June 25, 2003
RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome four-time U.S. Open champion and two-time Senior U.S. Open champion Mr. Jack Nicklaus, thank you very much.
Jack, your first U.S. Open in 1957 here at Inverness, what memories do you have of that week and what's it like to return to a place with a lot lot of memories.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't have a lot of memories for the week. I mean except I told the story many times where I was playing with Tommy Jacobs and Freddie Hawkins and I hit 3-wood and 7-iron on the green and holed the putt for birdie; parred the next few holes and my name was on the leader board and doubled bogeyed 4 never to be heard of again. I spent the weekend here after I shot 80 -80.
I remember I was trying to find a spot yesterday. It had to be the 16th tee, there is trees behind the 16th, bushes. There is a little hill going up. I remember crawling up and looking between the legs of the gallery to watch de Vicenzo and Thompson hit balls. That's about all I remember. I remember watching Mayer and Cary Middlecoff finish on 18. That's about it.
RAND JERRIS: As a native of Ohio, what is it like to come home and have a major championship.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I played here at Inverness an awful lot. I have never been very successful here. I have been moderately -- I played it moderately well. I think I finished 9th and 16th, something like that. That's what I read in the paper anyway this morning and I have no idea because I never really played very well. And you know, I have always liked the golf course but I never really seemed to play it that well. I always end up with conditions different than what I wanted to play and I think that's really happened most of the time we played here, we've gotten some rain that softens up the golf course. The golf course right now is hard as a rock and fast, you know, it's going to be a very difficult golf course the way it is.
Inverness has always had a very, very difficult set of greens, difficult landing areas off the tee. Definitely restricts length off the tee on quite a few holes. It restricts it at 1 -- it restricts it at almost all of the holes. The course has obviously changed from I guess what have we got, one, two, three -- what do we have? Three holes that Fazio did, is that what it is?
JACK NICKLAUS: What's the fourth one?
JACK NICKLAUS: Number 3 --
Q. 3, 5, 6 and 8?
JACK NICKLAUS: And 8. 8 used to be a short par-4.
Q. They combined the three holes?
JACK NICKLAUS: Is that what happened there? 8 used to be almost a drivable par-4. Or 7 actually. And 8 was a par-3 and 9 came back down. The 8th hole par-3 has been gone for 25 years. But anyway, those have changed which are a different in character than the other holes on the golf course. But they are tougher holes. So you know it's a little different golf course. I played a ton of exhibitions here during most of my career, American Cancer Society. Tops, I came up almost every year if a lost years. I always enjoyed the place. I just never played particularly well.
RAND JERRIS: Some questions out here, please.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that was short.
Q. Jack, if you would expand on those Fazio holes, you were sort of the well-known critic of the holes at the time when they were first first changed. You said now they are different in character; would you expand on that, how they are different than the rest of the golf course? Have they aged well now?
JACK NICKLAUS: They are still different, but you know, there is nothing on the golf course as severe as the right of the 3rd green. You miss the 3rd green just roll off the edge of the green, it's in the water every time. And you cannot miss the green left.
So I mean if you look at most every other golf course, every other hole in the golf course leaves you some option somewhere to play it. You really don't have an option on No. 3. All of the putts that you have on the new holes, if you hit the ball in the center of the green have you the toughest putt because all of the holes, the greens all go away from you, and you always have a downhill putt, you can never get the ball underneath the hole purposely to make a putt because underneath the hole purposely is always next to severe danger. Like if you try to put the ball underneath the hole at the third hole you got the water. You try to put the ball underneath the fifth hole you've got the water on the right. You try to -- not so much the sixth hole. The sixth hole, nothing wrong with that. It's a long par-3. The 8th hole, yes, it crowns down the center. It's pretty hard to get on either side of it to putt to it. I think that's probably an old green actually. I doubt if you could change that green. He left that green alone, didn't he?
Q. An original Ross green.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes, that's what it is, the old 7th hole. But that was the only criticism I had, George, that you couldn't get underneath the hole purposely and the holes are fine, nothing wrong with the holes. They are different than the other holes strategywise and character to the golf course.
