May 21, 2002
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We would like to thank Mr. Nicklaus for joining us.
Why don't you begin by talking about the wonderful evening last night at the museum that you opened up.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, most of the guys heard that and were there. Last night was a very nice evening. I certainly didn't expect anything like that. I thought we were going to have a little opening of a museum. I didn't realize we were going to have a two and-a-half hour television show and a thousand people and whatever else was there. And all the people that showed up, good gracious, what's going on? It was a pretty big deal.
It was pretty, it was very, very flattering and very nice and sort of a big surprise to me, frankly, to be very honest with you. When I saw who was coming and who was speaking, I found this out about half an hour on my way to the museum. I said, "who is there?" And I said, "oh, my gosh." What do you want to talk about here today?
Q. How about the golf course? You've done some other things to it.
JACK NICKLAUS: We can talk about the golf course. The golf course as you know from last year, we only made three changes. One was on the practice range, which we expanded. We moved it back and that was more for the membership than the tournament, except that we did move it back 25 yards so we could maybe not lose all the golf balls during practice. The practice range used to be big, now the practice range is small. And so basically I just, that just gave us an extra tee that we call our weekend tee, which is the top tee. And we will use it for clinic tomorrow, I'm sure.
But on the golf course the only change, obviously, was to enlarge the 12th tee. Just by enlarging it there's only one way to get five or six yards, whatever we got. But just give a little more tee to be able to play. So that isn't going to be significant. But the major change on the golf course was the creek at number 18, just moving on the other side of the trees. Why did I do that? I kept looking -- I suppose, if the golf ball hadn't gone so far and the bunkers were 295 and a dozen guys hit it over. I think one hit it over with a 3-wood, I said, "come on." This is ridiculous. Nobody should hit the ball over those bunkers. There's only one way I know how to do it, that's to push the bunkers out another 30 yards or whatever we pushed them out, and make them play a golf shot down the fairway. And we just moved the creek a bit on the other side of the trees and flattened the fairway a little bit.
It used to come in there at about six or seven percent and now it comes in about two or three percent, which is what we need for drainage, just about. And what it's going to do, you're going to stand up at the 18th hole. Unfortunately, I don't think the bunkers are as difficult as they should be on the right. Next year they will be.
Q. Will you make them deeper?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't want to hurt the membership but the membership doesn't hit it up there anyway. But anybody that wants to try to carry that -- I think that's an easy way out. I'll make it a little smaller and a little deeper next year. I don't want that to be the bail-out. I want them to play the golf hole.
The fairways are about the same width that they have always been. I don't think we narrowed the fairway any, maybe a yard or two. Basically it's going to require either laying back and playing about a 5-iron or 6-iron or 4-iron to the green, or taking it and challenging it. And if you do, you better hit a good tee shot. And you think that's what your finishing hole should be. It should be that you have to hit a good tee shot and putt it in the right place and that's what you're going to have to do.
Obviously, I think the scores will be higher on the 18th hole this year than they have been in the past. The fairways are excellent. The greens are probably a week or two behind what we normally would have because of the spring. And, but, they're fine. I don't know what speed they will be. Speed right now is probably about 11 and a half or something. It could be faster by the time the tournament starts; a couple feet faster. Fortunately, we have had -- actually it's been dry for the last four or five days and relatively so for Columbus, Ohio. That means only about an inch a day.
(Laughter.) It's actually -- the course is starting to roll out a little bit; starting to where a ball almost bounces forward now. I'm being facetious, Bob.
Q. I think you're right.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it will bounce forward now.
Q. It didn't on media day.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, but -- and I think you're going to have another couple of days -- the forecast is actually fairly decent. We have got a little bit of wind in the forecast -- well, it's a possibility of it but you have a little bit of wind. We need one good day of wind to dry the golf course off, and that's the forecast for tomorrow or the next day; isn't it? More wind coming in? It's supposed to.
I think you're going to have a golf course, actually a golf course, I think, is going to surprise you. I think it's going to play a little bit more difficult than the guys are going out playing practice rounds now, and throwing it out there and it's going splat. I think the golf course is going to play fine. It's not my objective. I don't really think that the objective of a golf course is to try to eliminate a lot of the field and make it so difficult that they can't play. I think it's -- I think the game is to be played on the course that you have and play the course that is here without eliminating the field. And I think that everybody in the field, and I mean even including me, you know. If I play -- if the golf course is reasonable the next few days, even as short as I hit the ball, I can still play the golf course. And that's really what I want: To get everybody to play well and play their game. They will be able to play this golf course and play well.
