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November 12, 2020
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is always such a great honor and pleasure to welcome to the interview room two giants of the game who have so profoundly impacted the game of golf and the Masters tournament. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have a combined total of nine green jackets and 97 tournament appearances at Augusta National. Thank you both for officially starting the '84 Masters.
Please tell us something about this morning's Honorary Starters Ceremony and what it means to you to be here for this historic November tournament. Jack, may we start with you, sir.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was pleased that it was dark because you couldn't see where my ball went. I'll start off with that. I think it's a nice tradition that we have here at Augusta. I remember when I first started they had Freddy Hutchison, Jockâ€‘â€‘ Jock Hutchison and Freddy McLeod. I got it backwards. Is that what it was when you started, Gary?
GARY PLAYER: Yeah.
JACK NICKLAUS: They've had starters ever since. It's tradition, first with Arnold and Gary and I doing it. It's been fun. We miss Arnold. You know, but it's a nice tradition.
GARY PLAYER: Well, I think historically if you go back to Jock Hutchison and Freddy McLeod, then Sam Snead and Gene Sarazenâ€‘â€‘ Gene Sarazen was the first winner of the Grand Slam and Sam Snead was this phenomenal golfer and unbelievable athlete, and then along came Jack, Arnold and I, and I think Jack appropriately said we miss Arnold, particularly when we walked on the tee that day and his jacket was on the chair, and Jack and I were very choked up about it. But he's watching the tournament, preparing for a long driving competition upstairs. He wasn't in a hurry to get there, but he will eventually.
Q. On Monday chairman Fred Ridley made some exciting announcements honoring Lee Elder with two scholarships in his name at Paine College and recognizing his impact and legacy at the Masters. He also announced that Lee would be joining the two of you as Honorary Starters in April of 2021. Gary, if we may start with you, what were your thoughts when you heard the news about your great friend Lee Elder?
GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, I was extremely excited because Lee Elder in 1969 in the midst of our turbulent society in South Africa, I asked him to visit South Africa. He was put under a lot of pressure by certain groups here, and I was called a traitor.
So he came down there, and must have been very nervous, and he had the courage to accept the invitation and come down there knowing what a great deed he would be doing. It was very influential because at that stage no Black visitors or people of any color were visiting South Africa.
I think he encouraged a lot ofâ€‘â€‘ at that stage we still had a lot of young Black potential golfers, but they didn't have a hero, so to speak, and to have Lee Elder come down there was remarkable, and it went off extremely well. We went to other venues, as well.
But he's had a rough ride. When you live the kind of lives that we've had and you think of the rough ride that he had, it was most appropriate to be asking him to do it. I compliment Jaime Diaz, who phoned me and asked me if I would phone Mr.Ridley and Augusta. I've got to really commend them on inviting Lee and taking that step. I think it's just the most wonderful thingâ€‘â€‘ one of the most wonderful things I've seen.
And when you go back in history and you think of people like Charlie Sifford who wasn't allowed to play, it's been a rough road for these guys.
Q. Jack, what are your thoughts about this special man?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think when Lee became the first Africanâ€‘American to play here in, what, 1975, and he played here about seven times? I thought that was great, that Lee was invited to play, and to honor him now is I think very appropriate. I'm delighted. I look forward to teeing it up with him next year.
Q. Gary, what is your memory of either playing with Lee or doing something with him off the course? Do you have a favorite memory of playing golf with Lee or whether you'd been paired with him very much?
GARY PLAYER: If I'm hearing correctly, my favorite moment of playing with Lee was obviously in South Africa because that wasâ€‘â€‘ it was historic. It was something that I doubted whether I would ever live to see. Thank goodness we had the big change that we did with Mandela coming along, this remarkable man. But that goes down with my memory of Lee, by far the best.
I played with him on the Tour here and played a lot of practice rounds, but nothing compared to that.
Q. This was in '69?
GARY PLAYER: '69.
Q. What course?
GARY PLAYER: We played in Johannesburg at a place called Huddle Park.
Q. Jack and Gary, I'm interested in the tradition of the Crow's Nest and staying in the Crow's Nest. Any memories? It's my understanding, Jack, that you got a supplemental food bill having gone down multiple times, but I'm not sure about that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I stayed at the Crow's Nest in 1959. We had Phil Rodgers, Deane Beman, Ward Wettlaufer, Tommy Aaron and myself. We stayed there. That's not a very big place, if you happen to go look at it, for five guys. One bathroom, one shower. But we all stayed there, and of course Phil and I were the big eaters at the time.
The amateurs had to be charged for their food, so they charged us a dollar for breakfast, a dollar for lunch and two dollars for dinner. Phil and I, generally speaking, would have two steaks at night, and they came to us after a couple nights, and they said, gentlemen, you're abusing the thing of eating two steaks, we're going to have to charge you $2 apiece. I said, that'll be quite all right. The Crow's Nest was fun, though.