You know, if you didn't know that, looking at it you wouldn't ever think about it. I played it right after they did it and that was my feeling of it then, and, you know, the grass is basically the same, they matured the same, the fairways are the same, the greens are the same. You really don't know that; you just know it from a strategy standpoint. But they are tougher holes, they accomplished what they wanted, they made it a more difficult golf course. Does that answer your question?
Q. Jack, Tom mentioned after playing with you yesterday he felt that for healthy days you are playing as well you have in some time; would you agree with that assessment?
JACK NICKLAUS: I am hitting the ball pretty well. I just don't know whether I can figure out a way to get it in the hole. That's been my problem. I haven't -- I haven't figured out how to get it in the hole. My short game -- my putting hasn't been good, short game has been atrocious. I never worried too much about my short game because I usually made most of my short putts. If you are not making short putts and you do any chipping you miss the green and you are making bogey every time and that's basically what I have been doing because I haven't putted well.
You can't put the pressure on your putter; you got to put it on your golf game. Your putter is something you look back on, you might get that odd stroke that is good, make an odd putt to make something but I don't think you should rely on that. To me I always tried to rely on how I struck the ball, how many greens I could get it into, gave myself enough chances, I would make my percentage, if I made a few more than obviously I could get a lower score but I would never have a bad score. I don't seem to play that well anymore, of course, I don't play that well anymore. If I played that well, I would have been playing two weeks ago.
Q. You are feeling well?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes, I feel fine.
Q. Jack, among veteran golf observers, obviously many people consider you the greatest golfer of all times. Now people say Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all times; do you ever sit back and say let him get 15 or 16 majors before we discuss this?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't thought too much about it, if you want to know the honest truth. I don't really pay a whole lot of attention. As I grew up in my career, there was Jones to compare to, Hogan to compare to, Arnold to compare to, Hagan, whoever you want to compare to, Nelson, Snead, whatever. I'm think the last guy, the last guy on the block is the one that got crowned. I got crowned, and I crowned somebody else and they will crown somebody else. Because that's your contemporary. You are going to crown your contemporary. And so I don't really pay much attention to it.
I think Tiger is a wonderful player. I like Tiger a lot. He is a nice young man. He has a goal. His work ethic is hard, his work ethic is good. When somebody works hard, gets result for what they do, you sit there and say more power to him. But you never really can match records until somebody is really done playing. My record, I never really worried too much about it until I was basically done playing.
I suppose what -- I got Golfer of the Century in '88. I haven't done anything since then. I won a few Senior tournaments but that's about it. But my career was basically done.
Tiger, he is in the middle of his career. We don't know whether Tiger is going to be playing next week or not. Like Johnny Miller, Johnny Miller had just a short burst of fantastic golf. Time will tell what's going to happen. I don't think it's important to me. I played my golf during my time, did the best I could during my time, did the best I could do. Could I have done better? Sure I could have done better. I could have worked harder if I had goals that went beyond the goals -- in other words, my goal when I passed Jones' record in '73, my goals for tournament golf numbers were done. I didn't have anybody to shoot at.
And then Tiger, if he has a goal that's higher than what I had to shoot at he will obviously have the ability and fight to work toward that goal and once he has passed my goal what would he have to fight for? That's sort of the way and that's fine.
Q. Jack, what particular aspects of this course will play to the strengths this of your game and which will cause you some trouble?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what -- I don't know whether anything will play to the strength of my game anymore. Let's go back to what my game used to be. I always felt that this golf course negated length to a large degree. It was more of a placement golf course which is fine. It's a golf course that you have to use your head on. You have to be smart. You always have to -- but because of the size of the greens being so small you know you are going to miss greens and you got to be able to chip. It's never been my strength.
And putting has always been one of my strengths, but as I said, lately I haven't been doing that.
Can I play this golf course? Absolutely I can play the golf course. Can I win here? Absolutely I can win here.
What I like to? Obviously I would like to. Or otherwise I wouldn't be here.
Q. Jack, is the game as much fun for you now as it was when you were winning all of those majors?
JACK NICKLAUS: Nope. How in the world could it be? I don't enjoy going out and finishing you know 30, 40, 50, missing the cut. I don't enjoy that at all. That's absolutely no fun whatsoever.