Q. How do you feel about your game and your health right now? How do you feel physically?
JACK NICKLAUS: My game is almost nonexistent. My health, health-wise I'm fine. I just hurt. How do you translate that? I don't know how to translate it. I'm working, trying to get better. I couldn't play golf, I played Tradition and I was pretty -- I lasted through about nine holes and then I got sort of worn out and I really wasn't feeling very good with that.
The last day, couple days, I started hurting again. So I didn't play very well there. I'm better than that now. Whether that's good enough to play, I'll make that decision tomorrow. Certainly, I won't -- if I don't think I can play and I don't think I can be as reasonably good, then I'm not going to go out there and play. But I'll make that decision tomorrow.
Q. If you had to make the decision today, what would it be?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have to make it today. I have to make it tomorrow.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't do hypotheticals.
Q. Okay. Are you going to be able to feel like you're in good enough shape to get your ten tournaments in this year to satisfy the new Augusta criteria down the road?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really worry about being a qualifier for Augusta. That's not one of my goals.
Q. You've had a lifetime exemption in this tournament too for I think all the way up until 1997 for the champions. Do you ever think it would get to the point where you would have to do something like that here or are there enough?
JACK NICKLAUS: I would never do that here.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Most of the champions here.
JACK NICKLAUS: The Tour, the Tour eliminated the exemptions to five years. That was one of the things they wanted to change, and that's what they did. But, obviously, everything else was grandfathered in. And that's -- so I'm one of the fellows that earned their invitation and will keep their invitation.
Q. It went to ten first. Was that the Tour also?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry?
Q. It went to ten years and then it went to five?
JACK NICKLAUS: Did it?
Q. Were both of those as a result of the Tour?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, the Tour's request, yeah.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think what the Tour's request is, I think it's a reasonable request up to a certain point, is that they want to have as many of the current, best players -- since it is an Invitational into the tournament -- as they possibly can. And we have 105 at this tournament. And if the Tour wanted to eliminate that any further, and it probably shouldn't, I would actually probably ask that that just be added to the field. That's what the British Open did. The British Open takes their past champions and they have their field of, what is it 144 or 150, 150 I think they have at the British Open and any of the other champions who don't qualify under any other way. They add them to the field and they become 51, 52, 53. It doesn't keep anybody out of the tournament.
Q. When we spoke on Friday when you first arrived here, we talked about the possibility of you playing or not. And you said fairly confidently that you thought you would tee it up on Thursday. What has changed between last Friday and today which make you less likely to be as confident with that statement today?
JACK NICKLAUS: I wasn't hurting very much then. I'm hurting more than I would like to hurting right now. And I've played every day and I'm actually playing better. It's not the question of how I'm playing. I think that I just I want to be to where I feel like, if I play, that I can play four rounds and that I'm not trying to take up a spot. I don't know whether that will happen or not. But that's what I would like to be able to feel like I can do. Do I feel like I could do that right now? I'm -- I'll make that decision tomorrow. I don't have any hypotheticals.
Q. Will it be the same at Firestone? Will it be a physical decision there?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm getting better every week. So I'm, it's -- I frankly think I'm going to be able to play golf pretty well again shortly. I'm not going to play, I'm never going to play like I used to play, but I'll play as well as I can play for what I am. That's all I can ask.
Q. So you feel like Firestone's a good chance?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have every intention of going to Firestone, sure.
Q. What did you think of the R & A and USGA compromise equipment? Have you followed that that closely? Do you have an opinion on that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't really follow it all that closely. All I know is that they basically grandfathered in fast clubs, and the USGA made a compromise for five years and then the R & A made a compromise the other way, is that basically what it was?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think it really affects it that much, frankly. I think it's nice, and I think it's great that the R & A and the USGA are back together again on making, as a unit, doing their ruling. Hopefully, they can get together and do something with the golf ball fairly soon. I think they're thinking that way. At least from the reports I'm getting.
Q. If they draw a line in the sand, will that be sufficient on the ball?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, it's ridiculous the ball right now.