Q. Gary, any memoriesâ€‘â€‘
GARY PLAYER: I don't actually remember being in the Crow's Nest, staying there, but I did have the honor of staying in the cottages, which were fantastic, and also when President Eisenhower was here, that was a treat to be in the same room, and also with Clifford Roberts, who was a remarkable man, and also great memories of Bobby Jones.
A lovely little story about Bobby Jones because he was sitting next to me at the Champions' Room, and he was bent over and riddled with arthritis, as you know, and he asked me to put the fork in his hand, and I put it like that, and he said, Would you mind cutting my meat. So I cut his meat into little squares, and he ate it. I was always wanting to ask him a question. I said, Mr.Jones, may I ask you a question, sir. He said, Certainly. I said, You designed the golf course. I can never birdie the 3rd hole. And his reply was, You're not supposed to birdie the 3rd hole.
And how he would be turning in his grave now to see Bryson DeChambeau say, well, I'm taking a 3â€‘wood just to put it in the middle of the green on the right. Change is the price of survival, isn't it.
Q. I was wondering, seeing Barbara out there today, is that the first time she's caddied for youâ€‘â€‘
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I normallyâ€‘â€‘ yes, it is, but normally I have one of the grandkids, and of course we couldn't bring anybody except our spouses this time. Last night I said to her, I said, I think it would be kind of fun if you would put on a caddie uniform and do that, and she said, oh, I don't want to do that. I said, yeah, you do, it'll be fun. You'll enjoy it. Everybody loves you, and it'll be a treat for the people.
So Barbara put it onâ€‘â€‘ she's right in the back there. She did that. I don't know that I can afford to get home after her fee. (Laughter.)
Q. Jack, with all due respect, as you know, I wanted to speak with you before I wrote my column about your very public support of President Trump. I'd love to ask this now if I may. You are known as the ultimate gracious sportsman in the game of golf and really throughout sports, certainly with your career, with Ryder Cups, the way you've handled victory and defeat and the like. I'm just curious, what is your advice to President Trump on how to accept defeat?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think I've said enough about that. I don't think this is the place for politics.
Q. This is the 10th anniversary of your first Honorary Starters appearance in 2010. What comes to mind about your first appearance as the Honorary Starter?
JACK NICKLAUS: My first appearance? I don't remember.
Q. Arnold Palmer?
JACK NICKLAUS: I remember that, but we got on the first tee and hit a ball. I don't remember much about it. It wasn't a bigâ€‘â€‘ just like today, there wasn't a big ceremony today. Basically just introduced Gary, introduced me, introduced Arnold, and we hit a ball. I mean, it was different. At that point in time I was not sure that I wanted to be an Honorary Starter because I still felt like I could still play. How wrong I was.
But that's okay. But as time goes on, it's grown on me to be something that I've really looked forward to and enjoyed, and I really enjoyed today because Gary hits the ball so much further than I do now and nobody could see the drives where they went, so it was okay.
Q. What are your thoughts on the sudden growth of the game this year? There's been a huge spike in the amount of play everywhere in the world. Golf may be up 10 or 15 percent in rounds played since April of this year. Is that growth now sustainable with more families and children coming to the game?
GARY PLAYER: Well, obviously COVID is a very serious thing, but in regards to golf, it's the result of more rounds being played probably in the last X amount of months that any club has ever had. The golf courses are thriving with the number of rounds.
I think more young people are coming out, which is great to see, with their parents, with mother and fathers. I've noticed a lot more of that, because I was locked down in Philadelphia for eight months. I came for three days and stayed with my daughter for eight months. The price was right.
It's made a big difference, and obviously we all want to see golf. It's such an incredible game. Most sports are play and away. If you play in an NFL, if you play for three years, you're doing well, unless you're a Tom Brady. But in golf, here I'm 85 years of age hitting off the first tee, still averaging, if I really get focused, a par round of golf. So golf is something that we really love and we have great appreciation for what golf has done for us in our lives.
I don't know what we would have done in our careers if we weren't golfers, and to come here and drive through Magnolia Lane there and to be playing withâ€‘â€‘ I'd like to endorse what that lady said about Jack. Definitely he's my best friend in golf and best friend I've ever had in golf and a man that I think you hit the nail on the head, the most gracious. I've always said Jack Nicklaus was the greatest gentleman I ever played golf with in my life, and you gave a few examples.
Arnold Palmer, to grow up with him, this great icon, this charismatic man, and to have had a career traveling around the world with these two guys, I don't know if you'll ever have a big three in that manner again. Playingâ€‘wise, probably, but to have such fierce competitors and have such respect for each other and to travel the globe several times, many times promoting the game of golf makes you feel good that you feel, well, maybe you have contributed to more people playing golf.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think to answer your question, I think it's greatâ€‘â€‘ people haven't had a lot to be able to do the last few months, and to be able to get out on the golf courseâ€‘â€‘ I know we were shut down in Palm Beach County for quite a while, and the guys were going to Martin County because they could play up there, and then Martin County got so many golfers you had to show that you were a resident of Martin County to be able to play.
