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April 5, 2006

Jack Nicklaus


BILLY MORRIS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Once again we are delighted to have six time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus back on the grounds of Augusta National, even though he's not competing this year, he is going to play in the Par 3 and his grandson, Charlie, will caddie for him. I know there are a lot of people in here who have questions, but would you like to say something before we start?

JACK NICKLAUS: On the 1st hole, well, let's see, driver and a (laughter).

BILLY MORRIS: We've been there before.

JACK NICKLAUS: 1st hole I hit a driver, 3 wood and a 7 iron. (Laughter).

After that, let's see, I don't remember. No, really, I haven't seen the golf course, I haven't seen what's been done, so outside of that, I've been doing everything but play golf. So I'll leave it with you.

Q. I was wondering, with all of the changes they have made, and you've obviously not seen some of them this year, but can a 46 year old win again?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think so. I think with today's equipment, I think you probably can. He'd better be pretty long to start with. But, yeah, I would think so.

Who were you referring to? (Laughter) No, serious, must have had a 46 year old in mind.

Q. Tiger in 16 years.

JACK NICKLAUS: Tiger in 16 years? Well, that's probably he'll probably be quite capable of that. Let's see, who would be 46?

Q. Tom Lehman?

JACK NICKLAUS: Lehman is long enough to win.

Q. Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples?

JACK NICKLAUS: Couples, yeah, Couples is long enough, sure.

A lot of it depends on what the golf course is. As I understand it, the golf course is relatively fast. If the golf course is relatively fast, it brings a lot more people into the game. Used to be if the golf course was wet, they would bring a lot more people in the game, but I think the golf course dry brings more people in the game here right now.

Q. Ten years ago, you said Tiger would win as many Masters as you and Arnie combined. Do you still stand by that?

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't say well, that was a statement in jest about saying how good was Tiger. The last time I played a practice round he was still an amateur at the time. I said, well, this kid is probably good enough to win more Masters than Arnold and I put together. It's becoming closer to true every time. (Laughter) But ten years from now or eight years from now, whatever it might be, I'll say, gee, I told you so.

Q. Do you have any opinion about Mickelson's plan to use two different drivers to get the ball around?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, here I go with golf ball again. With the golf ball, they only need about five clubs. And so if he wants to add another driver, he's got plenty of space in there because he's not going to use a lot of them.

Probably a pretty good plan on this golf course. This golf course is a golf course that I always felt like, I mean, I always played my 1 iron around here. But it was a golf course that guys, first golf course they started using 5 woods because of the par 5s, because of 13, because of well, there's other par 5s, I can't remember what they were anymore of course (laughter) 15, or downhill lie on 2. This one they started using those kind of clubs. They went to 5 woods to the small head wood clubs.

Q. Hybrid?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, the hybrids, that's what we call them? I can't remember what we call them. You know, they have all those different kind of things.

There's other kinds of club and varieties that you can use. I think Phil, it's probably a pretty darned good move on his part. Length is of the utmost importance on this golf course on quite a few occasions, but accuracy is also an important thing on quite a few occasions so that's probably not a bad idea.

Q. Golf is such a comparison game between the individuals, where do you think what you did, what you accomplished ten (sic) years ago ranks? (20 years ago)

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. (Laughter).

You know, I would like to have it be a comparison.

I think that the game from about, I suppose, right around early '40s, late '30s, to about '95, the game didn't change very much. And the game in the last ten years has changed dramatically. So your ten years was probably correct.

I think that with what's happened with the golf clubs and the golf equipment we have today, what's happened with the golf ball, you didn't see Augusta National change dramatically during that period of time. The only thing that Augusta did was during about the mid '60s when I was winning quite often, they added a few bunkers because they just put it out in some different places. I thought those were fine. They were all right. Probably should have been there anyway, like the ones at 18 and the ones at 3, those kind of things.