Q. But do you think that it has to go back?
JACK NICKLAUS: It has to go back. I don't think there's any question about it. Name me ten championship courses today with a golf ball? You can't name them. I couldn't name them.
Q. What do you mean by that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think there's ten championship golf courses in this country with the golf ball the length it is.
Q. That could handle the ball?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. I don't think there's any of them. There isn't any of them that you could take -- in other words, in my opinion, take, of course, this is always my opinion, whether my opinion means anything or not it's just exactly what it is. In other words -- you know what I'm saying.
Q. Hypothetically, right?
JACK NICKLAUS: Hypothetically, that's what I'm saying, right. If you took -- if you take an Oakland Hills, you take an Inverness, you take an Oakmont, you take a Baltusrol, you take a Pebble Beach, you take any one of those golf courses and basically take a reasonable rough line, that's not ridiculous, and grow it up, and make the greens hard and fast, what you've done you've taken a golf course that for all intents and purposes you're going to, you can't use a driver probably, the long hitters won't use a driver more than four or five times in a round. I mean that's the same thing we did to Muirfield Village Field back in '66. And that was, but that was with a small ball. It was for the same reason.
The small ball went so far that they needed to do something, otherwise the golf course would be obsolete. That's 35, 36 years ago. And they had it rough there, I promise you. You know, you weren't probably born yet then, but the rough was like that but there was no similar rough. The rough was just like that (Indicating) right off the edge of the fairway and I saw many groups go there, look for a golf ball, put their bag down, couldn't find the bag. Some of the Scottish caddies were so short they lost them too.
But seriously, the absolutely -- it absolutely, it was rough that you had. It forced you to do something. In other words, to me that's an extreme. That's not what I call, that's not making a golf course. To take a golf course, you don't have to do a whole lot to it, you shouldn't take a golf course -- we take Muirfield Village, Muirfield Village we didn't do anything here different than we do for the membership. Membership plays this golf course exactly as you're playing it today, the only thing we try to do is to firm it up, if we can and we get the greens a little bit faster and the rough is only three inches, so there's not a big rough, kind of deep rough at two inches for the membership year-round. So that's a very little change.
And I don't think this, this golf course here when it is somewhat or not wet, has probably half a dozen drivers. That's about all the guys would hit. This course is obsolete. Just like all the other golf courses that are obsolete. This is a wonderful golf course just like the Oakland Hills or the Oakmonts or the Inverness, they're all wonderful golf courses. And but you can't -- there isn't a golf course that you can stand back there -- and when we went to play the US Open there in the '60s or the '70s, you stood back there and you might hit, well, two or three, you got three holes out there. You're going to hit a 3-wood on one or you might hit a 1-iron over the one hole and one 3-wood, the rest of them are drivers. You don't have that golf course any more. I think they were designed to play with the 14 clubs in your bag, and designed to play with your driver and put the ball out in play. That's what I'm talking about.
I mean not that they can't take a Pebble Beach and not that they can't take an Oakland Hills, bring in the fairways, bring it in and force a guy to be playing a 1-iron or 2-iron or 4-wood or 3-wood all day long off the tee. And by creating the length that way, they create a higher score. I just don't think it should be done that way. I don't think many other people do either, frankly.
Q. You grew up in this climate so you played a lot in foul weather. Is that -- how inherent is that at any rate, over the career that you had? Are there players you knew just couldn't simply, couldn't handle that stuff when it got bad?
JACK NICKLAUS: What bad weather?
JACK NICKLAUS: There are a lot of fellows that couldn't handle bad weather. I always loved to go to a tournament like that, that's why I love the British Open so much. I love going there because the conditions were never -- were always foul. You always had wind, you always had, you always had the potential of wind and rain. Hard fast, everything you can think of, that's why it was so great. And it's -- and an awful lot of guys stayed home. "I don't want to go over there and play in that." It's just the same; it's no different. Every time I used to go to a US Open, I loved to walk in the and the first ten guys saying, "God, this rough is so deep." How do you get out of it? You eliminate them. "Boy, these greens are hard." Ten more you can eliminate. "Boy, these greens are fast." Ten more you can eliminate. That's why major championships are easier to win. Because half the field eliminated themselves. And the fun to me was going to those golf courses -- that's why I went ten days ahead of time.