Anyway, one of the thingsâ€‘â€‘ we're looking for all kinds of initiatives to improve the number of people playing the game and bring people into the game and keep them into the game.
And we just hadâ€‘â€‘ last week we had the national doubles golf championship at the Bear's Club, and that's something I am involved in because the gentleman came to me, a fellow named Bob Longmire, and he said, Jack, this is the idea, and he started the junior golf leagues, the PGA, and they're all over the world now and it's been very successful.
He explained doubles golf, and doubles golf is really the same as we play at the Fatherâ€‘Son, which is select your tee shots and then you keepâ€‘â€‘ it's a twoâ€‘man scramble is basically what it is.
But we had this national championship at our club, and the first time I saidâ€‘â€‘ what I liked about it is that if you've got somebody who plays three or four times a year and somebody who plays a lot of golf you can put them together and play, and the guys who plays two, three times a year is not embarrassed because he doesn't have to play his golf ball, or she, and you can have handicaps with 10 or 15 different people and you play little events, and it brings people into the game. That's one of the initiatives that we've had. I've been involved in that, and I was involved in junior golf leagues, too.
We're all looking for things to bring people into the game and keep them in the game, and hopefully what's happened with COVID and the increased number of play, it's really brought the game of golf back to people who hadn't been playing, and if that's the case, it increases ourâ€‘â€‘ the number of rounds that we have and the enjoyment that people get out of the game that I thinkâ€‘â€‘ COVID is not a plus certainly, but what it did for golf is probably okay right now.
Q. Mr.Nicklaus and Mr.Player, I'm curious what you think are the best qualities in a golf swing that help age well over time and help players avoid injury later in their careers.
GARY PLAYER: You said what would avoid injuries?
Q. How can a player avoid injuries in their golf swing?
GARY PLAYER: Well, it's very simple. Exercise is one of the best ways to do it, and exercise intelligently and know what you've got to exercise for your particular body because everybody's body is different.
Secondly is what you eat. I've always thought that exerciseâ€‘â€‘ I prioritized it and I put exercise at 60 and eating at 40. I now put eating at 60 percent and eating at 40 because as you get older you put on weight, and weight stops the train, and when you get heavier and then you try and swing with the same force that you did as a young person, which you can't do, but you're trying to do it, and it's all relative what age you are, that's a quick way to get an injury.
The other thing is you've got to stretch. It's imperative. I'm in the racehorse business, and before a horse races they take his leg and they stretch it back and they exercise it and they give it like a long striding thing to exercise, otherwise a horse breaks down.
You've got to exercise, and we're finding out now as we see, golf has gone to another level now. I started exercising with weight training in 1944 when my brother went to a war to fight with the Americans and the allies at 17. And then you see Tiger Woods come along and endorse it because at my time the only exercise that was done by the players was taking an olive from one martini to another, and so there was virtually no such thing.
I was condemned and criticized and ridiculed, you can't believe, doing weights in those days, and one famous golf architect said Gary Player will never win a tournament past 35. Well, I won a tournament on the Senior Tour at 63, so that's how much he knew. People know a hell of a lot about nothing when it comes to exercise. You've only got to see some of the golf channels or the networks were still saying the reason Tiger Woods was playing badly or Rory was playing badly was because they were lifting too heavy a weight. Well, that's nonsense.
Now we come along and we have a new man who's taking it to another level, Bryson DeChambeau, who I admire so much and is such a thorough gentleman and highly intelligent man. They were saying, here comes the scientist, here comes the kook. Well, he is a scientist. He's taken it to another level, and we've seen things we never thought would ever happen.
Obviously the equipment also does help to a large degree, and this is something Jack and I have been advocating for I don't know how long, they've got to cut the ball back, and they will cut the ball back. They're going to drive this first green at Augusta. In fact, DeChambeau, if it was not this wet weather, if it was firm weather, he'd drive it on the green, and taking a 3â€‘wood and putting it on the 3rd green.
We're seeing things we never thought of. And let me tell you, we're in our infancy. You've got players coming along, I don't know how many years' time, that will carry the ball past where DeChambeau ends up now. We haven't had a big man play golf, other than George Bayer, who played the Tour when we were.
You see these football players, their game is, as I mentioned, it's play and away. Now they see us and the prize money and the longevity of the sport, all these great athletes, Michael Jordan, all of them are all going to golf now.
I played withâ€‘â€‘ who's theâ€‘â€‘ famous basketball player, played with him the other day. He's playing golf. They're all playing golf. So we ain't seen nothing yet, as we say in the classic. We ain't seen nothing yet. I said on BBC with a famous golf commentator 20, 25 years ago that players would be hitting the ball 400 yards, and he scoffed at me and he said, You're talking rubbish.
