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August 10, 2005

Jack Nicklaus

Baltusrol Golf Club

JULIUS MASON: Mr. Jack Nicklaus, ladies and gentlemen, the honorary chairman of the 87th PGA Championship, joins us this morning. Jack is a five time PGA Champion and he will be recognized for his accomplishments at Baltusrol Golf Club this morning out on the 18th tee. Mr. Nicklaus, thank you very much for joining us. Some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A please.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I'm delighted to be here. It's a nice honor. I think that they picked an appropriate place.

I had decisions to make on the 18th tee; when we were here in '60 I remember I had to make the decision of whether I wanted to go for Hogan's record or whether I wanted to win the golf tournament. I had a three shot lead on Arnold and I elected to try to win the golf tournament, because I remember, I don't know who it was prior, hooked one down in the trees, was is it Furgol? Furgol won, that's '54, that's a long time ago. He lost the tournament. Anyway, remember that, if you can, back to somebody doing something in 1954?

Anyway, I played a 1 iron off the tee and ended up in not a very good lie and hit a fat 8 iron trying to land it up short of the lake and left myself 287 yards and had a 1 iron. I can't say I aimed it over the bunker but got it on the green and made the putt, so that 18th hole was a big decision for me and that broke Hogan's record.

When I came back in '80, I was coming into the 17th green and I had about a 22 foot putt there and Aoki hit it about seven or eight feet, and I know Aoki was not going to miss his putt so I had to make that putt to be able to play 18 the way I wanted to play it. I made the putt and Aoki made his, of course, right on top of it. So I went to the 18th hole with a two shot lead and I think I played a 3 wood off the tee there and maybe a 4 or 5 iron second shot and wedged it up on the green. Of course I made birdie and Aoki almost made three. Anyway, the 18th tee has been a very special place to me for decisions.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. Assuming you're not going to be here rest of the week, can I have your parking space?

JACK NICKLAUS: David, it's all yours. We've got the same number of letters in our first names (laughter).

Q. They will never know.

JACK NICKLAUS: They will never know.

Q. Would you talk about the significance of a par 5, par 5 finish to a golf tournament, how unusual that is?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's because of this golf course that I've gotten away with putting when I needed to, two par 5s in a golf course in a row in design, I said hey, if it's all right for Baltusrol, I think it's all right for here. I think Desert Highlands was the first time that happened to me. I always thought that sometimes you get out on the golf course, you know, you need two par 5s to get home.

You know, that may have been the case here, too. Obviously when you had the 16th hole, which is a par 3, you probably didn't need to do that, but that's what they did, and certainly, the 17th hole and the 18th hole are two entirely different holes. The 17th, in the old days, was considered a three shot par 5. I guess it's probably considered a three shot par 5 again. What did they do? How much did they add to it?

Q. It's 650.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, that's all. That's a driver and a 6 iron (laughter). And then, of course, the 18th hole is a reachable hole but more of a penal hole if you make a mistake.

So I've never I've never really worried about two par 5s in a row. I always thought that was it was the way the golf course was and accepted it and I thought it was pretty good.

Q. To change gears just real quickly, with the Presidents Cup coming up, are there any new updates? Are you getting to thinking about, you know, captain's picks, things like that?


Q. Yes; anything new to report on that or anything to think about?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. No, I know pretty much what I'm going to do, but I'm not even I'm not going to announce that until next week. And I think that I've pretty well made my mind up on my assistant, I think I've pretty well made my mind up on probably, possibly one of my choices. I just want to see what unfolds this week. I mean, I think that's in all fairness to the players, you've got to let them play their last week as far as what to do. Needless to say, Scott Tolley has kept me abreast with just mountains of statistics, and if you know Scott, you know what kind of mountains he will put in front of me. I tell him I read it all, but I read some of it, you know.

Q. Is there anything in particular that you would be looking at this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: Not really. I'm not sure what I'm looking at. How it unfolds, I think that if you look at I don't know whether Gary has even made any decisions or not, has he? Has he made a choice of his assistant or anything?

Q. No.

JACK NICKLAUS: What I look for is something balanced on the team. Depends on who ends up in the 9th and 10th places, depending who ends up there as to who I might pick for something else. I may go for some youth; I may go for some experience, depending on what's there, and I just don't know what's going to end up there. Right now I've got Davis and Scott Verplank at 9 and 10 and both of them could be knocked out this week, or they both could stay. And that probably will make a bit of a decision. Davis is obviously the experience, and Scott, even though Scott's not Scott's not young by any means as far as it relates to that, but he's young as it relates to international competition.

But you've just got to wait and see.

Let me finish, one more, I think the team is probably pretty solid up to the first eight places if I'm not mistaken. I don't think they can go beyond taking out No. 8. Who is No. 8 now? Is funk 7? Who is 8 on the list? Stewart Cink. I think Stewart I think probably through Stewart is pretty solid on the team.

Q. I was wondering whether you think Vijay Singh is in a sense underappreciated, and if so, is it because he's playing in the Tiger era, or something else?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know how to answer that, whether he's underappreciated or not. I think that I think that anybody who understands the game of golf, who understands how hard he has worked and where he has come from as far as having to I remember Vijay back, I don't know, 15 years ago or so, watching him come to the European Tour, and I watched this guy beating balls and never heard of him. I would go to Europe and see him hitting balls and I saw this beautiful golf swing, and they said, this guy is the hardest working guy I've ever seen over here, and I said, well, if that's that hard of working, he's going to get somewhere. It's just taken Vijay a while to get there.

Anyway, it's taken Vijay a while to get there, but I think Vijay is a terrific player. I don't know whether underappreciated is the word, or maybe many people just don't realize how good he really is, or maybe how good Tiger is that maybe nobody realizes how good anybody else is.

Q. Just wondering, should Tiger win this week and have it be three majors in a year, looking back at what he did in that stretch in 2000, the fact that he has done some stuff to his swing and maybe started to pull away from guys again after he was so dominant in 2000, which would be more impressive to you, that first one or this run?

JACK NICKLAUS: We'll find out after he wins this week or not, won't we?

Q. If he were to win.

JACK NICKLAUS: "If" is a lot of things. He's only got 149 other players or whatever there is here to worry about, and himself.

No, Tiger's playing very well. I talked to Tiger quite a bit last night, and I told him, I said I thought his swing plane at the British Open was the best I'd ever seen it. I mean, I've seen Tiger's swing a lot in the last few years and I didn't think his swing plane was where he probably wanted it, but I thought at the British Open it was the best I'd ever seen it. So if it's something similar to what he was using there, he's going to be very difficult again this week.

Tiger is a wonderful player. I mean, how do you compare what he's doing, because nobody has ever done what he's doing. Certainly I didn't. And certainly, you know, nobody else that you can go back and look at did anything like that. He's dominated way beyond how anybody's ever dominated. I mean, I dominated and mine was dominated over a long period of time. But, you know, I think I may be I had guys that were stronger players that had more experience at winning than Tiger has against him, but Tiger still has a lot of guys that play awfully, awfully well. I'm not trying to degrade the players or knock down the players he's playing, but I'm saying if we have fewer players and fewer players playing, they are going to win more championships and they are going to learn how to win more. And today with the competition, there's so many players out there that are good, they don't get the opportunity to win as much.

So when you get a guy who is used to winning, against guys who are not used to winning, winning breeds winning is what I've always said. So he's tough, no question about it, and tough until somebody comes along that all of a sudden wins a few tournaments and believes he's going to win again the next time.

It's much like when Arnold was winning; there wasn't anybody that challenged Arnold at all. I mean, Gary came along and started challenging and then I came along, and it was you know, Arnold had it to himself there for about five or six years, and Tiger has it much to himself for a period of time, and his competition, not only the guys today are good, but he's got his competition may be somebody you have not even heard of yet. You realize, Arnold was 32 years old when I came along on the scene, and Tiger is 29.

So sometime in the next three years a young Jack Nicklaus might come along to challenge Tiger that's what I'm saying, but you just don't know. Or maybe nobody comes along and Tiger may win another 15 tournaments, majors, who knows. He's awfully good, he seems to have the talent and the desire and the work ethic to do so, but we don't know that. It's a crystal ball.

Q. Using your own experience as a context, why do you think

JACK NICKLAUS: Use my what?

Q. Using your own experience as a context for this question, why do you think the public embraces certain champions but doesn't embrace others quite as much, or why does it take longer for the public to warm to certain champions?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have no idea. I mean, I don't know that I have no way to answer that.

Q. Before you won here in 1980, you had put yourself through a pretty rigorous swing change program. Could you talk about what you were trying to do then and maybe compare it to what Tiger has been doing the last couple of years?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know what Tiger's really been doing, but I know he's he's much like I was from the standpoint that I never really relied on what I had as being what I wanted; I always wanted to get better, and I think that's what he wants to do.

I felt like 1979 was the worst year I had ever had on Tour and I had played just terrible and I started hitting the ball shorter, so I knew I had gotten too vertical with my golf swing, so I went back, I really laid off. I didn't touch a golf club for almost six months; from the end of August until January, I played virtually nothing. I recall, I think I hit balls three times or something.

But anyway, I went back to Jack Grout that year and I said, "Jack, if I'm going to play golf this year, I need to make some changes and I need to do some things that will make me be a better player." And so we went back and looked at a lot of the things I was when I was younger and how deep I got back here behind the ball with my backswing, rather than so upright and so vertical. We decided to try to work on making that change and I worked on it all spring, and at the same time, I was so paranoid about trying to hit a ball or chip a ball over a bunker, I was actually almost putting the ball around the bunker, I was pitching so badly.