First of all, I wanted to go and get over having, being scared of the golf course. That would take two or three days of playing golf before I felt, "Hey, this golf course is not so tough. I can play this." And I was no different than anybody else. And those guys are coming in on Monday and Tuesday and by the time Thursday rolls around they might think they can play it, but they aren't sure yet. So I came in and did it that way. I got that part out of the way.
Secondly then I could work on my golf game and how to apply it and play to that golf course. And then I could get then I could breathe and get, be relaxed and then prepare myself to play on that Thursday. That's basically what I used to do. And not many guys were willing to do that. Why didn't a lot of guys go over? They had the choice. Certainly they had the choice to do that. They didn't want to take the sacrifice to eliminate the other tournaments, to do the other things to do that. Because that's what it took to me to be prepared to go play in a major championship. I had to prepare myself and I had to prepare for that golf course and I had to be comfortable with each one of them. And few guys do that today. Tiger does that. Tiger is usually ready when he gets to a major championship. He prepares very well for it . He goes in well ahead of time. He understand the golf course, understands what goes on with it. I think that's why he does well. Not the only reason why he does well. Because he's obviously a very good player. But he does prepare himself very well for that.
Q. Can you put a percentage on it though, like what percentage might be eliminated as soon as it got bad like that? You say half the field?
JACK NICKLAUS: Certainly a very high percentage. Sure. I would say at least half the field. Sure. Every time -- any time conditions are easy, more people have got a chance to win. They're not scared of it.
Q. What's the status of this tournament as it relates to the next TV contract? I mean the fact that you don't have a title sponsor, and purses are look --
JACK NICKLAUS: Never have had a title sponsor.
Q. Never have. I know that. But the Tour looking like they're needing a 7 and 8 million dollar commitment, purses heading up towards 5 million, is that going to affect you at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't think so. I don't think it will be an issue with us. Frankly I don't. And I think the presenting sponsor for television is what we had with Marsh McLennan. Obviously Marsh McLennan is leaving after this year. That's fine. They have been good people and I think they will stay with the tournament and they just don't want to be -- I don't think they want to be out in front as much as they are. And I don't think that's really an issue for us. I think we're solid enough that we can do what we want to do. Marsh McLennan was no different than -- whose got The Masters now? It used to be Travelers and Cadillac. It's now Coca Cola and who else? Coca Cola and Citibank are the two major television sponsors. It's no different. We won't have any problem with that. I don't think.
Q. This is a kind of a bizarre question, but in the, now the I guess four years now that we have had this enormous money on Tour has it changed the game? Has it made it -- I mean I think there was a fear four years ago that too much money would make it bad?
JACK NICKLAUS: Let me put it this way: It hasn't changed the game. It may have change the perception of the game. In other words the game is still a game. It's still golf. And those fellows who are going out to play golf for the sake of playing golf still go to play golf.
Q. Are there fewer of them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Always have, always have not been very many. There's always been a few that played golf for golf. There's always been a fair number of guys that played golf for a living. And I always played golf to play golf and I made a living because I played golf. A lot of guys go out to make a living and they play golf to make a living and I think there's still a high percentage of those guys that are -- but there always will be.
Q. You don't since it's gotten higher?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't think so. I think it's about the same. But you'll have, you'll have, you have the Tigers, who really plays golf for playing golf. And he's by far the best example today. By miles. And I'm not sure who else I would name into that list. Because I'm not really sure, because I'm not out here enough to really know. I'm sure there are other guys who play golf for the sake of playing golf. And maybe aren't quite as talented as Tiger is at this point in time. But there is an awful lot of guys who go out there and they win half a million bucks or a million bucks and sorts of fills their pockets. But it's no different when $20,000 used to fill your pockets and then you would go home and get some rest. They have different priorities in life and that's fine.
Q. You once said a couple years ago that for a rivalry to develop with Tiger it's not necessarily going head to head, but it's trading off majors. One winning a Masters the other one winning a US Open that year, etcetera. Have you given up hope that there's a possible rivalry among this current crop?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, no. No, these guys will develop. Good gracious look at the talent that's out there. Tremendous talent out here on this Tour. There's tremendous talent. They will figure it out.
Q. Why aren't we seeing it in the majors?
JACK NICKLAUS: You'll see it. You'll see it.