Now I'm going to make a statement, I don't know â€‘â€‘ look, first of all, I don't know how far the ball can go. It would be very interesting for me to hear what is the limit. I don't know what the limit may be, but don't be surprised if you see them hit it 500 because these guys are so big and so strong, it's frightening. And they'll be using a long driverâ€‘â€‘ of course there's a limit on what youâ€‘â€‘ I suppose, what you can use. Is there a limit?
JACK NICKLAUS: 48, or maybe 49, I don't know.
GARY PLAYER: But they might have to change that, as well, because now we're seeing things that we never thought we'd see. Now you've got a man who's sevenâ€‘foot tall. Are you going to tell him he's got to use a club that he's down here like this? No. So they might have to change that rule as they've changed other rules.
So really I'd love to be around in 40 years' time just to see what's happening.
So the only wayâ€‘â€‘ and the sad thing is that we're going to be playing at St.Andrews, the home of golf, in a few years' time, the guys will drive nine greens there. On a calm day, they'll drive nine greens.
So where are we going to see Bryson on a normal sunny day hit a driver and a wedge at the 2nd hole, a driver and a wedge at No.13, a driver and a 9â€‘iron at 15? Where are we going? You can't make the tees go back any further.
It was embarrassing for me because I once made a statement that was so incorrect, I said, you know, Augusta are the one golf course that's trying to stay abreast with the change of the ball and equipment. They can't go back in the streets.
So what did they do? They bought the two highways, and the tees are back in the streets, virtually, and they're going to go back further, I would imagine, in the future. I can't speak on their behalf.
It's really scary, and we've got toâ€‘â€‘ and the golf manufacturers are not keen to have that. The best ballâ€‘â€‘ there are no best balls on the market today. If you take the four best or the five best balls, there's no difference. They're not allowed to be different as far as distance is concerned. So the one who markets the ball the best will be the top ball. So if you cut the ball back, they're not going to drop in sales whatsoever.
JACK NICKLAUS: Are you done?
GARY PLAYER: I'm done.
JACK NICKLAUS: What was your question again? No, I'm all right.
Exercise, Gary is the ultimate of exercise. He's done that his whole life, and I think Gary has always been not big, so he's had to do that to do it.
When we grew up here, nobody lifted weights, not even the football players lifted weights when I was growing up. We didn't do that. I started lifting some weights about the time I got to be about 40 years old to start for tone. I've worked outâ€‘â€‘ I ran most of my life until I couldn't. I've doneâ€‘â€‘ I do Pete Egoscue's exercises, which I do twice a day, and I've missed one day since Thanksgiving 1988 I believe it was. I exercise every day. I don't do the level that Gary does. Maybe if I did the level that Gary does I'd be the shape that he's in. He's in wonderful shape.
My body has sort of broken down in a lot of ways, but Gary is sort of the unusual one that gets that thing. I'm not.
I'm doing pretty well at 80 years old. As I say, I exercise every day. I don't doâ€‘â€‘ my back has been so bad I haven't been able to do any walking, so I walk in the swimming pool, and Barbara and I do that virtually probably five, six days a week at home.
I think you do what you have to do, but I agree totally with Gary that exercise is important, diet is important, and I don't know what heâ€‘â€‘ I can't remember what all he said about the golf ball and how far the golf ball went and how far they hit it, but he is right that we are getting longer, and they will drive the first green here at Augusta under the right conditions.
Even now that they've sanded all the fairways but 2 here, and I think they're supposed to do that this winter; is that right?
GARY PLAYER: They'll put a new base under there so it drains better, and when you put that under there and you get some dryish conditions in the springtime, there will be several holes here that you'll get the ball awfully close to if the equipment remains the same.
I believe and Gary said that they will bring the golf ball back. I believe that they probably would have brought it back this year if it wasn't for COVID, or at least they would have thought about it or got serious about bringing it back.
But both the USGA and the R&A said they're serious about it, and I went to them the first time in 1977 about the golf ball, and I remember Bobby Jones wrote in his book that I thinkâ€‘â€‘ the one thing that we've got to watch out for in the future is how far the golf ball goes. This is 1930.
It's always been an issue. I think thatâ€‘â€‘ if we had unlimited land and we had unlimited resources, then I don't think it really makes a whole lot of difference. There's not many places that have that.
I thinkâ€‘â€‘ I'm not saying Augusta is unlimited, but Augusta is the only golf course that I know in the world that's been able to keep up with the changes in equipment. But nobody else has the land or really has the ability to afford to do that.
They have to make some changes with it, otherwise all the old golf courses, all the strategy and everything else that you've had on golf courses is gone. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
I've changed the way I design now. I used to design from the back tees and move forward and used to use a progression of yardages. I don't do that anymore. I design from the members' tees now, so the members have the appropriate strategy on the golf course, and then I just go back and start putting back tees back where I think it's appropriate for what the strategy is rather than the other way around.
