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February 20, 2018
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
DOUG MILNE: Thank you for joining us for a few minutes. We'll turn it over to these guys, who have a few questions for you, I'm sure.
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. Let it rip.
Q. This is the 20th anniversary of your 1998 Masters when you were 58 and made a run. Hoping to tap into your memory bank and if you can take us back there and what your thoughts were that week and your memories.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I played the tournament on one leg. I had my hip replaced nine months later. So I really wasn't -- I competed on one leg. I could still walk but wasn't very good. By the time I got to The Presidents Cup near the end of the year, I couldn't walk. So that was in November and I had it replaced in January, I think January.
I don't remember much about the tournament. I couldn't tell you what score I shot. All I do remember is Steve caddied for me. I got to the 15th hole and I looked at Steve and I said, "Steve, we finish the same way I finished in '86, we're going to win this golf tournament." I didn't. We didn't win. (Laughter).
Had I finished -- Mark O'Meara, who won the tournament, holed about a 22- or 23-footer at the last hole, and had I finished the same way, he would have had to hole that putt to win.
Q. Were your juices flowing in that final round?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I wasn't excited at all. (Laughter) well of course they were. Do I remember what -- I don't remember much about it. I don't even remember what I did in the last five holes. I think I may have birdied one or two of them. I think I birdied 15. I finished in '86, I finished eagle, birdie, birdie, par and I think I finished birdie, maybe par, par, par, something. Obviously didn't get there.
What did I finish, sixth? Yeah. It was okay for an old guy. 58 years old at the time.
Q. That was age 46 in '86, do you think it would be a big deal now?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think so. The guys and the conditioning and things that go on today, and the equipment of today. I think that 46 is not an unusual number. It was then. It was very unusual then. Anything over 40 back then was very unusual.
Q. Was there pressure on you when you were younger, and kind of a slower player, how did you take that on board?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, in '62, when I first started, I was a slower player, obviously. I got penalized at Portland that year and I was playing with Bruce Crampton and Billy Casper, who I kept -- all day long I was saying, "Crampton, would you please play." I said, huh? And I got penalized. He didn't get penalized. (Laughter) I still won the tournament.
That was the most important thing, right.
Q. I heard you actually said, "I'm going to win by two shots, anyway, so go ahead."
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I didn't say that. Good line, though. I don't think I said that.
Then Joe black came to me, who penalized me and was running the tournament at the time. He came and sat down with me. I said, "Joe, I don't know why" --
He said, "Jack, you've got to be ready to play when it's your turn."
I said, "I feel like, I don't want to go walking around and doing things when the other guys are playing."
He says, "You got to." He says, "It doesn't make any difference how long it takes you to hit a golf ball. It's being ready to play." And so I started from then on, lining up my putts while other people were putting, and that cut a lot of time out.
Then obviously got my yardage, was doing my thing, so I was ready to play on my turn and I didn't have anymore problems. I got penalized again about five years later. I played with Cary Middlecoff, who was a real speedy player, and Al Geiberger who was a real speedy player and all three of us got penalized at Champions. I don't believe that was my place. I just believe it was threesome.
Finally, I got tired of being slow, and I never really tried to increase, tried to rapidly play another shot. I just basically just prepared myself and learned how to play golf and learned how not to really be a guy that would hold up everybody else.
Q. In Major League Baseball, there's a bunch of new rules, on Monday you may have read --
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't seen anything.
Q. They are going to limit the number of trips to the mound and a few other things and they have pitch clocks and other things --
JACK NICKLAUS: They have everything. Basketball --
Q. Limiting the time-outs in basketball. How can this game --
JACK NICKLAUS: It's too long. The golf ball is the biggest culprit of it. I mean, if you took a golf course that we played, we used to play golf courses 6,500 yards, 6,600 yards and that was a championship golf course. Today you're 7,500 or 7,600 yards. The older golf courses, the tees, the greens, were very close together. The golf courses built today, they spread them out for real estate purposes.
I think it just takes longer to play. Now, I don't think that's good. I think the golf ball is something that brought back -- if you bring it back 20 percent, you know, that real will brings it back to about what it was in about 1995 when we played last wound golf ball.
I had dinner with Mike Davis Sunday night, and Mike said, he says, "We're getting there. We're going to get there." He said, "I need your help when we get there".
I said, "That's fine. I'm happy to help you." I said, "I've only been yelling at you for 40 years." 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA. I said, "I assume you're going to study for another ten years or so, though."