Q. This year? Maybe?
JACK NICKLAUS: You'll see it. I don't know when. But I mean I can't believe that it won't happen.
Q. He won't do hypotheticals.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. Too hypothetical for this. Yeah.
(Laughter.) I think out of this current crop, and I mean if you would take this current crop and liken it, go back to a time of a Lee Trevino and a Tom Watson. And I think that Lee learned faster than Tom. But Lee was not a golfer, he didn't play -- he was 27 years old when he played in his first US Open. Came to Baltusrol and that was his first time. He finished fifth, I think there. Nobody even heard of him. As a matter of fact I don't think he had even heard of himself. And it's true. He never played. He never played any place. I went to, I remember I went to Cleveland the next week and I said, who is this guy Trevino? I saw him hitting practice balls, and I said, hey, that guy hits the ball pretty good. Came back he won the next year. He came on the scene pretty fast and did that.
Tom Watson if you look at the number of -- he blew a US Open, a couple PGA Championships or whatever, he blew two or three majors pretty quickly. And all of a sudden he figured out why. So these guys will figure out why. They're not idiots. They're good players. They will figure it out. And they will -- there will be a lot of young guys that will come along and will have it figured out when they get here. And that will be the competition. It will come from this crop. You'll have a lot of young guys that you haven't heard of yet that will come on too. It's going to happen.
Tiger is good, but the whole world isn't going to fall down forever. You'll have some good players. They will come out of that group. I don't know, this year at the Masters they had -- four or five guys that were in contention coming down that last nine holes. Go analyze what they did and why it happened. They will learn from that and they will be better because of it.
Q. If they ask you your opinion what happened what would you tell them?
JACK NICKLAUS: They were playing Tiger, they should have played the golf course. I think it was quite obvious that they were trying to do something that they shouldn't be trying to do. And they found themselves all of a sudden trying to do things, instead of playing the course and playing their game, they're looking at a leaderboard trying to play somebody else. Tiger looked at the leaderboard, he played his own game. And if you look at what he did, he didn't do anything the last nine holes except stay out of harm's way. He just stayed away from problems, he just put it where he had to put the ball. He didn't get in any trouble. Nobody challenged him, piece of cake. I did this a dozen times or more in my career. And that's what he did.
And that's the way you play this game. You play the golf course. You play the game, you get down to the last nine holes you find out who is around and what you have to do and you play accordingly within yourself. And maybe those guys might have pulled off, one of them might have pulled off one of those shots and got the confidence to be able to finish that golf course and challenge. But Tiger never, he was never forced to have to do anything. He might have gone and done something if he had been forced to do it.
Q. You watched it this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: I watched the last nine holes, yeah.
Q. Did it bore you? Did you find it boring at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I thought it was very interesting. I thought it was very interesting to watch how a mature, smart player plays the game. I was -- I was very -- to me it was very exciting to watch somebody who knew what they were doing and had total control of himself of what to do. I think that, I thought that was fascinating. And then to watch the other guys who really were looking over their shoulder and around, and good players, too. I mean they're all good players. They're all very good players. And not be able to, to finding a way not to be able to get there. Because they were worried about somebody else. And that's what they were doing. They were worried about somebody else. Instead of worrying about themselves.
You've heard me in the press conference asked a hundred times, hey, Jack you got a great field this week, you got, we had Palmer, Trevino, Player, Watson, they're all here and playing the field, you know, what do you think? I says, I can't do anything about them. All I can do is control myself. I'm the only guy that can prepare me. And I'm the only guy that can destroy me. The golf course is out there. I've got to go play the golf course, I can't play them. If they beat me, they beat me. All I can do is the best I can do. That's just the way it is. That's the way Tiger plays. That's the way Hogan played.
Q. There's a weird stat on Tiger, I saw the other day, he's 7 for 21 in the majors and 0 for 8 on par 70 golf courses. Can you think of a reason why, other than the lack of two par-5s? Is that or is that enough of a statistical base to mean anything or do you have a theory?
JACK NICKLAUS: I wouldn't have a clue what you're even talking about.
Q. 0 for 8 on par 70's in majors?
JACK NICKLAUS: 0 for 8 on par 70s in majors.
Q. 7 for 21 overall, but 0 for 8 on par 70s?
JACK NICKLAUS: Which is what? Where? I mean what's been par 70s?