We have to do that with equipment. I don't think anybodyâ€‘â€‘ I don't think I want to knock the equipment because the equipment today is better than the equipment we played with. It just so happens that it is the equipment we played with. We played with steel shafts and wooden heads and blades and stuff like that.
I loved it. I didn't have any issues with it. Now they play with stuff that's much easier to play with. I don't know if that's makes you a better golfer or not, but probably brings more golfers into the game because it is a little easier to play, and then we have more good golfers today I think than we've ever had in the game. Maybe the equipment is a plus, I'm not sure.
GARY PLAYER: But you're talking about changing the ball for the pros, not for the amateur.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, they'll change it for everybody, Gary. They don't want to bifurcate. They don't want to bifurcate golf balls. I don't know what they're developing. I haven't been privy to that. But my guess is they're developing a golf ball that the faster the club head speed, the progression is less as you go down. I don't know whether that's the right word or not.
But if you swing at 125 miles an hour, you'll be limited to this. If you swing at 100 miles an hour, you won't get as muchâ€‘â€‘ you won't lose as much distance. If you go to 90, you won't lose hardly any distance at all.
In other words, a progression working down so the average golfer is not hurt but you try to rein in the longer hitters so you're not ruining every golf course that's there.
I'm guessing that. I just really don't know. And I'm not sure that you'd get an answer from the USGA at this point because I'm not sure they know, either.
GARY PLAYER: Because the golf courses are definitely for the average golfer too tough.
JACK NICKLAUS: And they don't want to bifurcate. They don't want to bifurcate. They don't want to have one ball for the pro, one ball for the average golfer.
If you look at itâ€‘â€‘ I've said this many times. I liken what's happening today toâ€‘â€‘ I don't know how we got on this subject. It's all about exercise, I'm sorry.
I look at that as when we switched back in about 1970, '71, '72, when we switched from the large ball to the small ball. The small ball back then went 50 yards further than the large ball, and we had switched toâ€‘â€‘ we had been to the large ball in this country for a long time, and then when they switched in Britain and the rest of the world, they had I think a grandfather clause of eight or ten years or something like that, so that the pros wanted to play the big ball because they thought it was more difficult to play and you had to be more skillful to play it.
They did that, and pretty much amateur golf started going that way, and pretty much the average golfer said, hey, I don't want to play a ball that you guys are not playing, I want to play the same golf ball.
So that's when they switched to the big ball everywhere. I promise you it was at least 50 yards difference. I know at home at Lost Tree, where I lived, there's a little lake at the end of the driving range, and I wouldâ€‘â€‘ if we had a big, strong wind I could get it to it, and most of the time I could hit all the drivers I want and never reach the lake.
When I got working on prep for the British Open, I remember Angelo used toâ€‘â€‘ my caddie was with me, and I said, Angelo, go to the other side of the lake to retrieve the golf balls because I just hit it that much further. I kind of liked how far that ball went. But I think in all fairness to the game of golf, I don't think it's probably a good thing.
Enough on that subject. I'm sorry.
Q. Tiger hosted the Champions Dinner earlier this week, albeit in a different environment. What was that night like and what are your favorite Champions Dinner memories?
GARY PLAYER: Well, Tiger was really remarkable at the dinner this year as a host. It was very heartwarming listening to him speak. He said he was on the way to the golf course and he had to stop because he had tears in his eyes and paused for a little while on the road because a lot of memories were going through his mind very quickly, as I interpreted what he was saying, and to have won the tournament again with his children there.
He paused for a while and he spoke very, very well, and it was a lovely evening. I have wonderful recollections of the dinner having been there for almost 64 times or whatever it is. Sam Snead was always hilarious with his stories.
But I think the memories of Bobby Jones being there. You know, I was very naĂŻve of Bobby Jones. Jack actually always told me a lot about Bobby Jones. In the latter years now I've come to make him one of my heroes. He may have been the best play that ever lived, if you look at the way he swung the club, and he used a walking stick as a shaft and a ball that went 80 yards less and they never changed the pins one day, and you raked the bunkers with your feet and they had mowers that cut the fairways that high and the greens were like putting on a semi little piece of field. It's remarkable the scores that that man did. Jack was the one that was telling me this all the time.
I really enjoyed my last dinners at the Masters with Bobby Jones. And then Ben Hogan, who was the straightest hitter I ever saw in my life, listening to him. One of the stories happening there, we were sitting there one night and I had just won the tournament in '61, so in '62 he originated the dinner, so he was sitting here, and I'm sitting next to him, and he was a man of very few words, to say the least.
Horton Smith, who was the first Masters winner, had a little book that he was passing around, and he was coming around and I noticed this book was put in front of me, and I looked at the book and all the signatures there and I signed it and I put it in front of Mr.Hogan.