He says, "Oh, no, no, no. We're not going to do that." He says, "I think we're getting closer to agreements with the R&A and be able to do some things and be able to help," because the R&A has been -- sort of doesn't want to do anything. I'm hoping that's going to happen. I've talked to Mike a lot. Mike's been very optimistic about wanting to get something done but hasn't been able to get there yet.
You know, if you look at what happened, there's three things we have in the game of golf that really causes it to be slow and take longer: And that's the golf ball, but the golf ball -- it's the length the golf course, the time that we play. The amount of money it costs is a very big detriment to the game because if you have more land and more fertilizer, more water, it costs more money. It costs more to play the game, and the game is pretty difficult.
The guy with the golf ball is going longer than the average golfer. They don't find half their golf balls. When I was growing up, the best player at the club is the one who kept it down the middle, bumped it up around the green and he's the guy winning the club championships, and they are playing in about three hours and three hours and ten minutes.
Doesn't happen today. If the game got back to something like that it would be -- and then of course every -- I'm rambling, here, I'm sorry guys.
The game is a great game today the way it is. The game when I played was a great game. The game they played 20 years before me is a great game. However, as time changes, I think you need to change with the times. The times today, people don't have the time to spend playing five hours to play golf. They don't have -- a lot of people don't have the money to be able to do that, and they find the game very frustrating and very difficult.
So if the golf ball came back, it would solve I think a lot of those issues, and it would make -- it would -- I think we only have one golf course in this country, my opinion, that's not obsolete to the golf ball and that's Augusta National. They are the only people that have enough money that have been able to keep the golf course and do the things you had to. They are even buying up parts of country clubs and roads and everything else to get that done.
Not that other people couldn't do that, but it just unpractical. Why every time we have an event, do we have to keep buying more land and then making things longer? It just doesn't make any sense to me.
So anyway, I don't know if that answered the total question but probably got most of it in there.
Q. Do you have trouble watching it? Is it slow when you watch it on TV?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, it's not slow at all when I watch it because I don't watch it (laughter). I always have a television on but I very rarely ever sit down and watch it. I might watch the last couple holes of a tournament or walk out, "Who's leading?" That kind of stuff. I keep up with the game and what's going on but I'm not shot for shot.
Q. With business and golf, and so much is tied to the equipment part of the game. So if you rolled this back or tried to roll it back, you'll really affecting the equipment manufacturers who have a lot of money in the game?
JACK NICKLAUS: What are you affecting them?
Q. Because they don't want to roll back.
JACK NICKLAUS: How do you know? Have you asked them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Who did you ask?
Q. Well, you can start with Titleist on down.
JACK NICKLAUS: You can start with Titleist. Anybody else?
Q. Bridgestone is supposedly on record as saying yes but I Callaway and TaylorMade --
JACK NICKLAUS: They were a few years ago.
Q. Well, my point is --
JACK NICKLAUS: The only manufacturer that had not been is Titleist, and Titleist basically controls the game. Now, there could be others. I'm not saying that -- that was just the impression I wanted, but Alex, and Titleist -- the other manufacturers, they don't make the rules of the game.
And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it; I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product, and the product -- if they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter, why, what difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game.
I mean, for the good of the game, we need to play this game in about 3 1/2 hours on a daily basis. All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less, except for a five-set tennis match, but all the other games are played in that.
It's not about them. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.
And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification. They want to take their cell phone or iPad, say, you know, I see you're working on your computer; what's a computer. You've seen that ad? That's where we area (laughter) still haven't got your computer yet.
But the game, we need to shorten down the game, reduce the cost of the game and reduce the difficulty for the average guy, not necessarily the pros. But that has to happen.
Q. A week or so ago, a press release came out of your office that said that you'd be scaling back some of your involvement with the business. Can you talk about that decision and how you came to it and what exactly it means?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know exactly what it does mean because I'm not sure myself yet.
When I sold part of my company to Immigrant Bank in New York, it was 2007, and I had a five-year contract; which most people do when they sell part of a company, they sign a five-year contract or whatever the contract might be. And I thought the economy was pretty bad during that five years from might from '07 to 12. I said, I don't think you got a fair shake. I said, I'll sign on for another five years. So I signed on for another five years. That ended last May, and we with tried to develop into how could we possibly go work forward.