Q. Generally the US Opens.
JACK NICKLAUS: Where is the US Open played this year.
Q. Par 70 golf course?
JACK NICKLAUS: Bethpage. He must really be in trouble, hmm?
(Laughter.) He'll be in real trouble, won't he. I don't really know. Yeah, Firestone's not a bad par 70 for him.
Q. St. Andrews only has two par-5s.
JACK NICKLAUS: St. Andrews has got four par-5s.
Q. Two par-5s, doesn't it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Five and 14, is there anything else? I guess that's all.
Q. He did okay there.
JACK NICKLAUS: But that's par 72. It only had two par-3s. Two.
JACK NICKLAUS: For him he had about eight par 3s. I don't know, I'm sorry, I don't know. I would just say that was probably a statistic drummed up by somebody to try to find something to talk about. Did you drum it up?
Q. Yeah, you're right, I drummed it up.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have an answer for it. Tiger has done -- I think it was -- I'm trying to think. It was Cog Hill. What is Cog Hill about a 70, 71 where they played The Western where he won a couple three times there, didn't he? And Tiger has won at -- well it's a par 72 here. Par 70 at the Firestone. He's done pretty well there.
Q. Three straight?
JACK NICKLAUS: Three straight there. Bay Hill is what?
JACK NICKLAUS: 72.
Q. Nelson is a 70. Byron Nelson?
JACK NICKLAUS: May be a lot to it, I just don't know. Sorry.
Q. Tiger talks about wanting to improve every year, can he get better as you observe?
JACK NICKLAUS: Tiger will get better. Absolutely.
Q. As you observe him, what's left for him to get better at?
JACK NICKLAUS: He'll get better, he'll find ways to get better. As long as he wants to get better, he'll get better.
Q. In what ways? What specifically do you think that he has room for improvement?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't watched him play enough golf to know. I think he'll probably figure out some way to get better. When you're real good at something and you want to and you think it's -- you think that, what are my shortcomings, he'll figure out what they were. And I never, I don't think I ever worked probably as hard as he worked. I think he probably has as good a work ethic as anybody I know, as it relates to the game. I thought Faldo had a very good work ethic when he was winning. He had a terrific work ethic. I had a good work ethic. Mine was different. My work ethic was different than Faldo's, but I mean I had a good one, but not a good, I don't think as good as his. I never really tried as hard as he did to eliminate any of the shortcomings. I never eliminated my shortcomings with my short game. I never really worked at it hard enough to do it. I always said, my theory was that I just -- it was always a -- I never, when I was playing well and when I was putting well, I never really missed anything inside 10 feet anyway, so why in the world worry about having to chip it real close. That was sort of a stupid approach, but that was sort of my approach. It kept me from not having to get too precise with everything. It allowed me a little freedom. It allowed me a little give in the game.
And I don't think, I think Tiger's mentality doesn't give himself a lot of give in the game. I think he plays, he's very strict with himself about what he does.
Q. Is the rest, do you see improvement in the rest of the field and which one person in your opinion could catch him, has the best chance to catch him?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think there is several guys that have the opportunity and have the physical strength and game to do so. It's just when it comes, when it falls between their ears properly, that's what's going to happen. It's got, they have got to -- once they believe that that's, that they can actually compete, then they will. And they may not compete every week, but they will certainly compete on a basis. I don't know whether they will -- I don't know whether Palmer or Player or Trevino or Watson thought they were as good a player as I was. But certainly on any given week they knew they were as good a player as I was. They believed that because they beat me. And you know that's what you're going to find here. They may never be as good a player as Tiger, but they will be on occasions, they will believe that they can beat him.
Q. Can you talk about your recollections of Locke and Whitworth?
JACK NICKLAUS: Locke and -- oh, sorry. I didn't understand what you were talking about. I'll talk a little bit about it tomorrow. I don't really know a lot about Kathy, except she won about everything she ever played in. And won it a lot. I suppose I played a half a dozen times with her. She's a nice lady and a good player. There's absolutely no question about that. Obviously Bobby Locke was considerably ahead of my time. Although I did, I'll never forget the first time I played with Bobby Locke it was, I went to Troon and it was my first British Open. And I arrived and Gary Player arranged a practice round with us for Bobby Locke. Terrific. I went to the first hole and Bobby I thought he was warming up, he was aiming the ball out in the water. And he took it and turned it back down the middle of fairway. And I said, he's hitting it into the water, but it came back to the golf course. He had a looping hook. And I said, oh, my gosh, and then I watched his watched him play every shot and I watched his tempo and I watched the way he putted, I mean obviously Player has copied Locke's putting to a large degree. And Locke was a very, very good player. And this was long past his prime, but he was still very good then. And Locke was a tremendous player. No question about it. I remember I guess I didn't ever -- obviously it was before my time, but I'm sure this story will come in here somewhere tomorrow, but I understand that at Oakland Hills when Hogan won in '51, Locke basically had run the tables in the U. S. and they, he -- did he lead the first two round at Oakland Hills?
Q. I don't think so. But he was in the -- I was only there I was very young at the time.
JACK NICKLAUS: I thought you were probably that you probably covered it.
Q. I was there. I was there, but I don't remember. My memory --
JACK NICKLAUS: My new Dick Taylor, right?
(Laughter.) I'm sorry, Jack, just kidding you.
Q. I don't think he was leading.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, let me put it this way: The story goes he was either the leader or right at the lead and the last 36 holes all the pins were in the right side of the greens. At least so the story goes, I'm sure they weren't. And which meant that if you want to play right-to-left you couldn't get to them, if you played left-to-right which Hogan did you could get to them. And Hogan won. He shot 70, 67 or something.
Q. He and Clayton Heaffner were the only ones who broke 70.
JACK NICKLAUS: But I mean I'm just talking about the old stories, the way they go.
Q. Yeah. I never heard that one.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, well it's a good one. You guys never let the facts interfere with a good story, why should I?
(Laughter.) But that's sort of, it was sort of Locke ran the tables, came here, beat everybody. The guys took exception to it and they so they started putting the pins on the right side of the greens trying to hold Locke down. He won 7 out of 11 tournaments that he played or something like that. He was a very good player, obviously.
Q. Tiger's obviously dominated this event the last three years, kind of the way he's dominated the majors in recent years, when you look at this typically strong field that's here this week, what number would you put at as far as number of guys that could win this weekend?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think there's probably -- there's probably 40 guys out here who could win. But I think there's one that's the most likely, obviously it's Tiger. I don't think there's any question about that. He's I don't know whether he's here today or not is he?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well I'm sure he came over last night. Probably.
Q. He went to Florida?
JACK NICKLAUS: Hmm?
Q. We're told he went to Florida first and then is coming in today here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Into Florida? Well he might as well, it's right on the way. That's right. That's the way I used to do things. Right on the way. But he usually comes in here late, about now, about five o'clock on Tuesday and plays nine holes and then plays Wednesday. I don't know whether he's going to do that today or not. I have no idea. He's obviously the likely, likely choice. We have certainly got a good field, a lot of good players. A lot of guys that play this golf course pretty well. That have played pretty well here through the years.
Q. Is he less -- just as a follow-up on that, with the conditions the way you said it will, it might surprise a few people the way this course plays, does that take away some of his advantage that he's had the last three years?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know whether there's anything that takes away anybody's advantage. Tiger has played this golf course in very benign conditions the last three years.
Q. Yeah, he can fly it so far.
JACK NICKLAUS: But we haven't had any rain and it's been wet. But the forecast is not for any more rain for a few days and I'm sure that will change tomorrow. Maybe within the hour.
(Laughter.) But your forecast is for fairly dry conditions. The course will dry out a little bit and if it does that and we have wind, that's different conditions than he's been playing in. Does that mean it's an advantage or disadvantage? I don't know. I think most of the majors that Tiger has won in the last three or four years have basically been all in very calm conditions. The four that he -- the four majors he won in a row were almost no wind in all four of them. And that doesn't mean he can't play in wind. He plays in Bay Hill and has won there three times and I promise you it always blows at Bay Hill. But you're just going through the scenario of different conditions, yes, completely different conditions. Does that mean that -- in my opinion, if it's difficult conditions, that makes his chances better of winning than less, but that's not been his mode here.
Q. Does your every intention of playing at Firestone extend to the Senior Players or is that too far down the road to speculate?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I'm fully expecting to be there. I fully expect to play all the Senior Majors.
Q. Are you surprised that --
JACK NICKLAUS: Hopefully I can finish one of them.
Q. Are you surprised that somebody's going to have a chance to win this tournament for a fourth straight year?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, yeah. Obviously it's a pretty difficult thing to do to win any tournament four straight times, yeah. It's something that I only had one chance of ever having that happened and they cancelled the tournament.
Q. Do you want to cancel this?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, we're not going to cancel this one. We're going to see if somebody can win this one four times. But that's pretty phenomenal the golf he's played. We all know that. I mean, I'm not telling you anything you don't know. Because I'm as amazed about it as you are. That somebody can dominate to the degree he's dominated. I think it's been fantastic.
Q. What was the story on that? You won three in a row and then they cancelled the tournament? Why did they cancel it and what was your reaction?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well what they did was they -- it was at Disney. And I won '71, '72 and '73. And '74 I don't know whether they got tired of me winning and they decided to have a team championship. So we had a team championship the next year and I played with Tom Weiskopf. We didn't win. I don't remember where we finished. And then I didn't want to go play a team championship again, so I didn't go back.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: : One more question, please.
Q. You won this event 25 years ago, and you almost retired and now you're thinking about playing again. Did you have think about playing 25 more after you won and almost retired in '77?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know that never really entered my mind.
Q. As a follow-up?
JACK NICKLAUS: As a follow-up. Okay.
Q. As a follow-up, where does that win rank because I know --
JACK NICKLAUS: The one I won in '77? I said it back then I thought it was probably the most difficult win that I ever had in the game of golf. All the things that I was doing with this golf tournament and in the early years I was doing everything but picking up the trash. And I did a lot of that. Because Jackie's pockets, Jackie was caddieing and Jackie's pockets were full of cigarette butts and paper. When he got in, he was all full with all the paper we picked up. So I guess I did pick up the paper through that.
But I just felt that to have won this golf tournament, the conditions and all the things that I was doing was probably the most difficult win that I ever had. And the, you know, it was kind of probably one that I was as -- one that I was as proud of as I ever had, too. Did that answer your question?
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: One last question.
Q. I'm just curious if you ever felt the pressure of a moment. And I guess by that I mean, I've heard you talk about not knowing when you had had 10 majors, someone pointed it out. Or not even realizing it was a big deal to have won three in a row and that kind of thing. Was there ever a time or times when you came in a tournament and you knew it was a big deal and did it affect the way you played? Does that make sense?
JACK NICKLAUS: Actually I'm not immune to that.
Q. Like Muirfield, would that be a good example, '72 or?
JACK NICKLAUS: '72 I went to Muirfield, Scotland, yeah, I was very aware of where I sat. And what I was doing. And I wasn't going to win -- that if I would have won that obviously I would have held all four of them at the same time.
JACK NICKLAUS: And it would have actually sent me to Oakland Hills with a chance to win. And I mean I was so tied up and I had hurt my neck on Sunday before the tournament and I was tied up in the back and I couldn't swing. And but I was determined that I was going to try to do the best I could with what it was. It finally loosened up about Saturday and I guess I played Saturday and Sunday then. And I kept myself reasonably close to contention and almost won the golf tournament. And I was really disappointed and upset. Ever since then I carried my own pillow with me. Did you know that? Seriously. For the last 25 years I carried my own pillow.
Q. Same one?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, and it doesn't smell very good. But no, seriously I mean, you think there's things like that when you go and you're traveling and you know how many times you everyone has had a crooked neck from having a pillow that they didn't like. And that's when I started doing those kind of things. And you need to carry a thing with you. And I had it happen there and I had it happen at Oakmont. I don't know what Oakmont was. I think it was maybe the time after we were there in '62, I think it was or when was it the next time and I had the same thing happen to me there. And the, but yeah, sure, I get uptight. Absolutely. Everybody does. If you don't get uptight -- sometimes I think uptight is good. Because I think that keys you up, makes you work harder. And I always felt like I wanted to be uptight or I wanted to be keyed up because then -- and all that meant was that I just needed to prepare more and get better with my preparation and be more prepared. So I got the nervousness out of the way. Because usually nervousness is being scared of what you're doing. If you get it out of the way then you're usually better off.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Mr. Nicklaus.
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. We got enough. Okay. Thanks. Thanks for being here this week.
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