Just watch me. He sat there like this. And he pondered for a minute, and he stood upâ€‘â€‘ now, everybody is very quiet and talking. He took the book like this, and he went "pow," like that, on the desk. Everybody got such a shock because he's so quiet.
He said, Who passed this goddamn book up here? Horton Smith said, Ben, I did. I've got a junior at my club, and he'sâ€‘â€‘ I want to encourage him to play with all the Masters champions. He said, Horton, this is the Masters club, not some autograph session club. Don't you ever do that again. And Horton Smith just sat down. We were all shocked.
And now you see at the dinner hundreds of flags being signed for all the different charities, which is marvelous. As a Scot would say, he'd be turning in his grave.
JACK NICKLAUS: It's an autograph session now.
GARY PLAYER: I cannot speak on behalf of him, but would you agree with me he wouldn't go to the Masters dinner now with all that going on?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know, Gary. I would say it would be different. But the Masters dinner is always great fun for all of us. It's the opportunity to come back and see guys that we haven't been with for a long time and usually maybe see once a year and that's here.
This year we probably had theâ€‘â€‘ I don't know, the smallest attendance we've ever had probably because of COVID. I think with guys travelingâ€‘â€‘ and we only had I think five or six that weren't there, so that's pretty good.
It's really very good and the guys really enjoy it. Gary made a great talk, and Crenshaw, Ben Crenshaw runs it, and Ben looked over and me and said, I don't want to follow that. Absolutely not a chance. Gary said everything there was to say.
Bernhard Langer made a very nice talk, and he talked a little bit about the international players and how they would never have achieved what they've achieved in recognition and so forth if it hadn't been for the Masters and so forth.
I thought it wasâ€‘â€‘ I thought both Gary and Bernhard's talks were very, very nice.
Every year we have that. We have a couple of drinks. We have dinner and the champion chooses the menu every year, and whether you like it or not, you eat it. That's what we do. It doesn't make any differenceâ€‘â€‘ I remember Sandy Lyle had haggis, and those of you who have had haggis, that may not be one of your favorites and it may be one of your favorites.
Anyway, it doesn't make any difference. It's the Masters dinner and it's his choice. Gary was right, Tiger was very emotional. I've never seen Tiger that way. But it was good. It was good. It's always good. It's always very, veryâ€‘â€‘ you always walk away with some feeling of something that you hadn't had before.
GARY PLAYER: I'm glad you talked about the haggis, because, man, I don't know if you've ever had it, but if you've had it, it's wicked. These guys are sitting around eating this stuff, and we all went to put our jackets on and we went to the men's room and they were all puking it up.
JACK NICKLAUS: It wasn't that bad.
GARY PLAYER: Shut up and eat it.
JACK NICKLAUS: It wasn't that bad. I didn't try it.
Q. I wonder if we could go back to the South Africa trip with Lee Elder. What were the negotiations behind that and what did it take to make that happen?
GARY PLAYER: You know, it's a terrible thing to sit here and to think that the value of freedom when you lived in a country where there was not freedom. I had this idea of bringing Lee Elder to South Africa to make some change in certain ways. It's so sad to think that you had to go and get permission.
And I went to our president at the time, and I'd played a bit of golf with him, of which I was criticized for playing with him. I don't play for a man with these political views, I play golf.
Anyway, I went and I asked him, and isn't it sad you had to go and ask somebody to come to your country. This was Mr.Foster. I sat in his office, and I said, I'd like to try and make a change in Apartheid in sport. He looked at me, and he had these big eyebrows, and he was a staunch believer in it, and I looked him right in the eyes, and it seemed like forever to get an answer, and he said, go ahead. Which was really very comforting.
Lee was fantastic. They all loved him. Of course the majority of people didn't believe in that system at that time. You know, we had a government that was in control.
It was, I think, aâ€‘â€‘ I was called a traitor in the Cape Town airport, and Lee had a lot of people, the majority saying, don't dare go there, and it took a lot of courage, a lot of courage on his behalf.
I put all the accolades on to Lee.
Q. For Mr.Player, you celebrated your 85th birthday recently, and some of us helped you on special media for the fight against cancer. I wanted to ask you how it went and how important it is for you to celebrate your cumpleaĂ±os helping the fight of cancer.
GARY PLAYER: Well, everybody was very, very generous, including Jack and Barbara. Of course Jack and I have two of theâ€‘â€‘ and Arnold, we've been very blessed in that we have such incredible wives, incredible wives. To reach 85, I'm very grateful for that because most of my friends are dead at 85, and it was a very happy birthday because we were with a lot of our family who live in Philadelphia.
It was a wonderful birthday, thank you very much. I think if you've got friends in the world, you're a very wealthy man. Honestly, I got hundreds, hundreds of emails and texts and good wishes, of which I tried my best to answer to all of them.
It was a veryâ€‘â€‘ I think as you get older, obviously you realize the sun is setting, and you appreciate birthdays a little bit more than when you were younger.