I knew Phil Rodgers was a good friend and had worked with a lot of guys on their short game, so I went to Phil, and I said, "Phil, I need some help." So I totally revamped my short game. Nothing really happened very much until I got here in 1980. Matter of fact, the week before this, I missed the cut in Atlanta. So I had not won very much coming into here.

But it all started coming together, my short game started coming together. I mean, I'll never forget the tee shot that I hit off of the 15th hole here in the last round, not that it was anything great, it was just a straight tee shot down the middle. But the swing that I used, it just kept getting better and better and better all week, and this is where it sort of peaked.

You know, that was just the changes. Tiger may be much the same. Tiger may be working at things and at times he plays shots, and you've heard him say, I'm getting where I want to get, I'm getting closer. Well, I kept getting closer, too, and all of a sudden, boom, it falls into place and you really do what you want to do. And I played pretty darned well obviously the rest of that summer and won the PGA at Oak Hill that same year.

When you work at something to change something, you just kind of want to keep getting better at it. I think following that, I sort of lost my desire to want to work at it. I mean, I had the good year and then I just sort of let myself fall down. I never really worked as much at it again. I don't know why, but I guess maybe because I just never had any real goals beyond that point. I did win The Masters obviously in '86, but I only won a couple more tournaments after the PGA.

Had Bobby Jones won 22 majors, maybe I would have had a little more desire to go after something. I think the limit of my work and my effort really resulted on what goals I had in front of me, and I didn't really have any.

Q. Speaking of Bobby Jones, so much of the game's history revolves around you and your records. What do you think of his achievements and are there things that he did that will never be matched?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't think what he did will ever be matched and I don't think any amateur is going to win the Am U.S. Open and the British as well as the British Am. You might get somebody to play in it or start it but not very much. Jones was sorts of my idol growing up because of Scioto, and that's where I grew up, but I never saw him hit a shot. Matter of fact, the only swings I've ever seen, I think a couple of swings, one where he put the hole in the camera, about three or four swings is all I've ever seen of Jones.

You see those same three or four swings occasionally but you could not tell much, so I don't really know much about Jones' golf game or anything else. But he was obviously, in his time, he dominated more than anybody ever dominated before. His ability to play very, very few tournaments and win them all was pretty special. It's pretty hard to compare something when you don't know a whole lot about it.

Q. Along those lines, when you broke Jones' record at Canterbury, you're 14, and now Tiger in pursuit of your 18, and I guess my question is, why do we not look at Tiger having 13 majors and in pursuit of 20?

JACK NICKLAUS: Could be, whatever way you want it.

Q. But the public tends to look at your 18 majors, and should the Amateur be focused as part of it?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when I won the Amateur, it was borderline whether it was or wasn't at that point in time. A lot of people considered that a major at that time still because of Jones' situation and what he did. I think as time has gone on past that, and so much focus has gone on the four professional majors that they just sort of dropped off.

Before that if you looked at Hagen, they always considered the Western Open one of the majors, and the Western dropped out of that situation as time went on. So you could do it either way you want to do it.

I mean, I could have 20 and Tiger could have 13. I mean, I don't care. But I can't imagine that anybody would have thought of the U.S. Amateur being a major in the last 10 or 15 years. 40 years ago, they still looked at it that way.

But is it? It's a major championship in the game of golf, but is it one of the ones that you want to put in that list? You know, only because of Jones is the only way you would put it there. I accept it either way.

Q. Two questions, if I may. One, what do you remember about the 63 in the first round in 1980 here, and also

JACK NICKLAUS: I missed a short putt at the last hole. I do remember that (laughter).

Q. How short?

JACK NICKLAUS: About that long (indicating three feet), a little tiny putt. Hit it on the edge, chipped it up like that and missed the putt for 62. I do remember that. I don't remember anything else about the round (laughter). I'm still mad about it.

Q. And there's a theory that the longer the courses get, the fewer golfers can really win. People are saying there's only 10 or 15 guys that can win here. Do you subscribe to that theory?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, unfortunately I think it's the truth. I think what's happened in the game of golf, and I suppose it's just the change of the game, we're here this week playing this golf course at, what, 7,500, something like that, 7,400 something yards.

Q. It's soft.

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, but that doesn't make any difference. You average 341 yards at the British Open, I know you had hard fairways, but he's not hitting driver every place; he's hitting a lot of other shots.

Distance is of no issue anymore. The longer you make it, the more you make it a power game. You know, you've heard me talk about this year, the last of the Top 5 money winners in their driving accuracy, none of them were in the Top 25 or Top 20 in driving accuracy.

Now, all that means to me, all five of those guys have won major championships. All five of them have been forced to drive the ball in the fairway when they needed to drive the ball in the fairway, which means they can't, but they choose not to is why they're 120th on the driving accuracy, because power has become far more important. They would much rather play a sand wedge out of the rough than a 6 iron out of the fairway because they can still spin the ball out of the rough with the grooves they have got. The ball still comes out of the rough with the clubhead speed they have got. It's a different game. It's a totally different game than I played.

And how do you combat that to make more of the field be competitive? That's the issue I have with the golf ball. The issue I have is not how far it goes. You can always change the golf courses. The issue I have is that if you aren't a power player, you can't play, and you take the Gary Players, the Jackie Burkes, the Ben Hogans, Gardner Dickinsons, there's hundreds of guys who are small of stature who didn't have the clubhead speed that they have today because they have equipment that's very, you know, very light and they can do that. But they competed when they played well on certain golf courses they could play on.

That's not the case today, because all of the length and because all of the power and because of all of the emphasis on how far the golf ball goes, you make the Mike Weirs of the world really, really I mean, what he did at Augusta was just exceptional, unbelievable, to win on that golf course against those guys. That's the problem.

My only thing, I don't care if the game of golf changes. I just think I'd like to see it change where you get a guy of Gary Player's stature come along and still can play and still compete. He doesn't have to be Ernie Els' size to compete.

I suppose that that's one of the reasons probably why they don't raise the bucket in basketball. I mean, sure a guy can throw the ball down in basketball, but you still have a little guy that can move and play and shoot it from the outside. Even though it's a big man's game, the little guy can still play. Little guys have a hard time playing this game anymore.

I just don't like to see I just don't like to see people eliminated because of physical stature. It should be ability and how you hit your golf shots and the way you can make your putts.

Q. When you won here in '60, do you recall the hole or moment that turned that tournament in your favor, and was that really the event where you started to put some distance between yourself and Arnold?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really I remember that let's see, Casper and Marty Fleckman were tied going into the last round. I'm not sure whether Arnold and I were tied or one shot behind.

Q. Fleckman led.

JACK NICKLAUS: Fleckman led and Casper and I were tied; is that what it was? Casper and Fleckman I think played in the last group, did they?

Q. Fleckman hit it in the woods on the right.

JACK NICKLAUS: Marty was either he was either really very good or had a hard time finding his golf ball (laughter). He was leading the golf tournament, so you give him credit for leading the golf tournament, and that's what he was.

Casper was right there, and Arnold and I played I think we played the last two rounds together, didn't we? I'm not sure, but I think we did. I shot 65 the last rounds. He's asking me where in that round did it change, and I don't really remember. I'm trying to look if there was a place in that round. I think there was a place on about the fourth hole, I think I made about a six footer for a par; I had even hit it in the rough or in the bunker over the green, and I think I made that putt. I think Arnold either missed a birdie or something and I think it was about the sixth hole that Arnold had hit it relatively close, and I holed about a 25 footer. Let's see, four is the par 3 and five goes down, and where does six go?

Q. It's another par 4.

JACK NICKLAUS: And the seventh hole is a straight dog leg right and I holed another putt. If you go back and look at the film, Arnold had a look on his face like, oh, God, now what do I do. That was where I think the tournament ended for Arnold.

I got into the lead and stayed pretty much in the lead at that point. You know, I guess when you're shooting 65, it's tough to really combat in the U.S. Open, but we played a very good round, obviously. I holed some putts in the early part of that round that really turned the thing around; is that what you're asking?

Q. Was that the tournament that also sort of historically, that you really started to distance yourself from Arnold where you felt that you had gotten past him?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know, Arnold and I, you know, I didn't want Arnold to leave any more than Arnold wanted to leave. I enjoyed competing against Arnold and I think Arnold enjoyed competing against me. We played a lot of things together, a lot of teams together, but we also enjoyed beating each other's brains out. I mean, it was fun, we both enjoyed that. I think maybe I might have had a little bit of the better of it, but still, there was a lot of times that Arnold beat me that that may be not as publicized as what I did with him.

The last time I played with Arnold, the last time he won, I played with him in the last round at Palm Springs in 1973, was the last tournament he won. He played great and whipped me pretty good that day. You know, then we played in team championships together, a variety of events. I never really look at Arnold as leaving until probably late '70s. I mean, ten years later, I suppose, is that really what you're asking?

Let's put it this way. Don't ever get too comfortable; it will always come back and pop you one. I don't know what fighter would have that happen to him, but I promise you, a lot of fighters think I can take this guy, and the next round, what happened, gets the guy right in the jaw and it's gone. You don't want to just forget somebody; he can come back and bop you pretty good. He was a good player.

JULIUS MASON: I'd like to thank Mr. Nicklaus for coming down.

End of FastScripts.

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