March 19, 2003
Q. Do you hope they pair you with Arnold?
JACK NICKLAUS: Fine with me, whatever happens. I have no idea what the pairings are.
Q. With Charles Howell III, it looks like, playing threesomes. Same time, opposite nines.
JACK NICKLAUS: Am I early or late the first round?
Q. I think you're late.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm late/early and he's early/late? Or we're both late/early. Okay.
Q. Talk about the course.
JACK NICKLAUS: The course is fine. It's pretty wet today. We had big rain yesterday. The golf course is fine. It's long. Longer than last time I saw it. But the golf ball goes further now so makes up for some of it.
The greens were fast today. They are slower today but I'm sure they are not going to be. Every time I've ever seen it on television the last few years, the greens have been pretty quick. They will be fine. The greens are fine. The golf course is in good shape.
Q. Do you feel the electricity, people are excited that you're here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that's very nice. I saw a lot of people out there today and a lot of people that said: Thanks for coming, thanks for being here. To see Arnie and I play in the same tournament, I think people enjoy it and I'll enjoy it. We'll have a good time.
I'm here to learn how to play golf again. That's what I'm still trying to do. It's been a long time since I knew how to play so I've got to figure out how to it again.
Q. Does the possibility that this is the last time the two of you will be in the game event mean anything?
JACK NICKLAUS: Regular Tour event? I guess it's a possibility. It's always a possibility.
Q. Arnold is reeling it back a little bit.
JACK NICKLAUS: He'll be playing when he's 93, you know. He'll figure out some way to play.
Q. Nowadays the statistics that this is the 50th year Arnold has played in at least one Tour event --
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that's when I wanted to play. I said, "If you play, I'll play."
He said, "Well, let me think what to do." And he called me back that evening and said, "I've been thinking about it, my schedule. Why don't you come up and play." And I said I don't want it take a spot and he says I talked to the tour and they are going to add to the field -- we are not going to take anybody from the field.
And I said, "Well, let me see if I can clear my schedule." I cleared my schedule and I'm here.
Q. So you found a way to do it this year; so only 20 more to go.
JACK NICKLAUS: 50 years as a professional?
Q. 50 years playing a Tour event.
JACK NICKLAUS: Let's see, this is my -- first one I played when I was 17, so this is my 47th year. Three more to go. That would be mind-boggling to me, but not Arnold.
Q. Would you do that, play in a Tour event just to get that --
JACK NICKLAUS: No. Memorial Tournament I'll play in probably for a few years.
Q. So how you play this week will determine if you play Augusta?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably a lot. Depends how well I play. I hit the ball pretty decent today. I had four or five bad shots which I haven't been hitting but I'm hitting less bad shots all the time and I've got to get -- I don't mind hitting the occasional bad shot, but I hate to hit a bad shot when you're trying to hit a little fade and you hit a hook which is the wrong kind. When you try to play a cut and you cut it too much, that's something different. Or you hit it a little heavy or do something else.
But when you're double-crossing yourself, and I've been double-crossing myself for most of this year, I'm sitting down and for the life of me cannot play a fade when I want to play a fade. I just hit a hook. I did that today probably five times. When I did, I think it just sort of -- didn't have much incentive when you want to play golf. I haven't figured it out yet, I really haven't. I hit so many good shots and then just to turn around and do these things.
Q. Was some of what you're talking about, was that what led to you agree to play until the Nationwide Tour in Greenville, South Carolina, the BMW?
JACK NICKLAUS: That's a different thing. For the last quite a few years I've tried to play at least one event a year with each of my boys if I could possibly do it. Last few years I have not played with Steve since I have not played the AT&T and so when they came back and suggested that -- would you guys like to play, get into that event. I said, well, I want to play one with Steve. I was talking to Peter Jacobsen to play with Gary; got to play the Father Son with Jackie; playing the Johnnie Miller with Michael so I've got it covered there. That gave me an opportunity to do that. That's the only reason I'm going.
Q. It's a little unclear are you playing in the tournament itself.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I'm playing in the tournament itself. I'm playing as a pro. Gary will play as a pro. Steve will be my amateur, and not sure who Gary will be playing with but I understand they are probably going to pair us together and Jackie is going to play with Mike Cullen, who is was the guy who was instrumental in getting us there. My son, Michael, I don't know what he's going to do. He'll probably be paired with Jackie. We'll all be playing together.
Q. You said last week that if you played Augusta, you feel like you can finish in the Top-10 --
JACK NICKLAUS: That's not what I said. I said I'd play Augusta if I thought I could compete. And I said I thought if I really played well, if I played well in the tournament, I said I think I have a chance to be able to finish in the Top-10. You phrased that a little differently.
I said I thought that would be a really good finish for me; that would be a good finish. But I don't think realistically I have a chance to win the golf tournament. But I think if I really play well, then I have a chance to finish in the Top-10, I think that would be pretty good for an old man.
Q. If you step on the 10th tee on Sunday and say, "Hey, wait a minute, I am in the Top-10" --
JACK NICKLAUS: You never know. You never know. We'll wait and if I can get into that glorious position on Sunday we'll talk about it. You guys can come and talk to me right on the 10th tee.
Q. What's it like at this point to feel physically good enough that you know that stepping onto a tee that you can still hit the ball?
JACK NICKLAUS: Look at how long it's been since I played golf. When I finished at the Masters, I finished 6th in '98 and I really played on one leg then because next year I had my hip replaced so I basically, I was artificially had a golf swing probably for a year before that, so back in '97, '96 was the last time I really played where I had a golf swing.
Since that time, I've manufactured -- my back has been killing me. This is the best I've felt in seven years. So when you haven't played golf in seven years, six years whatever it is, it's hard to get back.
I don't expect to get -- I passed the last part of my senior good years and everything else, but I still enjoy playing the game. And it's kind of exciting to me to feel good and feel like I have a chance to try to go out and play. It's fun to do that.
Now, I might not have any illusions about playing a lot of golf this year. Right now, I'm trying to find out -- I'm here because Arnold asked me to play here and that's the reason I'm here, getting myself ready to see if I can go play at Augusta. After Augusta, I will play very little golf.
Q. How good does it feel to step up to a par 5 that maybe your swing isn't the way -- isn't as good as you'd like it to be, but -- physically you can get the club?
JACK NICKLAUS: Physically I can get the ball -- let's see. I could get to 16 today into the wind and I hit it and I hit it terrible. It was one of those double-crosses I was talking about and hit it in the water. I could get there, only had 230 yards to the hole. What's the other par-5?, 6, I could have probably gotten to, if I laid up I probably could have gotten there. So two of the par 5s I can get to but the other two are uphill into the wind, but that's pretty good.
Q. Do you feel now that you can play golf again that you have to learn to play golf again?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, absolutely. That's the whole point. Now that I have the freedom, I've got places in my golf swing where the ball comes out I look at and I said where did that come from, because I just -- I really don't know yet -- I don't have my own parameters set. Right now I think this is my left shot, but my left shot ends up over here -- I have not locked it in. You have to be able to lock it in and eliminate one side of the course to be able to play. I've always eliminated the left side of the course and I'm having trouble eliminating. We're working on it. Never stop working on it.
Q. Tiger is going for three in a row as Augusta, and you were in that position, what is he going to face there?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't really think much about it. I missed the cut.
I frankly think that the toughest thing to do is win the first time. It's much easier to win the second time and it's got to be far easier to win the third time. Nobody else has won for three years, you know. I don't think that should be that difficult. I didn't play well the year that I had a chance to win three in a row, but that's the way it goes.
Q. So even if you go to the Masters and you play well, or play better than you would like to think, there's still not very much golf in your future?
JACK NICKLAUS: If I'm going to Augusta and I think that a Top-10 finish would be really good for me, I mean, why would I want to go play golf doing that? I could play some senior events and enjoy that, and I probably will. I mean, when I said a lot of golf in my future, but I haven't had a lot of golf in my future since I turned 50. I've played seven or eight tournaments a year.
Q. Got to compete now --
JACK NICKLAUS: But that's what I've done. It's all I've done, and to think that right now this is my fifth tournament of the year, plus the Skins Game, my sixth event of the year -- seventh. That's a lot of tournaments for me this early in the year. Then I'll play -- if I play Augusta, it would be seven, Memorial Tournament would be eight, the senior majors, that will be like 13 events. That's not a lot of golf but that's a lot of golf for me.
Does that answer your question better? When I mean a lot of golf, I mean Masters-type golf or something like that. I'll going to play the British Senior Open, too.
JACK NICKLAUS: I am. I've decided to play a little bit this year. I get to play another year again.
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