And the fight for cancer, it's a PGAâ€‘organized charity. Had a very nice leader from Jay Monahan, and I compliment the PGA on fighting, which I think is where we should be putting more efforts into.
I find it very interesting, when you think of how many people are dying of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, that there's not more said about that, and probably if you look at obesityâ€‘related diseases, close to 2 to 3 million people in America die. Obesity is killing more people than any one particular disease.
So it's time for the youth of a nation are the trustees of prosperity to start being taught in the schools.
When you look at this pandemic now and you look at the diseases that we've faced throughout history, schools and parents have got to be emphatic in teaching their children to exercise and to eat property.
The schools are taking exercise out of the schools, which I find very strange.
Q. Jack, on Tuesday Tiger was asked about his age as he now approaches 45 and he cited that he wants to be here for a long time, referencing you competing well into your mid to late 50s. Have you had any talks with him, passed along any words of wisdom as he starts to get up there in age?
JACK NICKLAUS: He's pretty much a kid as far as I'm concerned. Tiger and I have talked a little bit. I don't see Tiger very often but I've seen him a little bit.
You know, we did talk a little bit about age last time. We talked about our bodies, and when Gary and I saw Tiger, what was that, two months ago, six weeks ago, whatever it was, he could hardly walk his back was killing him so much. We talked about what he had done and so forth, and he said he's pretty good now, he said. Said he should be able to play all right.
As we get older, we get dings, you know, and those things, they hurt. You're certainly not going to get less as you get older. You're going to get more. Tiger understands that. I think he's very real about it, and we talked about it, he says, I'm having more fun out with Charlie and Sam, his kids, and watching them do different things and be vulnerableâ€‘â€‘ he says Charlie is starting to play golf and he's getting a really good swing. He says, I've got blades in his hands so he learns how to play golf instead of learning with all those forgiving golf clubs.
I think he's very wise. That's what his father did to him, he took the old equipment we played with to teach Tiger. I think that's why Tiger was such a good player.
Those were the kind of things we talked about. He's been enjoying his time at home and enjoying that, and he still wants to play. And I think Gary asked him, and he said, yeah, I hope I haveâ€‘â€‘ he said, I think I have another one in me, and he may. He may have more than one in him.
Tiger is no different than the rest of us. What we do, it takes a toll on our bodies.
Q. Given the absence of patrons this week, I wanted to ask you about 1986 when you were on 9, you heard some noise from 8 and started talking to your own gallery of fans, and I wanted to ask what went through your mind and what unfolded? Did you think firing up your own gallery might give you some momentum, and how did that affect you in '86?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the gallery certainly helped me a lot in that time. They were pretty vocal, and it was nice to have thatâ€‘â€‘ that support and the people behind me, and you know, I enjoyed it very much.
You know, and to the converse, I obviously didn't enjoy it very much when maybe like in 1962 at the U.S.Open when Arnold had the gallery. I think Arnold turnedâ€‘â€‘ he was embarrassed by it.
Arnold was the kingâ€‘â€‘ heck, I was rooting for Arnold. That year I was a big Arnold Palmer fan when I was young.
You know, the game of golf is different. A lot of guys feed off the gallery. Of the guys that are out there today, I'm not sureâ€‘â€‘ Rory McIlroy probably feeds more off the gallery than any of them. I think Rory is a very big gallery favorite. I assume that's what your question is; is that right?
Q. I was more just asking how they affected you in '86 and if you drew anyâ€‘â€‘
JACK NICKLAUS: How it affected me? Well, okay. I think that I fed off of it. I think thatâ€‘â€‘ you have a few times in your life that you get the gallery that is fantastic, and I think of three occasions that were very, very special occasions to me. The '78 British Open at St.Andrews and the people were hanging out of the windows up there coming up the 18th hole. Then in '80 at Baltusrol, and New York City is pretty raucous crowd to start with. I kept worrying about somebody knocking me down going from green to tee, and they try to pat you on the back and cheer, and that was very special.
And then of course here at Augusta they don't get that close to you, but the galleries were loud. Those were the three major times that I can remember, and I won all three occasions, so they must have had some effect on me.
But I think they'll miss the gallery this week. I think they've missed it all year. I think that one of the problems is that the guys are getting used to playing without crowds, and they've been in this COVID bubble, and I think they're worried about getting out of it and getting sick because if they get sickâ€‘â€‘ we had dinnerâ€‘â€‘ Barbara and I had dinner with Rickie Fowler and his wife the other night, and Rickie says, we haven't been out much. He saysâ€‘â€‘ I said, well, we'll keep you safe.
So we had dinner in a corner and nobody was anywhere near us, and he says, this is not a time of year I want to get sick. I mean, we were already there and we were talking about it, and he says, the next two weeks is a time thatâ€‘â€‘ we get sick, we're out two weeks, and certainly I don't want to miss the Masters.