Q. Tom Watson was talking about the practice round that you had yesterday with him, and how the crowd was really rooting on Bruce, his caddy. I just wondered from your experience what was that like and how inspirational is that to you?
JACK NICKLAUS: The crowd was doing what?
Q. Cheering on for Bruce, what was that like for an experience for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that, I, like the rest of America, enjoyed watching Tom's first round at Olympia Fields. The story with Bruce is a great story. I'm sure not from Bruce's standpoint. You know, he is still out here trying and doing what he wants to do. And Tom is with that and the people understand that and I think they get -- people like that kind of thing. I do, too. I mean do I wish that wasn't there, sure, so does Tom and Bruce wish that wasn't there. I have known Bruce since Tom started caddying for Tom which is probably what, 25 years I suppose?
JACK NICKLAUS: 30 years is it? Whatever, it's a long time. So I have known him for a long time. It's a very sad story. It's a very sad situation. You know we all hope that some time between all -- I know Tom is turning over every stone he can find to help Bruce to find some research or something that is experimental to help as is everybody else.
As long as Bruce is out here there will be that kind of reception which is kind of nice. Is that what your question was? I'm sorry, I really couldn't hear it through the mike.
Q. Jack, you had a long relationship with your caddy, and Lee Trevino had a long relationship with his caddy, today the players may only have their caddies for weeks or maybe not even for the whole tournament; what's the difference between relationships that you guys used to have with your caddies to where they are today?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, first of all we didn't have a relationship for years. For the first probably 10 years I was on the TOUR -- let me see, probably the first 10 years you usually went and they selected a caddy for you. Or you drew out of a hat. I remember some of the caddies I drew in U.S. Opens I'm sitting there saying, oh, my...
I mean I got a couple that had never even been to a golf course before. They just took a week off to come out but that's what you were stuck with.
Finally they really understood that the guy needed a little help, not just someone carrying the bag.
Angelo -- you are talking about Angelo, of course. I sort of got Angelo on a con game. I went to Palm Springs and one of Angelo's friends came out to me which was supposedly a caddy master at one of the golf courses, "Jack, I got your caddy for the week here. This fellow over here has been assigned to you." We didn't have caddies assigned there because there weren't any caddies in Palm Springs. And I didn't have a caddy that week when I got this. I said, I will try him, come on. I looked at him and I said he will last a day or two. Anyway Angelo was fine. He understood the game. By the time we got done talking about Ohio and Canton and where he was from and back here we had a good relationship, I won the golf tournament.
So that was 1963. I think it was that fall that I went out to -- I'm not sure -- yes, I went -- he was living in Las Vegas. He says, "Hey, Jack, did they get you a caddy for Las Vegas? That's where I am from; I live there. And I said, "how did you get there?" "Well, I got in there and I couldn't get out." You know what I mean. He lost all of his money and he didn't have a choice, driving a taxi in Las Vegas.
Anyway, Angelo carried for me for the tournament champions. I won the Tournament championships. Out of six he caddied for me I won five of them. I had caddies every place else. The players started lobbying to take a guy with you. I lobbied to get my caddy and everybody did the same and we finally started ending up getting it. The Western Open was the last place because there was a scholarship, the Evans's Scholars, but even there they finally understood that the guys really have to have their own caddy. It's a relationship. It's not necessarily the relationship you have, it's not necessarily who picks the club. Not who does this. You know, you mind the 3-ups, the show-up, keep-up and shut-up. And once you do those three things and they do them well and you develop a relationship with being able to communicate with the guy and not get in his way and actually occasionally help somebody, you know, you enjoy had having that guy on your bag. It was fun. You look forward to it. I knew I could get to the golf course and I could give Angelo my clubs on Sunday and I said, Angelo, I got to go do this thing, I will meet you on Tuesday at the course. When I got there things would be there. That's a big help to guys. That's been that same help to a lot of guys, and they developed relationships, long time friends. Angelo still does work for me and that's 40 years.
And I'm sure a lot of the fellows have built the same kind of relationship. It's a good deal. It's not about how good the caddy is. There may be some good caddies. I think Tiger's caddy's Steve Williams is probably as good as a caddy is, but he hasn't hit one shot for him yet.
Q. Jack, could you give us some memories of Inverness, you played it many times?
JACK NICKLAUS: I went through that before you got here. I didn't really have any.
Q. I'm sorry.
JACK NICKLAUS: It will be on the transcript about what I said to start with. I never really played that well here. I don't have any memories that stand out.
Q. Jack, you are probably the only person on earth that can answer this question correctly. I will tell you why, Tiger has been crowned as you say by the media of today. Recently he has been under bit of a microscope for a quote/unquote slump because he didn't win 4 majors in a row. You have perspective. You went through periods of time, the question is obvious, are they being too hard on Tiger?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think it's absurd. I had Craig Stewart at home call me with the exact same issue, he says "when are you doing press conferences?" "Wednesday." He said, "well, I'm going to write this story before Wednesday." He wrote it Monday. It was the same question. Are they being too hard on Tiger? Are they -- what is it -- I can't even think of -- "the news of my demise is what greatly exaggerated" or whatever it is.
Q. Churchill or Mark Twain?
JACK NICKLAUS: That was Mark Twain, I think, wasn't it?
JACK NICKLAUS: But anyway, Tiger is going to go through periods just like everybody else and he says supposedly, "hey, you were the best in your time. You went two periods when you went 12 tournaments without winning one. But then you had other tournaments where you won like seven out of 11 and that kind of stuff, too. I said, you are going to go through those periods. And you know you never can tell how long -- how long one of those might be or you -- I think my periods were more from getting lazy and not working as hard or finding a golf course during the period that I didn't really like as much.
In other words, if I lost The Masters that year and I looked -- where we were playing The Open and the British and I didn't really care that much for those golf courses that was sort of a downer year, I didn't work as hard, maybe as a result it carried over a bit and all of a sudden you kick yourself in the rear end and say, "what in the world are you doing?" Everybody does that. You cannot be up all the time.
Then he brought up the subject about Tiger. I guess Tiger is getting a little more serious about a relationship, I guess. My comment is to that is it's very difficult to sustain a desire to go out and work real hard when you don't have anybody to share it with. I'm a firm believer that when and if Tiger gets married and has kids his golf game will increase his longevity and he'll be better. I'm not sure his father agrees with that but I believe that. Obviously that's my own experience. I came home, shared it with my wife, shared it with my kids and the only reason I played golf beyond 38 or 40 years old is probably because my kids kept saying, "c'mon, dad you can play, come on, let's go play." It was somebody to go do something with and for.
To take four events he hasn't won and say, hey, what's wrong? Everybody would love to be in the slump he is in this year. He has won 3 out of 8? A terrible percentage! Does that answer your question?
Q. We covered Inverness for a moment but we didn't cover the great tournament that you are playing in now: The Senior United States Open. I would like your great memories or your thoughts about one particular one that you won in a battle with Chi Chi Rodriguez. That was very close to here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes, I won. What was it '91. '91 at Oakland Hills. Oakland Hills again was a golf course that I played pretty well as an amateur. I finished fourth in '61. But I never played well after that. I went back to the Senior and then played really well. Of course I shot 65 in the playoff which wasn't too bad. It was a week that I played some good golf.
Q. You did?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what else to say about it. Then of course, I won at Cherry Hills. Cherry Hills is not a lot different than this golf course in many respects; small greens, narrow fairways. Length is not a big issue. And, you know, obviously I played very well there.
I prefer this kind of a golf course to a lot of what we play most of the time. I like a golf course that forces you to play it rather than you can play your own game and just do anything you want. I like a course that forces you to play what the course says it's supposed to be. It drives me crazy when they can negate the strategy on a golf course. I don't want to get into that. I don't want to talk about equipment.
I think you should play the golf course the way it's meant to be played and that's what this does. I don't think it would be very difficult to negate the strategy on this golf course which I think is good.
RAND JERRIS: Jack, thank you very much for your time. We wish you luck this week.
JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you.
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