You know, it just very difficult to compare the game today with the game that I played and guys who played in the generation prior to this simply because of today, the game is 90 percent power. What they have tried to do here at Augusta, and I think they are trying to do the right thing, I mean, Hootie and I talked last night a little about it. I said, "Hootie, our company, we have over 50 golf courses we're working on right now and I haven't figured out how in the world what's the right thing to do." I said, "You're trying to corral the long player, somewhat, yet you allow his abilities to still come out, and yet make it fair where an average length player still has a way to play the game."

I haven't figured that out. Because there's such a great difference between the long hitter and the average hitter today that it just doesn't make a lot of sense anymore.

So to try to compare the game of today versus the game that I played I mean, I was the longest when we played and everybody said, gee, Jack hits it so far. But I hit it so far but I hit it 10 or 15 yards, maybe 20 yards, really, by the next guy. The difference today may be 100 yards between a good player, a long hitter and a short hitter. It's such a great difference, it's just so difficult to compare.

Am I proud of what I did? Yeah, absolutely, sure, of course I am.

Q. I wonder, Nick Price was saying a couple of weeks ago at THE PLAYERS that he was surprised you and Arnold, being members, were not consulted about the changes; if you were consulted what would you have told them?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's not my call. Maybe 20 years ago or 25 years ago, we were consulted, or I was, we did a lot of the changes on the golf course in those days, and probably maybe shouldn't have since I was still competing.

And today, it seems as though, you know, if you go into the Masters Champions Room, which is probably the guys they consult with, there's probably 20 of them that are in the golf course design business. How do you pick one from the other? I'm sure that some are more involved than others.

It's a difficult call. It's not my call. So should we have been consulted? Not necessarily. Could we have been consulted? I suppose. But I think that the intention here is to do what is right for the game and what is right for, what is best for Augusta. You know, do I think that it is exactly what I would have done? Probably not. Is it the same that maybe Arnold would have done or Gary or Watson or somebody else who is involved? Probably not. But it might have been. I don't know. As I said, I've got 50 golf courses that I'm working on constantly, and those 50 golf courses or whatever number it might be we're working on, I have yet to figure out. I used to design from the back tees, and then work on a proportion up. And today, I don't design from the back tees. I design from the members tees, because I figure that 1.8 percent of your play is played from the back tees. Obviously here at Augusta, The Masters a little bit more than 1.8 percent oh, never mind, bad comment. (Laughing).

But then you go back and you find a gorilla tee back there somewhere that you put in and if you add another bunker to get some strategy; that's basically what I do today. So what we end up with is we might end up with a 7,500 yard golf course, still trying to keep the members at 6,500 because the members can play at 6,500. I don't think the average golfer is much better today. They have got equipment that hits the ball further, they have equipment that hits it straighter, but they still all of a sudden, the discrepancy between a good shot and a bad shot is basically how solidly you hit the golf ball. And you guys know, gals, if you hit the ball solidly what happens, sometimes you hit one that goes 30, 40 yards further and you say, man, I've got to have that club and that ball. The next 20 shots, you're back to where you were. How do you know which one is going to come out of your bag when? You don't. So I don't think the average golfer is going to improve that much because of that. They have that same problem every time. But the good player, they hit it in the rear end probably 95 percent of the time and when they hit it in the rear end, it goes, and it will stay in the air a long time.

So you have a 7,500 yard set of tees and a the point I'm trying to make, a 7,500 and 6,500 yard set of tees and I don't put anything in the middle anymore. Normal progression would be about 300 yards on the golf course. I have courses that are too long all the way on the next set of tees so I just don't do it.

How do you corral them? Still tough.

Q. It's been suggested that you could solve the golf ball problem by making it bigger. Would you subscribe to that?

JACK NICKLAUS: There's quite a few ways to solve it. I would think the simplest way is, why change what they are playing with. In other words, I think that, you know, Titleist makes a golf ball a certain way, Nike makes the golf ball a certain way, Callaway makes the golf ball a certain way. Everybody is used to those characteristics. They play different golf balls because of the characteristics they play. Each company makes several balls and they pick the one they like.

I promise you, it's very simple to bring that ball back ten percent and still keep the same characteristics. That's not a big deal. Why do you need to change the size of it? Let everybody play what they normally play. They don't have to change their drivers, they don't have to change their irons. You don't have to do anything. If the golf ball goes shorter you don't have to come out every year and have the same conversation, what did we do to Augusta to combat what happened to the golf ball last year? Why would they do that?

During the period of 1934 and up to about two, three years ago, there really wasn't much done to this golf course. Why all of a sudden do we have to have a new golf course? Because we've got new equipment that doesn't fit this golf course or even fit the game anymore. That's why.

Q. Tiger's powers of concentration and focus are often compared to yours and he's obviously dealing with a lot of personal issues right now. Sort of curious how you dealt with that, any kind of personal distractions when you were playing golf and maybe how difficult this will be for him this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think we all deal with personal distractions constantly. I mean, that's what life is. You know, I don't know what Tiger's father's health is, I really don't know. I understand he's you guys would know better than I. Somebody tell me, I don't know.

Q. He's obviously not doing well. I was more curious about how you

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I mean, Tiger is 30 years old. I lost my dad when I was 30. You know, I think any time you lose your parent or anybody, it's a traumatic situation with what goes on and your life will change forever. You have different you have different things that you cope with constantly. Tiger copes with constant press. We didn't have that. He can't, at least my interpretation, he can't turn around without having somebody there doing something or writing about something. We didn't have that back then. Sure, we had press, but it wasn't on a 24 hour basis. It was a little different.

I mean, I've never had one problem ever in my life going out to eat at a restaurant or go any place I wanted to go and be bothered. Sure, sometimes somebody will come up and ask you for an autograph and you sign the autograph and you move on. But today, the fans and the people out there, it's just magnified. So people's life and distractions is there. But the thing is with Tiger, since he's five years old, he grew up with that. I don't think he knows anything different. I never had that, or we didn't have that. I went to college and, you know, I was a college kid. If I wanted to go have a beer, I didn't have somebody follow me down to the beer to write a story on it, having a beer. We didn't have that kind of stuff.

I think things have changed, things are different. We all have distractions and not only does Tiger have distractions, but everybody else in this field has distractions, too. It's just part of life.

Q. Just to follow up on the golf ball, what is your take on how the Ohio Golf Association is adopting a ball for one of it's events?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know really much of what they have done, and what they are going to play, but I think that's one step in the right direction. You know, I think that we talked about Augusta, it was probably the only tournament in golf who could have adopted that kind of a policy five years ago or so, which is probably an option and probably the only place that could have done that and got away with it. And they took the position that they didn't want to be above the game of golf, and I think they probably made the right choice. So they had to try to combat it in another fashion.

I think the Ohio Golf Association, not saying they are above the game of golf, but what they are doing is they are going and playing an event for testing. I think that's probably a good thing. I can't see anything bad about it.

Q. From the victory 20 years ago, if you could pick one moment that has stayed with you the most; and secondly, why do you think that victory has resonated and remained in people's minds so long?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that's because you keep asking about it and that's great. (Laughter) And that's fine. You guys keep asking about it. I don't mind answering questions at all.

I think a lot of what it is, there was an old guy out there playing golf who wasn't supposed to compete anymore, and in his own mind, too. If you look at the previous five years, I just sort of, I didn't really want to be out there playing that much golf during that period of time. Not that I it's not the right phrase when I say I could have cared less but my attitude was, I'll go play.

I really wasn't working at it that hard. Did I try to prepare? Sure. But I didn't prepare to the extent that I did when I was right in the middle. I just didn't have any motivation to move in that direction. You know, I think that the Masters that particular year, you know, I got to the Masters. The Masters is always something very special to me, very important to me, something I always want to try to compete in. You heard me say before, the 1st of January, I start working towards The Masters. I would think about it and start working towards it. The later years, I'd start thinking about it in January, but I didn't start working on it until two weeks before the tournament. That particular year, probably felt about the same.

But I found that for some reason, I had that putter that I started putting pretty well a few weeks before the tournament, I started feeling like, gee, that was pretty good and I kind of got excited. I couldn't get hitting the ball well and I started hitting the ball well, and I didn't putt very well here until about the third round and then I started making a few putts and then the fourth round, I made a lot of putts.

I think today with the equipment, guys' careers have been lengthened dramatically because of equipment. Our career was my career was lengthened because of equipment, but not to the degree that it is today. You know, I think I don't know, I don't know what that one moment was. That one moment, that whole last nine holes wasn't too bad. (Laughter) That was a nice two hour moment.

Q. I was wondering if you could just share with us Charlie's role today and caddying for you in the Par 3. And also, how much do your grandchildren ask you about not only 1986 but things you did on the golf course.

JACK NICKLAUS: I've never had my grandchildren ask me anything except, "Can you get me a popsicle out of the refrigerator"? (Laughter) "Would you go get me a towel? (Laughter).

Grandkids don't have a clue what's going on about any of that kind of stuff. They will eventually, sure, but they are not that old. Jackie is the oldest, Jackie is 16. I had probably no intention of playing in the par 3, I didn't even bring my golf clubs and we're at a press conference in Nashville on a golf course we're doing there called Bear something (laughter) at Burrus Ridge. (Bear Creek). Actually, the piece of property looks just about like Muirfield Village did when it first started, nice property with nice movement, trees, a very nice piece of property.

When we were there last week and sitting in the press conference, and Jackie says in the press conference, if I can talk my dad into letting one of his grandkids caddie for him in the par 3, do you think that he'll play? And of course the press conference, they say, "Yeah, he'll play, really enjoy that." Now I'm stuck, I have no choice. (Laughter).

Jackie said, "If Charlie wants to caddie, can he caddie?" I said, "Sure, I'll go play if Charlie wants to come up," and he came up last night.

Q. What's his reaction?

JACK NICKLAUS: I put my big bag on the airplane last night and I told him I was going to put rocks in it. He says, "Oh, God you brought your big bag."

"Well, Charlie, I don't have a small bag."

Q. In Golf Digest recently you were critical of the changes. Do you still feel that way?

JACK NICKLAUS: Not necessarily critical of the changes. I don't remember what Golf Digest said. I don't have any idea what they said because I didn't read it.

What I've said all along is I said that I felt like, matter of fact, I think that was taken from I went down to Orlando for the golf panelists and they asked me that question. I said from a tournament standpoint, I thought they made it I didn't think it was a very good thing to do. But I said, my feeling is exactly what I've been saying every press conference. I think their intention is to do exactly what they did with the last thing is to try to end up having the players play similar clubs to what they were playing, you know, 20 years ago in the same places. Their intentions are correct.

And then I continued to have said, is what we have done and this like talking about the 50 golf courses I'm designing, we have not figured out what to do yet. I don't think anybody has figured out. I think Carnoustie did probably the most logical thing from a tournament standpoint. You take it to a certain length, you take it down to 12 yards, give them a place to walk down, and if you've got to hit it in this area, take the driver out of your hand and go. That's probably the most logical thing to do, okay.

However, most people like to try to keep the driver somewhat in your hands. Once you keep the driver in your hands, then you try to figure out, how do you combat that. It's very difficult. I don't know that there is a way.

Q. Do you change Muirfield Village?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, a little bit. I made I took the first hole at Muirfield Village back 25 yards this year. The reason I took it back is I was going to change all of the bunkers because they are just driving it over. They never used to drive it over the bunkers on Muirfield. They played inside the bunkers on the first hole along the little creek on the left side, put 3 wood off the tee, into position, 6 , 7 iron into the green, nice hole. Well, they have decided that the bunkers are no longer there.

So rather than ruining all of the bunkers and ruin the golf course for the member, I said I've got plenty of room to move back 25 yards and now the bunkers are still in play and those are the options they had 20 years ago and that's what they are trying to do here but you can't do that on every hole. The terrain is different. I still don't have the answer to that. I wish I had a little magic wand I could wave up here and figure that out, but I don't think there is an answer.

You know, the intention is to do that. Now, the first hole here, when you take the first hole here and all of a sudden you put it back and you brought I could understand where they brought the bunker into play and they brought those things in. But what about the poor guy that drives the ball into the face of the hill? You know, right there, you've added a half a shot to the average length hitter, the Gary Player type hitter of the world. And you go to the I know the fourth hole, they talk about that's probably the same club. Well, okay

Q. Tiger is hitting a 3 wood, O'Meara hit a driver in practice.

JACK NICKLAUS: On 4? (Laughing) I've never quite used that much club but I can understand. (Laughter).

I think in other words, that was probably on a day when they had a windy day; is that correct? That's right.

You go back there at that hole, the fourth hole is the toughest par 3 on the golf course to start with, and the golf hole has always been, it's always been a 2 iron or 3 iron as I was growing up and I think they want to try to get a 2 or 3 iron into their hands. If you look at the golf clubs today, the golf clubs are about an inch and a half, two inches longer. A 4 iron today used to be a 3 iron, it just says different on the bottom if the loft is the same as a 4 or a 3. You're not really putting the same club in your hands, you're putting a club that says the same number in your hand.

Q. And on 7

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, let me go through it, I want to answer it, not just part of it.

I think that is fine, if weather conditions are fine, are good. But weather conditions, like you said where Tiger hit a 3 wood, let me tell you, weather conditions, I've played a lot of 1 irons on that front tee in certain weather conditions. You move it back 30, 40 yards, I don't know what in the world you're going to have in your hand.

No. 7, I think that would probably be if there's one hole you would probably grumble about the most, it would be that one, because the green is not designed to handle that type of a shot, okay.

Q. That's true, they have grumbled about it.

JACK NICKLAUS: My guess is that's the one hole. Most of the players, if they have reasonable conditions, will be able to get to the top of the hill on 1. Most of the players will probably still be able to play No. 4, but they haven't had the adverse conditions. Under adverse conditions, you'll scream.

No. 7, that would be one. I had dinner with Ernie right after he was up here, I think he said he played two rounds and hid a 4 iron and a 7 iron. Ernie Els hit 4 iron and 7 iron into No. 7 on that green? Okay. I've had windy conditions where I've had to play 7 iron in there; okay, you understand.

See, I don't know what they did to 11. I don't know how 11 really has affected. But 11 has always been, it's one green you don't play at. Now how much length did they add to 11?

Q. It's 505 now.

JACK NICKLAUS: What was it, 480?

Q. 475.

JACK NICKLAUS: Whatever they added, I know they probably went up with the tee shot, too, because it went back, right?

Q. They put trees on the right side?

JACK NICKLAUS: Trees don't mean anything. That's just that's finishes out the fairway length.

I don't think that probably is a big deal because they have got a driver in their hand. But it's where you really can't have a driver or really what the value of the shot is into the green. A long shot into the wind is a tough, tough shot, really tough.

15 needed length. That's probably a good change. That was probably needed.

17, I guess they have added length. I don't know how they get by Ike's Tree before, there were about ten guys who could get by Ike's Tree and still play a wedge, but the rest of the field is back there playing a 4 or 5 iron. I hope what they try to do is get to where I assume the whole field is going to try to play that 4 or 5 iron, try to do.

As I said before, how do you do that? You can't do that when there's a difference of 60, 70, 80 yards in the drivers hitting between guys.

BILLY MORRIS: This is a very, very big subject, and I know you all have so many, many more questions to ask Jack about it. As you all know we have some other things to do this morning. I'm going to thank Jack for spending this time with us. I'm sure he'd be delighted to talk with you outside, or somewhere else about this subject. (Laughter) And I thank all of you for coming this morning.

And Jack, I particularly thank you for coming and we look forward to seeing you at the Par 3. And here comes his caddie, young Charlie. Thank you all.

End of FastScripts.

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