So I can, what's going on now, but I think it's an aberration. You've got to watch out for what it isâ€‘â€‘ but you don't want it to carry on and have it be forever. We were supposed to be the first tournament, the Memorial Tournament, with a gallery in July, and the players were saying, hey, I'm not sure we want to play because ofâ€‘â€‘ and so the Tour came back and said, no, we decided we'd like to not have a gallery, and I said, well, that's your call, not our call.
So that's what they did.
But they're going to have to get back to normalization of people out there watching them play and so forth. Here at Augusta you've got people coming from all over the world, so I can understand why no gallery, and I think it's probablyâ€‘â€‘ it won't be the same, but it'll be what it is, and we'll get through it. We'll always get through it.
Come next April I think you're going to see a lot of people who missed the Masters this year.
Q. Gary and Jack, Rory is going for the grand Slam for the sixth time here at the Masters. Jack, you won it more than once but you concluded it in '66 at Muirfield and Gary in '65 at Bellerive. Did you guys sense a special determination or mindset for that effort, or did you try to just keep it in the same perspective as any other major tournament, and if so, what perhaps advice or any wisdom you might pass along to Rory in terms of how to approach this mentally?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, if I may, Gary, I think both Gary and I won it so young as far as winning. You wereâ€‘â€‘
GARY PLAYER: 29.
JACK NICKLAUS: You were 29 when you won at Bellerive, and of course I was 26 at Muirfield. I never even thought about it. I was interested in winning it all in one year, and when I won them all, '66 I saidâ€‘â€‘ I sort of felt likeâ€‘â€‘ I sort of felt like, I'm disappointed I didn't win more that year. That was my attitude then.
As I got a little older I realized that that was not a very practical attitude, and a lot of times I would say, if I didn't win the Masters my year was gone, and I think that was a very unrealistic approach.
As you get older, your realistic approaches get a little bit more realistic. I don't know if that's said right or not.
Anyway, it wasâ€‘â€‘ it's nice when you turn around, and I remember Gary and I had a picture taken not long after that, was it at Westchester with you and Hogan and Sarazen and me. Nice picture. I love that picture. I keep that picture. We have that picture sitting on a table. It's a nice picture and one to remember that there were only four guys at that time. I guess there's only, what, five now? Tiger?
I guess it's a pretty special group.
Q. And to Rory in terms ofâ€‘â€‘
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, that was your question, wasn't it. Same thing I'd say to Rory any time: Just be patient. Your time will come. He's too good not to have it come.
GARY PLAYER: In 19â€‘â€‘ we both obviously had, we were both ambitious to win the Grand Slam in one year. 1974 I won the Masters and the British Open and I finished I think ninth at Winged Foot and fourth in the PGA. That was our dream.
But in regards to the final tournament, which so many people neededâ€‘â€‘ Arnold Palmer needed the PGA, Sam Sneadâ€‘â€‘ I played at a golf course the other day where he needed a 6 to win the U.S.Open but they didn't have the information on the scoreboards that they had today and tried to gamble. He thought he needed a birdie and he lost it. So there have been a lot of players that needed the Grand Slamâ€‘â€‘ a tournament, a final tournament. Tom Watson I think needs the PGA if I'm not mistaken, whatever it is.
There are a lot of players that needed to win the final tournament.
To me, when I came along, and Jack was very instrumental, he said to me, you want to win the Grand Slam, why don't you come with me and practice at Bellerive. I said, Jack, I don't have that kind of money. I said, I've got to go to Greensboro. I said, well, if you want to win come with me, and I went with him. Reluctantly I went. And then Jack went back home and I stayed on.
But I prepared in a very, very special way. I never went to dinner with people. I did a lot of yoga and mindset and sort of almost brainwashing. I did some very extraordinary things, which I won't go into, in my room to do it and a lot of mindset, and I teed off believingâ€‘â€‘ and this is what I believe Rory has got to do. He's not going to do what I did because he's not familiar with what I did, but he's got to tee off and say, I believe I'm going to do it.
The big thing is if you look at superstars in the game, which there have probably been about 12 or 15 in the history of golf. Superstars I'm talking about, they believed that they were going to do it. A lot of players tell you they believe, and when that bell rings and they get on that tee, there's something that they don't believe, and I think he's got to actually get up there and sayâ€‘â€‘ he's got to start meditating. He's got to start believing that he can do it because time goes by.
Actually, he's on a golf course, he should be saying to himself: This is the ideal golf course for me. I hit a draw, it's made for me, I'm long off the tee, and I believe I'm going to do it. And eliminate all negative thoughts. That's not easy to do. It is the mindset that he's got to have to win the tournament, not theâ€‘â€‘ he's got the game, but you've got to have that mindset to win the Grand Slam.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and to Mr.Player and Mr.Nicklaus, it's an honor to be in your presence. We hope everybody stays safe and stays healthy. Enjoy the Masters.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports