ProAm.
JACK NICKLAUS: I really only played about three holes, but I was on the course for nine holes.
I've really been very encouraged by what I've been doing exercise-wise. Sunday I made a couple changes in my golf swing. I actually really played very well. I really didn't hurt much. I decided to rest Monday. Yesterday I went down to Muirfield before I came up here. I played nine holes, birdied four of the first five holes. I thought, "I'm ready to play golf." Got up this morning and I couldn't move. Unfortunately, that's what's happened, one way or the other.
I'm greatly improved. I haven't withdrawn yet. Actually when we finish here, I'm going to go out and hit some balls. I went to the fitness trailer trying to get the spasm out of where it came. Basically, my right hip spasmed up. My right glut, not hip, but the right glut spasmed up. It's where I've actually -- the change I made in my golf swing to help me accommodate what I was doing is loading up the right side. When I loaded up the right side, it just didn't like being loaded up because it hadn't been loaded up for a long time. Whether they got it out, I can go use it, I don't know. I frankly kind of doubt it, but I'm still going to try because I know I played well the last couple days.
MODERATOR: Let's open it up with questions in the room.
Q. You said "not yet." If you feel like this tomorrow, is that a no? How frustrating is it?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's very frustrating. When you really start to feel like, "Hey, I'm finally starting to come back," a lot of the problems seem to be subsiding, and then to have it jump back at you the way it did this morning. You know, I've had it for a year and a half. It's just been discouraging. But I'm the best I've been for a long time right now, or I was before I teed off this morning.
So I don't know. I'm encouraged by it, but I'm also discouraged by it. Maybe my timetable is more aggressive than it probably should be. I keep talking to Pete. He keeps telling me, "Jack, your body is going to do it on its own timetable. Your mind is going to keep pushing it forward. You got to be patient."
It's going to get there.
Q. If you feel like this tomorrow?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what I'm going to feel like. I'll make up my mind this afternoon. When I leave here, I'm going to go hit some balls. If I can hit balls, I'll delay it till tomorrow to figure out what I'm going to do. I don't want to keep somebody out of the tournament. The last two out of three years here I've withdrawn in the middle of the second round. I don't want to do that. That keeps somebody out of the golf tournament that can play. I'll make the decision before I play. I just don't want to do that to somebody again.
Q. About the course changes, how it's playing?
JACK NICKLAUS: Golf course is really good. John has done a nice job of getting the golf course in shape. Fairways are beautiful. Greens are good, nice and quick. They're firm. We made a couple of modifications on the golf course. It's just a continuous spiral of changing golf courses to try to combat the golf ball. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. We keep throwing dollar after dollar after dollar to try to chase a golf ball when you all you have to do is fix the frigging golf ball, don't do anything else. Somebody's going to wake up to that one of these days.
Anyway, we lengthened the 3rd hole, which made it really a 577. When do you ever hear of lengthening a par 5 for the SENIORS to 577? Makes it a substantial par 5. Bunkers are out 275.
The lengthening on the 7th hole, I'm not sure what the length is on 7, but it's probably close to that, 460, 470 probably. I mean, 560, 570. Tougher angle, more trees on the left. I think with the golf ball, it's got to be -- it's going to happen.
The other change on the golf course -- anything besides 18? Is that all? New tee at 16. Lengthened the tee a little bit at 16. Lengthened the tee a little bit there. Basically forces the guy to hit a wood off the tee. It really looks nice. They did a nice job of that.
Then the bunker at 18 was really to sort of protection in the front right of the green. If you hit the ball right, you could scoot it up anywhere, sit on the green. I think that sits in there nicely. That's -- you have to drive the ball straighter at 18 or play a better shot.
Q. You talked about the pain that you have on the right side. What type of pain is it? How long did you play with it today?
JACK NICKLAUS: It was from loading up the right side. It just spasmed, that's all, not hurt. It just -- once I got there, I had to get off of it. You know, I mean, you don't stand on a muscle that's hurting, do you? You get off of it. So I couldn't hit it.
MODERATOR: We'll take some questions from the telephone. But first we'll answer about the '72 British.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think there's always pressure going into any event if you've won the first one. If you win the Masters, there's pressure going to the US Open. But that's what you thrive on, that's what you're trying to do, that's what you're trying to get to. And I would call it more excited than pressure.
You got to figure out how to control your excitement about the opportunity that you have in front of you. That was the problem that I had. Then I got there. I was there about a week ahead of time at Muirfield, and on the Sunday before the tournament, I woke up with a cricked neck. Actually was a pretty good one. Didn't go away until about the weekend. I didn't get off to a very good start. On Saturday it sort of went way. I played pretty well Saturday. Then Sunday I really played well.
I actually got myself back into the lead of the golf tournament, but I didn't hold it. You know, but the excitement and the fun, the excitement stirs within the golfing word, it's neat, which is like it is right now. I'll never forget, because Oakland Hills was the venue in '72. The Oakland Hills people were saying they were watching the television set, and that if I had to finish that off, they said they had plans to build a 12-foot fence around the golf course, change the fence. Whether that was true or not, that was a comment I got back.
Q. Talk about the final round.
JACK NICKLAUS: The people were so fantastic. The support I had from Scotland, always had great support in Scotland. I mean, I'm a fairly emotional guy in a lot of ways. I remember walking down 11, I knocked in (inaudible). The people just absolutely went bonkers. I mean, I had tears in my eyes, running down my face on the 11th hole. I got seven more holes to play. Right behind me, both Trevino and Jack had eagled No. 9. Then I think where -- I don't remember. I think I might have bogeyed 12, I don't remember. But I knew that when I got to 16 that, although the wind was the opposite direction, when I was hearing 66, I stood on the 16th tee, I said, "Okay." I was tied with Doug Sanders and Dave Thomas at the time. "Okay, finish three, four, four, which is par, birdie, par, you'll win the golf tournament. Finish three, four, four, win the golf tournament."
I sat there on 16 again basically tied. The guys were a couple holes behind me. I was basically tied for the lead. The wind was the other direction. And I said, "Okay, Jack, finish three, four, four, you're going to win the golf tournament." I finished four, five, four. Lost by one shot.
So regardless of what Trevino did or regardless of what Jack did, didn't make any difference. I finished the same way. What I planned, I would have won a golf tournament regardless of what anybody else did. Obviously, you know, it didn't happen.
Q. Looking forward to next week, the British Open, Tiger, would it be a good thing for the game of golf in general if he were to pull off the Grand Slam or do you feel it would be preferable for this particular achievement to remain perhaps a mythical part of the game, distant target out there somewhere, inspiration for generations to come, rather for it to be done by any man really?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, for all intents and purposes, I think he's already done it. He didn't do it in one year. Now all of a sudden you have to do it in one year. He's done something nobody else has done, having all four at the same time. I mean, I would have had all four of them at the same time, not necessarily in order, but in '72 had I won the British Open, I would have held all four at the same time. He has done that. Nobody else has done that.
Whether he does them all in one year or not, I think it's insignificant. You guys want to make a big deal out of writing about it. To me, I think he's already done what he's done.
If he did it, basically it would be two of them. That's not only unbelievable, that's super-unbelievable, I guess, however you want to call it.
But, you know, Muirfield is a golf course that he will do well on. It's a golf course that he will not have a big advantage with his length or, frankly, his strength because I think the rough at Muirfield will be such that you will not be able to advance the ball a great distance. I assume, what I've been told, the rough is like knee-high. Is that correct?
JACK NICKLAUS: If it's knee-high, I don't care if you're Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus or King Kong, you're not going to hit it out of there. That's what it was in '66 when I won it. We walked one foot off the edge of the fairway, it was knee-high. Not only did you lose your ball, sometimes you lost your caddie looking for it if he was short.
The fairways will be narrowed down past the normal driving area. Probably generous in the normal driving area, which is what they usually do at the British Open, where they want you to drive the golf ball, not dissimilar to what they did at Carnoustie, although I wasn't there, I assume it was similar to that.
I don't think Tiger has a tremendous advantage as it relates to his abilities over other good players on that golf course. The only advantage he has is he's a better player than everybody else. That's a pretty good advantage.
So would it be good for the game of golf? You know, I don't know. I think if he's going to do it, I'd just as soon have him do it 10 years from now so that he has something to look forward to in the future. Right now, if he does it, he doesn't have anything to look forward to. And I think that would be a shame for a man of his talent, because he's got an awful lot of great golf in him, he's got a lot of wins in him. I'd hate to see him lose his incentive or desire to play because he can give the game an awful lot, and the game has a lot to give him, too.
But, you know, be that as it may, I don't really know. It would be an exciting thing to see it happen. I think he's going to have other opportunities to have it happen. If it happens this year, it happens this year. If it happens another year, or if it doesn't happen, it's still -- the one-year goal is still something that nobody has ever achieved, obviously.
Q. You were totally dominant in your time, much as Tiger is now. From your experience, why do you think now it seems so many extremely talented players appear to almost fall apart when push comes to shove over a final round against Tiger? Is it them or is it him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't think you should take anything away from Tiger. Tiger is pretty good. Tiger doesn't seem to fall apart. I think when I played, if I had a mistake, very rarely did I have the opportunity to be just about even. I don't know what the score was coming down the last nine holes of the Masters. Anybody remember whether he was in the lead or even? I don't even remember. Probably a shot or two ahead. But, anyway, to have the luxury to be very close and just watch everybody else fall apart while you play good - solid yet conservative - golf and not have to do anything. Tiger I think shot 37 the last nine holes. He never had any pressure put on him.
I don't think I had that luxury too often unless I had a five- or six-shot lead. The way I look at it, I had Palmer, who had won eight majors, seven or eight, whatever Arnold has won, Player, who has won nine, Watson won, what, eight, Trevino won, what, eight. I'm pretty close to those numbers. I had guys who had a history of knowing how to win golf tournaments, who were not afraid to win golf tournaments.
The guys today are terrific players, they're great players. There's nothing wrong with them, but they haven't had the luxury of having history behind them of having won significant golf tournaments and have that record where they say, "Hey, you know, I'm not afraid. I've won these golf tournaments before; I can win them again."
You have guys who have won one maybe or two major championships. That's not enough to really turn around and say, "Hey, I can challenge anybody with the way I play."
I frankly think somebody's going to do that or several guys are going to do that, which will be Tiger's competition in the future. But until that happens, he's going to have guys who are scared not only -- not that they're that scared of him, they're scared of themselves, of winning. That's really what I think they are.
Q. In that sense, do you think maybe a resurgent Nick Faldo, which is what he is this year...
JACK NICKLAUS: Put Faldo in that list, too.
Q. What do you think the biggest obstacle is facing Tiger at Muirfield next week?
JACK NICKLAUS: Himself.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think there's any bigger obstacle. I don't think there is any other obstacle. In other words, I never had any other obstacles. The only obstacle I ever faced was myself. It's the only thing I could control, only thing I could do.
Tiger will go over and prepare for the golf courses like I did. He will go over and play his best golf. He will try to do the best he can to prepare himself and his golf game to do his very best. His only obstacle will be himself.
Now, sometimes I played my best, and I got beat, and I played very well and Turnberry and got beat. I played very well at The Open at Pebble Beach and got beat. I played most of the tournament in '72 at Muirfield and got beat. I've also played a lot of tournaments and won.
But Tiger goes over and plays his A game, he's a better player than they are, he will either win the tournament on his own merits or not win the tournament on his own merits. I don't think he really has any other obstacles. He's going to have other guys that play well, but he's the only thing he can control.
Q. You mentioned your affinity for the Scottish fans, how they really took to you. Why do you think they're such -- there's such a rapport between them and American players such as yourself and Palmer, Hogan, so forth?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. I think the fans over there like -- they've always liked champions. They've always liked winners. In this country here, we have -- every city you go in, we have a different sports team or a different athlete that's a champion of something or the other, and it's not as big a deal as it is over there.
I think when Tony Jacklin and Nick Faldo were winning, that was very special for them. If they couldn't have their own champion, they sort of picked up the next champion that to them -- almost called them one of their own. That did that with me, they did it with Arnold, they did it with Gary, done it with Watson. They've done that. And I think it's very nice.
Golf is probably, as a whole, a lot bigger sport in Great Britain than it is in this country because of all the other things we have happening here.
Q. From what you said about Tiger, preferring he didn't win the Grand Slam straightaway.
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't say I prefer he didn't win it.
Q. In 10 years' time, it might be better for him.
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't say I'd prefer. I think you ought to take it at any time you can get it. The question was, Is it good for the game of golf? I said I think for the game of golf it would probably be better 10 years from now when he's getting to the end of his career, rather than the beginning of his career, so he still has the desire to play.
Q. I was talking from Tiger's point of view, if he won it too soon, he might lose interest. Do you think that would happen at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that is a distinct possibility. But I was asked as it related to the game of golf.
Q. But you do think that would be a distinct possibility, that he would run out of goals?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, give me any other ones that he'd have, except my record. I think my record would be pretty meager after you win two Grand Slams, frankly.
Q. Have you sent a message to the R and A ?
JACK NICKLAUS: Have I sent a message?
Q. About this week at all, anything you're going to miss about Muirfield?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I really have not sent a message.
Q. Could you talk about the difficulty of peaking four times in the four majors, getting your game to come together at those four specific times, how hard that was or is.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, of course, that's how I geared my whole career, my whole tournament, was geared around those four championships. I think I never really had any problem gearing myself to try to bring myself to a peak during those four weeks. Those were the weeks that I wanted to play, so I geared myself around that.
Occasionally, you know, you'll -- something will happen, and maybe it will be one right next to each other. You know, we used to play the British Open and the PGA back to back a lot of years. As a matter of fact, in '53, I guess Hogan couldn't make both of them because they were so close.
You know, I think -- I don't think it's hard to prepare yourself or get to a peak. I think what is very difficult to do is to have your golf game remain at a peak at four different golf courses, four different times of the year, four different conditions. You know, I mean, if you look at the four major championships that Tiger won in a row a couple years ago, whenever it was, he had four tournaments of basically similar weather. He had very little wind, very little adverse conditions, and they were very, very similar during all four of those tournaments. If you go back and look at it, that's what happened.
Even at the US Open where he had a little bit of wind, he played on the opposite side of those starting times. He did not have the wind when he played. When you go to the British Open, you've got to be on the right side of the starting times for the wind. I played the British Open where if you had the wrong set of starting times, you know, you're giving a five -, six-shot advantage away to the guys that have the best side of the starting time.
You know, you've got to have that happen. Now, to have that happen all in one year, again, is pretty difficult. Right now he's had two fairly benign weeks at Augusta and the US Open. That doesn't mean Tiger can't play in the wind or play under adverse conditions. He's had similar conditions for those events, which sort of helped him knowing that under those same conditions, "I beat everybody under those conditions, gee, I got these same conditions again, that is on my side." You gain confidence from that kind of a situation.
I don't know whether I answered your question or not.
Q. When you went to your first British Open, do you recall if you had to endure 36-hole qualifying? If so, do you remember any of the circumstances?
JACK NICKLAUS: First British Open, I was US Open champion. I had to go to qualifying, as did everybody else - most everybody else. I don't know how many people were exempt in those days. I shot 146, which qualified. I think that's what I shot. I was then paired, which was very strange pairing, I was then paired last off by myself with a partner as US Open champion.
Q. You mean with a marker?
JACK NICKLAUS: As a marker, that's exactly right. Joe Carr, who was then a Walker Cup player, Irish player, went to the R and A and said, "Hey, guys, wake up. Get out of the Dark Ages. You have the US Open champion over here. You don't put the US Open champion off with a marker last on the field." You know, they came back and changed it, and I played in a threesome. They were all twosomes at that time.
Very, very strange. I don't know how in the world I ended up being the odd man out at US Open champion, but I was. Didn't make any difference anyway. I shot 80 the first round anyway. Better off if nobody had even seen me.
Q. But even as US Open champ, you had to go through qualifying, which obviously has changed. Was that a nerve-wracking experience, to go all the way over there and not even be in the tournament?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not even sure that Arnold didn't qualify and Arnold was defending champion.
Q. That's true.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not sure. I really don't remember. I think everybody qualified then, or if they didn't, there were very few exempt players. But they have a little more respect for the US Open champion today, I think.
Q. What year was that?
JACK NICKLAUS: 1962. Very strange. I remember, that was -- a little side note on that. That's where I first met Bobby Locke. And Gary Player said, "I'd like to have you play a practice round with Bobby Locke." We met on the first tee. Locke teed the ball up, I thought he was going to hit a couple practice shots out into the Firth of Clyde, is that what's there, whatever the firth is, I think it's Clyde or Troon - I'm not sure. Whichever firth it is. Might be Clyde, I'm not sure. Anyway, he aimed out for the Clyde, hit this hoop, aimed back in the middle of the fairway. I said, "Huh." That was my first shot of watching Bobby Locke. Got a kick out of that. Never forget it.
Q. Seems to be a general school of thought, not amongst the players, but the general public, that Tiger is set to breeze his way through the next two majors and win, where in reality the odds are against that. In your storied career, you only one the first two legs once, I believe?
JACK NICKLAUS: You're absolutely right.
Q. Can you talk about how difficult it is to accomplish what he's attempting?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think what he did the first time was pretty difficult to do. I would think this would be easier than what he did the first time, only because he's already done it. You know, he knows that he has the ability to win all four of them in one year because, you know, basically, as I say, he retained all four at one time anyway.
But to go through -- you just don't walk on the first tee and say, "Okay, guys, I'm here. Where is the trophy?" You've got to go out and play 72 holes against 149 other players or 150, however other many players in the field, probably 150, I guess. You know, you've got to bring along your A game most of the time for that.
Q. As a follow, you're a very competitive guy, obviously Tiger is. Tiger is very politically correct, doesn't maybe show his emotion or maybe that he's upset about something. It would seem to me, it seems that he's very driven to knock these four off in one year and win that "true Grand Slam." Do you get that feel at all, that he's burning to do that, to shut people up?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't really talked to him. I don't know. I mean, if I were him, I'd like to win it. But I can't imagine anybody who wouldn't. Why in the world would somebody not want to win it?
Q. As you said, in your eyes he's done it already.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, he's done it already. You don't want to give him credit for it. That's basically what it amounts to.
Q. There's a person out there that doesn't want to "give him credit," saying it's not all in one year. Now he can kind of shut everybody up.
JACK NICKLAUS: That could well be. But I haven't talked to him, I don't know. I haven't really read much about it. I just don't.
Q. I know it was a different era, different circumstances, different formats. Do you have an opinion as to whether winning what's considered the Grand Slam now would be any more or less difficult than what Bobby Jones accomplished?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that would be a very difficult and probably biased question to answer. I mean, if I said yes, that it was more difficult, I would be not be giving the credit for Jones' accomplishment that I think it deserves. And if I said it was easier, then I would not be giving the players today much credit. I mean, two different eras.
I think that's a pretty awkward question to answer. I think Bobby Jones' achievement was a fantastic achievement. I think if Tiger were to do this today or what he has done already, both are fantastic achievements. Probably more difficult with the number of players today. But still I think Jones' was a fantastic feat.
Q. I've read that your father watched Bobby Jones in the US Open -- win the US Open in 1926.
JACK NICKLAUS: Right.
Q. How much did your dad's tales about Jones impact you growing up? Did you ever seriously consider remaining an amateur as Jones did?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, times have changed. I grew up. Jones won '26. My dad was 13 years old, just a kid watching him. My dad remembered an awful lot about what happened. Of course, as I grew up, there's a lot of members that were certainly a lot older that told me Jones hit it here, Jones hit it there, Jones did this, Jones did that. I heard that all my life as I grew up where he played from different places. Of course, obviously I remember that well.
What was the second part of your question?
Q. Did you ever consider remaining an amateur?
JACK NICKLAUS: I mean, I heard an awful lot about Jones as I grew up. Obviously, Jones as an amateur was a big thing. Of course, when I first started going to the Masters, first met Bobby Jones when I was 15, saw him several times as an amateur, just prior to turning professional, you know, Jones encouraged me to remain an amateur. At that point in time, whether I turned professional or remained an amateur financially was "machts nichts" at that point in time, didn't make much difference. Wasn't that much money to make in professional golf unless you were the best. The only reason I turned pro in fall of '61, the only way I felt I could be the best was to compete against the best on a weekly -- you know, on a weekly, year-round basis. That was the reason I turned pro. It wasn't for financial reasons.
Obviously when I turned professional, I was successful. Obviously, I wouldn't have done anywhere remotely close financially as I did playing professional golf. But that was not the determining factor in those days.
Q. Jones' statement about you playing a game with which he was unfamiliar, what did that mean to you when you heard him say that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that was a very nice compliment. But, I mean, I'm sure I played a game which he was not familiar, as Tiger's playing a game I'm not familiar with either. I think in each era, in each time, as players get better and the game gets better, you're playing games which you're not familiar. I mean, I think Jones' compliment was meant as a sincere compliment to me and I accepted it as such.
But I think that as time goes on, the game -- the guys play today a game I'm not familiar with. I'm not familiar driving the ball. I mean, I played a power game. I was one of the few that played a power game. But I always believed the game of golf was a game of power when you need it, but placement and positioning was the more important part of that game, and power was an advantage that you had when you needed it.
Today, the game to me is power. I don't think the other part is even there. The guys today just power it over a golf course. You know, unless you do what they did in Augusta and make it, you know, so darn long that you really end up having to play a long course or Bethpage where they go back so far and have the rough so deep you can't do anything but chop it out, you know, the rough is not a significant issue for most of the guys today. It's power is the game. It's a totally different game than I played. Even as long as I was, it was not the major part of the game when I played.
Q. What's your reaction to Hootie Johnson's statement yesterday about a female member at Augusta National?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, that's not my issue. I think that's Hootie's issue. I think, you know, I'm a member at the club obviously. I'm just a member. That's all I am.
Q. Prominent as you are, that's it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Permanent as I am?
JACK NICKLAUS: I suppose. You know, I think the club has its policies. I'm not involved in the policies of the club. I'm just a member.
Q. With your ongoing health concerns, have you pulled out or are you considering pulling out of events of lesser importance as the Skins Game appearance you have scheduled in Seattle?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm not sure what I'm doing here this week yet. After I finish this teleconference, I'm going to go out and hit some golf balls and see if I can get myself to where I can swing. I'll make maybe my decision later today or tomorrow about playing here.
I think I can probably go play one-day events. My biggest issue is being strong enough and being able to stay stable enough to where I can commit to a tournament, go there, and when I tee off, to be able to walk around and finish the fourth round. I mean, it really upset me about three weeks ago when I made the cut at -- even though I played very poorly at the second round, I made the cut at the PGA Seniors. I could have kept somebody from playing. It didn't turn out that way. But I don't like to keep somebody out of the tournament who can play all four rounds. I just don't think it's fair to the players. I just don't like to do it.
I've withdrawn two out of the last three years here in Detroit midway in the second round. Once was recovering from my hip surgery, and then last year I pulled a hamstring. It seems like I've got reoccurring injuries and things. Maybe that happens as you get older. If you get older, maybe I have a little bit more common sense and not put myself in a position where I keep somebody else from playing. I just -- I just don't like to be in that position keeping somebody out of a tournament.
Would I like to play? Darn right I'd like to play. Do I plan on being in Seattle in three weeks? I plan on being in Seattle in three weeks. How do I know what I'm going to be? I thought yesterday, after playing yesterday, "I am ready to play, I'm ready to go." I walk out this morning, I couldn't stand on my right side to save my life.
Q. Hope you're feeling better in about three weeks.
JACK NICKLAUS: I hope I'm feeling better in three hours. Don't want to wait three weeks. (Laughter) thank you.
Q. A few months back you used a new back device I think that was made in Italy. It seemed to give you a lot of relief.
JACK NICKLAUS: Switzerland.
Q. Are you still using that? If not, why did you decide not to?
JACK NICKLAUS: Why did I what? If I am using it?
Occasionally. It repositioned my hip a little bit and took the pressure off for about two or three days, then the benefit went away. I think it's a good little machine, but I don't think that's the solution to my problem. The solution to my problems are in being able -- it may help me aid that, but getting strong enough to support what I'm trying to do.
I think a lot of my problems really came from my hip surgery and the recovery of the hip surgery, getting weak, scar tissue, not being -- and that's all right. I don't hurt in the hip, so that's fine. But I think it causes other problems. And I think I have areas that it obviously adjusted in my back that I had to reuse and change how to do it, and they aren't strong enough to support me.
Then it become as spiral. When you get hurt, you can't exercise. If you can't exercise, you can't get strong. You just sort of go back and forth. Unfortunately, you get in that spiral, you have to try to break it, get out of it. That's what I'm trying to do.
Q. As you watched Tiger's career take off, where have you seen him make the biggest improvement? What has he done so much better to separate himself from the others?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't really know what he's done. I mean, I don't -- I haven't played with Tiger since Valhalla two years ago. I haven't seen him hit a shot in person I don't think in a couple of years. I don't know, I might have seen him hit a shot at Augusta, I don't remember, on the practice tee or something.
But anyway, the difference between Tiger two years ago when I played with him at Valhalla and two years before that was night and day in how much he'd improved. My guess is he's probably improved since then. You know, I think it's his hard work, he does have a good work ethic, he works hard, he understands the game, he understands what he wants to do and how he has to do it. Not many guys -- maybe some guys understand it, but there aren't many guys that can do it. He is obviously able to do it.
Q. Nick Price said he felt like there would be a lot more guys in the hunt next week at Muirfield than Hazeltine just because of the way the course is. It's more of a finesse-type track. Given that, do you think this might be the tougher of the two for Tiger to win?
JACK NICKLAUS: I would agree with that. I think Muirfield would be the toughest of the two, although Muirfield, you know -- Tiger will hit a 2- or 3-iron out there where most guys will hit a 3-wood or a driver. If you look at it from that standpoint, he's going to play the whole golf course with a 2- or 3-iron, maybe 4-iron, 5-iron. I don't know how far he hits a 2-iron or 3-iron. He hits 3-iron where I used to hit driver distance.
I think Nick is absolutely dead right. There will be more people in the hunt at Muirfield than probably any of the first three, or any of the four probably.
Q. A couple years ago at the Memorial you said you'd be delighted to see Tiger break your record. Is watching him win these last couple majors becoming less enjoyable because there's been such lack of a challenge?
JACK NICKLAUS: To be very honest, I didn't watch much of it. I did watch the last nine holes at The Masters. I was in The Bahamas fishing. You know, he did what he had to do. US Open, I probably saw four or five holes. I didn't watch much of it.
It's pretty hard for me to answer whether it's been more enjoyable or less enjoyable. I mean, I always like to see a golf tournament or any event where you've got some competition. I mean, it's like I watched the finals of Wimbledon the other day. I didn't bother to watch the third set. Same thing. When there's not much of a contest, you don't really pay a whole lot of attention to it.
Q. Have any of the top players ever called you or talked to you for advice on how to play a major? If they would, what would you tell them?
JACK NICKLAUS: First answer is no. Second answer is, depends on the person. I think common sense is the least-used commodity I've seen for a long time. It's not a commodity. Least-used thing. Common sense tells me you play within yourself and you play the golf course. These guys are trying to play something else. They're out there trying to play Tiger. They shouldn't play Tiger. Tiger has nothing to do with it. He's just playing the same golf course they are. They should go play the golf course. That's what they're supposed to do. That's the way I look at it.
I know that earlier this summer, I was talking with some folks, and they were talking about psychological play in the game. It was a young guy actually. Said there are certain different ways of playing the game. He said -- you know, there's either the guy who plays -- I don't know what the right word is, I can't remember what the word is. But anyway, he plays the golf course and his own game and prepares himself both of those to play, and then there's other guys that go out and worry about their stroke average, worry about where they hit the drives, how pretty they look, what they're wearing, will they be embarrassed if they hit a bad shot.
I'm saying, "Time out, what are you talking about?"
He says, "No, no, I promise you, most of the players play that way."
I said, "Well, not if they want to win." That was just my answer basically.
If you want to win, you better prepare yourself, and to the best of your ability, and then forget everybody else. That's the only way you can win.
Q. Back in '72, can you remember things that, "God, that went perfect for me"? You mentioned the cricked neck. Is that the way it has to happen to have a chance at this?
JACK NICKLAUS: Does that have to happen for what?
Q. Do things have to go just almost perfect to even have a chance to talk about something like the Grand Slam?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I think when you're as good as Tiger is, I don't think it has to go perfect. If everything had to go perfect, I think you'd drive yourself crazy. He's going to play some bad shots, just like everybody else. I think you darn well better accept that and expect it, otherwise you do go crazy.
I knew anytime I entered a golf tournament, I was going to play a certain number of shots that weren't very good. I was hoping I wouldn't make any dumb shots, because a dumb shot is generally the one that costs you the most. If I'm standing down there and if I have a shot that says, "Can I get it over that bunker?" I did this in '63, cost me winning the British Open. "Can I get it over that bunker? Can I not get it over?" It was a question in my mind that at that point in time. I sort of go back and review that for you, so you understand why I'm saying this.
I stood on the 18th tee, I thought that I was one shot ahead because I was watching from the 16th tee. I could see down the 16th fairway -- I could see the 16th fairway and see Bob Charles and Phil Rogers on the green. I didn't hear a sound. But the wind was blowing towards them. They both holed 20-footers for birdie. I sort of wanted to watch to see what happened there. The leader boards in those days weren't really up to date. I thought I had a one-shot lead. Had I known they both birdied that hole, I might have played my tee shot differently at 18.
I felt like at 18, "I'll take it right over the edge of that bunker," which I knew was a marginal carry for me. I hit right the top of it and dropped back in, wedged it out, knocked it on the green. I said, "I tied the golf tournament."
I felt like if I would have laid the club back, missed it going back, I more than likely for sure was going to make bogey. I felt if I carry it over the bogey, put it in the rough, I'd make par. I hit it that I could not win the golf tournament. As it turned out, they both birdied and I lost the thing by a shot.
The point of it was, it's the mental mistake that maybe causes you to win or causes you to lose. Today you know exactly where you are because the leader boards will tell you exactly where you are. I wouldn't have made the same mental mistake and I probably would have won the British Open that year or probably have been in the playoff also because I would have played it probably differently.
So, you know, the thing you try to do is you know you're going to make some bad shots, you know you're going to make some mistakes, you just try to not make that wrong mental mistake at the wrong time which actually costs you the golf tournament.
Yeah, you're going to take some chances, but take the chances at the right time. Take them at the high-percentage time. Don't take them at the time you feel pressure, as you're coming down the end. What is everybody else feeling? They're just walking around for a walk in the park? No, they've got the same pressure on them. Probably they had more on them than I did because I knew I could win and they weren't sure they could win. That would be Tiger's position. Tiger knows he can win. The other guys aren't sure. So the other guys make a gamble they probably shouldn't take. They should take a smarter gamble, less of a gamble, put the ball where they can play golf. Let Tiger make a mistake. He's quite capable of making a mistake, just like I was, or anybody else. We're all capable of mistakes. But give him a chance to make one. Don't make it so it doesn't make any difference what he does, he's going to win. I mean, that's really -- is that sort of your question?
JACK NICKLAUS: Did that answer it?
Q. Yes, sir.
JACK NICKLAUS: I can't remember what the question was.
Q. Neither can I.
MODERATOR: On that note, we thank everybody for joining us. Thank you, Jack, for spending an hour with us.
JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you.
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