You know, that hasn't worked out the way I wanted to have it worked out. But it's okay. I have a very nice retirement from the company and I can continue to work and do whatever I want to do. But I really was trying to figure out: How do I find space for things like this tournament, my wife, for charities. We did an event yesterday at The Bear's Club, we raised over $3 million in one day. I mean, how many Pro-Ams raise $3 million in a day? One that I know of. Maybe there's some others. But you know, that's pretty good.
My grand kids are all doing stuff that I'm really involved in and watching, and I'm loving being part of it. My kids are doing things that I'm involved in. I needed time for those.
And so if I was going to work more, it would mean that I would -- to me, it had to be something that was going to be more special than my retirement, and I haven't found anything more special than that. I said, let's move on to another phase of life.
Does that mean I'm not going to support the company? No, of course, I spent 50 years building that company. I want that company to continue to succeed and grow forward and move on. Jackie is still present of the design company. Am I going to do more designs? I don't know. I really don't know.
But it's a great little company that I really am very proud of. It's hard to step away, particularly when you've spent 50 years building something. But I had to make the decision one way or the other, and so I made that decision.
Q. When you first started going to Augusta and learning how to play Augusta National, how much of that was on your own and how much did you glean from veteran players who had been there, and through the years, as players go to you, do you enjoy the process of helping them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I do enjoy the process. I really do enjoy it. How many 22- or 23-year-old kids come to a 78-year-old kid to ask advice? Not too many. Nor would they ever listen, anyway. But these kids are doing that. They are coming to me and asking me things and how I played and so forth.
I enjoy being part of that. I forgot what your whole question was.
Q. As you first started, did you learn a lot on your own?
JACK NICKLAUS: So as I first started playing Augusta, my first year there was '59. In '59 I had missed the cut. I shot 150. I hit 31 greens in regulation and had eight 3-putt greens. Arnold was leading the tournament at 141 and hit 19 greens.
I said, "What's wrong with this story?" I said, "Well, the story is, you can't putt, or you don't know how to putt those greens." Because I certainly hit the ball well enough to be right in contention.
So I said to myself, I says, "You'd better learn how to putt these greens." So I just started watching and watching what people do. That's probably more when I came up with the philosophy that I don't like second putts, and I've always putted -- distance is the most important thing in putting, and Augusta, particularly.
You've got to keep the ball -- you can't be putting the pressure on yourself of having 4- and 5-footers coming back all day long because you're going to start missing some. Basically that's what happened with with Arnold. He was a very aggressive putter. He was a great putter and he holed a lot of putts. When he would start missing those 4- and 5-footers coming back, he stopped winning.
I just never wanted to be in the position of having those 4- and 5-footers. I've gone several years that I've gone up to May or June without having a 3-putt green the whole season up until that time and that to me is remarkable to do that: Go through Augusta and not have a 3-putt green; go through Florida and not have a 3-putt.
But it was all because of what happened to me at Augusta. I said, "I'd better learn these greens if I want to ever try to win here."
So I don't know whether I learned it so much from somebody else, but I just realized the philosophy of trying not to have a second putt.
Yeah, I guess I watched a little bit. I always watched. I always watched other people play, watch what they do. If you wanted to watch somebody at that time, Arnold was the best player at the time. He hit the ball right-to-left. I didn't hit it right-to-left.
So I had to figure out how I was going to play the golf course without doing that, and then I finally hurt my hip in '63 and I couldn't play left-to-right. So I spent the whole spring playing right-to-left going to Augusta and then I won at Augusta, and I said, "Hmmmm, what does this story tell you. Probably helps you to play that way."
There's a lot of things that happened, evolution of my game and evolution of my philosophy, what it would take to putt.
Q. You mentioned '77 was when you first wanted something done --
JACK NICKLAUS: '77 was the year that Titleist brought out the big dimpled golf ball and the ball went further, and it went further than anybody else's ball, by quite a ways.
Q. What were you playing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was playing MacGregor. But I saw what was happening with it. And then I saw guys, I saw companies trying to change and make different things. I said, Whoops, we're going to get into a war on how far the golf ball goes.
I didn't think that the game of golf should be dictated by how far a golf ball goes. It's how well you play the golf ball, not how far you hit it. And even though I was a long hitter, I always enjoyed shorter golf courses, frankly. I thought it took more skill to play them and I thought it was more reward to go work your way around rather than just pounding it out. I could pound it out obviously a long way because I hit it a long way, but that's not what I really thought the game of golf was all about.
Q. What did you think when they first came out with metal --
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when they first came out with the metal drivers, I remember the '86 Masters, I was playing that little one that Bridgestone came out, that was a Jumbo -- trying to remember. It was the Jumbo one or something like that. It was a little tiny head metal driver. It was a good little driver. I tested it against my wooden driver and I didn't -- there was a yard difference.
So when I got to '86, I used the wood driver. Then they started enlarging the head a little bit and then it started making more sense, because I got a little bit more out of it. But then they got to the mid 90s, that's when they changed the golf ball and when they changed the golf ball from the wound golf ball to the composite golf ball, that's when you all of a sudden found out there was a big difference. Because the wood driver didn't hit it anywhere.
I remember going to open up a lot of golf courses, which I did a lot of times. I would open up a golf course, and I would have a wood driver made and I would sign it and put the date on it and give to them, and I hit the opening tee shot. I said, okay, guys now I'm going to show you why we don't use this driver anymore and then I would hit the metal driver and hit it 80 yards past the other one.
So they, Ohhh, okay, so maybe I ought to give my clubs away.
I said, "No, I don't you need to give your clubs away," but I says, "if you want to learn how to play with modern equipment, you need to get another set of clubs, yeah. That's what works." So that's what it was.
Q. Good for the economy.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I don't have any problem, I don't think the golf ball manufacturers, getting back to Alex's question, I don't think that they are going to have a big problem if they did.
I also have the other philosophy, too, that rather than if you don't change the golf ball, rate the golf courses. Rate the golf courses: 100 percent golf course, 90 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent, 60 percent golf ball, and then have the golf ball manufacturers make a golf ball that fits that golf course.
If you do that, then the manufacturers make a whole bunch more golf balls and a whole bunch more skews for them to sell. And what that means is when you get a golf course that's, I don't know, you go to any golf course here, you might rate it as an 80 percent golf course or 70 percent golf course, 70 percent golf ball. 80 percent balls are what we played in 1995 for all intents and purposes. Was that a bad golf ball? No. People played a lot of good golf with that. But you don't need 7,500 yards to play it.
And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play. We're doing -- we've got a lot of places where we've got golf courses we want to redo and we've got maybe 105 or 110 acres and they have a nice 5,800- or 5,900-yard golf course and they say: What do we do, how do we compete and how can we sell this product?
I say, well you can sell it with a 75 percent golf ball or 70 percent golf ball, and somebody wants to play with a regular golf ball, it's faster. But I mean, if you have enough -- if you have the USGA, which I've talked to Mike quite a bit about, get the golf associations around the country to rate courses, then it becomes the manufacturers, and the manufacturers sell a lot more golf balls.
And most people play 90 percent of their golf at one golf course, anyway. If you went to that one golf course with a 70 percent ball and played it, then your friend comes along, fine, go ahead and play. You'll adjust a handicap adjustment for it, and go play.
I think you can do that. Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses. Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier, in my opinion. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. USGA was all over that, incidentally.
Q. Was there a time where you lost a stroke or a tournament because of a crowd comment or crowd behavior?
JACK NICKLAUS: No.
Q. Tiger and Rory were saying last week at Riviera, brought that up --
JACK NICKLAUS: Brought what up?
Q. Tiger reckons he's probably lost in his career half a shot a tournament, half a shot a round and two shots a tournament.
JACK NICKLAUS: Did we have the crowd probably do some things? I think if they look back, I think the crowd probably helped them, too. They kept the ball from going out-of-bounds and things like that, too. (Laughter).
I've never really -- I feel that's part of the game. I never worried about it, really. I can't ever think of an instance that I had the crowd really -- caddie, that happened to me. 1962, my first year on Tour, I'm playing Houston and I had a caddie named Robert Ford, 41 was the call bib. I'm sure that was 41.
So we got to the seventh hole in the last round, and that in those days, they held the pin most of the time. I had about a 20-footer at the seventh hole, par 3. I hit the putt and he couldn't get the pin out. He lifted it hard. Got out, the cup never came out. My ball went right in the middle of the cup and bounced away. Two-shot penalty.
So instead of making two, I tapped it back in for a five and tied the tournament and lost a playoff. That's three shots. That wasn't the crowd. That was other things. And he caddied for me the next year. He was a good kid.
Q. You brought him back?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, he was a great guy. It wasn't his fault. It just happened.
Q. Last year, the Arnold Palmer tournament had a great show of support from the players in the wake of his death. How do you think the organizers can go about sustaining that support and do you expect it to be a draw for top players going forward for years to come?
JACK NICKLAUS: The only way I could answer that question, I can't believe -- but I think people still go play the Byron Nelson tournament, don't they? Still gets a great field?
I think Bay Hill is probably a better golf course in the long run for the players. I don't think I've even played the other golf course, so I shouldn't really say that. Bay Hill's a pretty darned good golf course. I think Arnold's legacy at Bay Hill is pretty solid.
Do I think the players will continue to play there? Yeah, I think they will. I think it will continue to get support. I mean, do they still play the Masters? There's the answer to your question right there I think.
Q. They are putting TPC after it next year, and with the schedule, trying to squeeze certain tournaments --
JACK NICKLAUS: They are going to squeeze a lot of tournaments in the schedule. If you look at the schedule, you move THE PLAYERS back to March, something is going to get squeezed. You move the PGA into May, I don't know where the PGA is going to play in May, except they might play at Valhalla but they are not going to play any farther north than that. The PGA is eliminating the whole northern part of the United States by doing that.
Q. They are going to Oak Hill.
JACK NICKLAUS: When?
Q. The first one.
JACK NICKLAUS: What? Oak Hill? In May? You've got to be kidding. Seriously. What year are they doing that?
Then prove me wrong, please. But I would say that's -- I don't think that's -- I don't think that's smart.
What I think the PGA should do, and that's what I told Pete. I said, "Pete, if you want to play in May, fine. But if you want to play in February, play in February. That's what you did down here in Florida in '71. If you want to go play in August, then you can go north. But in May, you're limited to what you're going to do."
And he says -- and I've never heard anything. I didn't know whether they decided to go north. We were the third week, sometimes at Columbus, or the fourth week in May in Columbus, and it was not pretty. (Laughter). You're going to go three or four hundred miles north of us to Oak Hill? No. We might get snowed out (laughter) seriously.
I remember my senior year in high school, I played a high school match on the third of June in Sandusky, Ohio which is a half hour north of Columbus and we played in snow the whole day. That could happen.
Q. But the fact that it's squeezed, do you think the tournament --
JACK NICKLAUS: Sure, it's going to squeeze the schedule, to be able to try to do it before football.
Q. Are you left alone, okay at Memorial?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I think so. I think they have said the PGA Championship is going to have at least a week between us and the Memorial and a week between us and the U.S. Open. That's what I've been told. If that changes, then we've got an issue.
Q. Wanted to ask you about this tournament and the importance of it on the schedule. It's been around for so long and it's had so many different iterations, especially since you won.
JACK NICKLAUS: I remember, we couldn't give away a tournament in Palm Beach 30 years ago. This tournament came here 14 years ago, I believe it is -- across to Mirasol, but they came to Palm Beach. That's when we started our foundation, 14 years ago, and that was based on this tournament.
This tournament here has grown. The crowds have been fantastic. I think it's done very, very, very well. From a charity standpoint, from our standpoint, when the first couple years of the tournament, we were the main recipient and probably 150,000 to 200,000, maybe 250,000. We had a check for $1 million the last couple years and gave away 3.6 million to all the charities last year. Pretty good and that's supported in this area.
I think the tournament's done well. The golf course, the players -- the players know it's a tough golf course. It's a par 70 golf course and it's a challenge. It's a handful. It's going to be a handful this week with a dry golf course. This golf course plays much more difficult when it's dry. I didn't see any rain coming today. Did anybody see any rain? I don't see any rain coming. I think you're going to see -- and it's a little breezy. You're going to see some very interesting rounds. You might hear a couple complaints (laughter). Not that the guys ever complain about anything.
The tournament's done very well, is what I'm saying. Is that what you were asking me?
Q. Yeah, I was just sort of, from a historical perspective.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's the oldest sponsor on TOUR, the Honda people are. They have been terrific about staying with the TOUR and growing with it. I don't know whether the schedule changes next year to the were world thing in MÃ©xico and moves back. They switch, don't they? So we end up going back to a Florida Swing. So that will help.
I think it's very awkward to go from Los Angeles to Florida back to MÃ©xico. It will go L.A., MÃ©xico, here, right? Which is really a whole lot better, a whole lot better for everybody.
I think this tournament's done great. I've never dreamed that it would continue to do what it's doing and what it's raising from our standpoint for kids. We're very, very pleased with what's going on and proud to be part of it.
DOUG MILNE: Mr. Nicklaus, we appreciate your time, as always.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports