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May 24, 2001

Jack Nicklaus


JULIUS MASON: Jack Nicklaus here is in the clubhouse with a 4 under, 68.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'll take you through it. Well, I missed two greens. Let's sort of start with that. That was the fourth green, which was ridiculous. Par 5, I hit a driver and 3-wood just short of the green, pitched it out of the rough and never hit it hard enough, left it short on the fringe, and I two-putted that, very good two-putt, actually. Missed 16, hit an 8-iron, I think I was watching too much of what -- of Doug Tewell's second shot, he just holed out a second shot. I sort of wasn't paying enough attention and let it get just to the right off the edge. I chipped that up and made par. So the two holes I missed, I parred. The only hole I bogeyed was the 9th hole which I hit a driver and a 3-wood on the green and I think most everybody else hit a driver and a wood of some kind on that green. Three-putted from about 40 feet behind the hole. So that was my odd holes. I birdied the first hole, hit a 3-wood and a little 9-iron about 8 feet and made that. The second hole I hit a driver 4-wood pitching wedge about 8 feet and made that. And, let's see, my next birdie came at the par 3 7th hole. I hit a 3-iron about 20 feet and made that. Next birdie was a par 5, 13. I hit a driver 3-iron sand wedge about 5 feet and made that. Then my last birdie came at 15, par 3, I hit a 7-iron to about 4 feet. Rest of them are all two-putts. I had a few chances in there. But not, you know, I missed a few, but not that many. One real short one I missed was at 10. I had a driver and a 9-iron and about 5 feet there and missed it.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you. Questions.

Q. It was kind of like shades of the big three out there with Arnold shooting a 71 early, you shooting 68.

JACK NICKLAUS: Arnold shot 71?

Q. Gary shooting 70. Can you talk about that?

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't know it until you just told me. Not much to talk about. I played quite a bit with Gary lately. Gary's been playing very well. It's the type of golf course where it's an older style golf course, and one of the guys -- length is not necessarily the premium on this course. It's more putting the ball, accuracy and putting it in the right place. And it's a nice golf course, and I think it's kind of nice to see the guys play well.

Q. I noticed -- I couldn't help but notice you were talking to Roger. Shooting 68 is nice. You seem very pleased, more pleased than usual. Even anticipatory about what's ahead.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, normally I come in, if I shoot 68, I say, "What happened? How did that happen?" I played well. I drove the ball well. My iron game was good. The shots that I didn't hit right, I took the safe side of the hole if I did that. I hit it on the safe side of the hole. Those I tried to play short, played short. Those I tried to get to the hole, I got it to the hole. Iron shots. My iron game has been atrocious this year. I don't have any complaints with the way I played. I felt like I have reserve within what I did. I think I can play better than that. So that basically what you're saying, and I sort of -- not sort of, I did enjoy the round very much.

Q. Two-parter. With the comment you made yesterday if you're not gonna be more competitive, you're gonna get off the tournament trail, did that kind of challenge you a little bit? And did you have a sense your game was coming back a little bit?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've said many times I'm gonna play golf as long as I enjoy it and be competitive. I think the two probably fall hand-in-hand. I haven't had a whole lot of enjoyment out of the way I've played the last couple of years. That doesn't mean I haven't worked at it and I've tried to correct that. And as my body's gotten better, it's allowed me to go ahead and do things that I want to do. When you do that, you get encouragement. The game of golf is a funny game. You know, it's -- you shoot a bad round, slit your wrists, somebody says 9 o'clock tomorrow, and you say what time? That's basically what they do. I'll be there. But anyway, it's a game where I think we've all wanted to not play again for a while, but, you know, something brings us back. But I have worked at it. But I decided I haven't been very excited about what I've been doing scoring-wise. I am excited about what I did with my golf swing this last weekend, which I committed to something different than I've done for a long time. I've changed to a thing that Hogan did when he was in the latter part of his life, where I'm -- I put my shoulders and hips on the line, but withdrew my right foot back almost into a closed stance. That allowed me to get away from the ball easier with my right hip and right shoulder which I haven't been getting behind the ball. I've been going vertical with it. I thought that I would give that a try. I've used it as a drill before. But I've never been able to play with it. And maybe because I never stayed with it more than a day or so, because -- and using it as a drill. And I've used it now for five days in a row, and now I'm actually becoming comfortable with playing that way. And it has helped me get away from the ball. It has helped me to get much more depth on my backswing. It's allowed me to be shallower coming into the ball. It's allowed me not to bounce as much with my head as I was. It's allowed me to do a lot of things I really need to do with a golf swing. It allowed me to do what Jack Grout did with me, get deeper on the backswing. That's the key to why I played well in 1980. That's twenty years ago. I can still count, too. But, you know, it was a good move, and I feel reasonably comfortable. I hope that I can continue to control the things that are the pitfalls of that golf swing, which I'm doing right now. And the -- if I can do that, then I have -- I see no reason why I won't continue to play well.

Q. You probably just answered my question, but we asked you yesterday if it kind of clicked in, would you remember what to do?

JACK NICKLAUS: I hope -- I think --

Q. I guess you did remember, huh?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Sunday's where you really need to remember. You might get a nice round on Thursday, but Sunday's where you need to remember.

Q. Obviously you didn't win here when they had the Open, Senior Open against Trevino. You did play well and obviously came close. This is one of your favorite courses, it gives you confidence because you have played well here?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I liked the golf course before. I didn't remember much about it, the last couple holes that was about it. From not having been here, once I got here and played them, I remembered most holes of the golf course. But, you know, it's a type of golf course that's an old-style golf course, totally tree lined. When you get totally tree-lined courses, holes have a tendency to run together. It's so pretty, you have these great trees and beautiful lush fairways and greens and nice settings, it's almost impossible not to get excited about playing golf on a golf course that looks that good.

Q. What triggered this move toward the closed stance? Is it something you were fiddling with?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I just -- a lot of times when I go fishing, which I did for a couple days at the end of last week, I played up at Muirfield for a few days, I opened up a golf course in Maryland on Thursday, and Friday and Saturday I fished. And I kept thinking, "You know, why is my golf game so lousy?" I don't feel like it's that lousy, but I don't seem to have any power, I feel like I'm very vertical on the backswing down into the ball. Why? And I stood there thinking about it. I said, "You know, I need to get shallower. How can I get shallower?" Grout used to get me shallower at times. If I go relax and get away from something, I get my mind free and I think about, while my mind's free, a lot of the things I might want to do. When I get out on Sunday afternoon, I went out to the golf course and I said, "You know, I had a couple shots," I said, "I'm going to try this and see if I can do it." I used to do it as a drill, tried it, put it in, played that way Sunday afternoon, played that way on Monday. I said I think this is worth staying with for a while. That's where I got it.

Q. Just a quick thought about the people in the gallery today. Obviously more than a few moms and dads let their kids skip school to come out and watch you play and watch Lee play. What is your reaction to the number of young people? I mean kids, literally, junior high kids, high school kids, to watch the Senior Tour?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's very nice. You're asking yesterday about the Senior Tour, what's the problems with it. Well, a lot of problems with the Senior Tour probably revolve around not coming out and watching somebody you recognize. Well, the parents did bring some of the kids out, maybe the teachers might not be real happy with it. But there were a lot of kids out here today. Let's just assume they came out after school. How's that? Their parents wanted them to see Lee Trevino or Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, whomever it might be. Those are people that were, you know, their golfing heroes, you might say, as they grew up and they wanted their kids to see that and do that. When I was a kid, I used to go out -- my dad used to take me out to the ballpark. I remember the first two baseball games I went were right here in the city. First game, Yankee Stadium, Major League game. The second game I saw was at Ebbott's Field. I got to see DiMaggio play, Jackie Robinson play, you know, I could name a bunch of other guys. I got to see them, who were my dad's heroes. I got a big thrill out of that as a kid. You know, so to have these kids come along, you know, it's -- I think it's kind of neat. It's neat for us. I'm sure, you know, if you'd ask DiMaggio and Robinson, did they like when the kids came out? Of course they did. Sure they did. Same thing.

Q. One more question about that swing alteration. What has that done to your ball flight?

JACK NICKLAUS: Made it better. (Laughing.) I mean, I can't really say it did a lot to my ball flight as far as up or down or anything else. It made it a little bit more consistent. In other words, I think by being vertical you put too much spin on the golf ball. I don't think your distance control is as good. I think it makes my distance control better.

Q. Sliding the ball?

JACK NICKLAUS: Left-to-right shots, played a lot of them. I haven't had the ability to play either way consistently. I was able to play both ways today at will.

Q. Since you had talked about all this about being competitive and all that, is it too early to get too excited about being one shot out of the lead?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think it's too early to be excited about it. I don't know whether it means anything except that I'm not nine shots out of the lead, which is my usual place.

Q. Is this typical or unusual for you to change your swing before a Major tournament?


Q. You've done this before?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, lots of times. Sometimes it's the best time.

Q. Why?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when you're going through things that maybe you're not happy with, all of a sudden you make a change, you have to not only focus -- well, it takes your focus off of it being absolutely a major and important event. It puts your focus back on your golf game, which is really where you need to focus anyway.

Q. Where exactly did you go fishing and who did you go with?

JACK NICKLAUS: I went fishing with Gary and his girlfriend and my wife, Barbara. We went to the Bahamas and we did some bonefishing, and permit fishing. We had a good time. I caught seven bonefish the first day, four of them on a fly. And I caught another, I don't know, four or five the next day and a half. My wife caught -- Barbara caught about five, Gary caught a nice 40-pound plus permit. You know what a permit is? And that's a big permit. It's a really big permit. We had a ball. We had a great time. I got some exercise in. After we fished and worked out every day, we got some nice relaxation and we are ready to go back to work.

Q. When you made the comment that you weren't feeling too competitive anymore, was this something that was building up inside you or you just decided spur of the moment to release that statement?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, you obviously haven't read papers or been in a press conference because I've been saying that for about a year or so. I mean, that's nothing new. I mean, that's -- I usually assess or try to assess where I am honestly. I think you people know that from me. I don't BS you too often of where I think I am. If I think that if I'm playing well, I'll usually tell you I'm playing well. If I'm not playing well, I tell you I'm not playing well. Not too hard to figure it out. Look at the leaderboard. I finished fourth in one tournament this year. The rest of it, you'd have to read down a long way to find me.

Q. What is your workout like?

JACK NICKLAUS: It depends on what I'm doing. I mean, that's sort of maybe a silly answer. But it depends on whether I'm doing cardio, functional exercises, strength exercises, or I'm just doing stretching. I mean, I do a variety of stuff depending on what I think and feel like I need to do that day. But I do it every day, something. Usually twice a day actually. My exercise wasn't long this morning, just a warmup. It will be very short tonight, just a cool down.

Q. I've been asking some of the guys their opinion of the British Senior Open, whether they consider that a Major or not, even though it's not officially a Major. How do you stand on that issue?

JACK NICKLAUS: I've never played Royal County Down. That's why I'm going. Doesn't make any difference if it's a British Senior Open or not. I don't look at the British Open as one way or the other. For many years it was an IMG production. That's basically all it was. Basically a few IMG players went to play it. The RNA (phonetic spelling) has accepted it. It's a growing tournament within the RNA, which I'm pleased IMG still handles it, that's fine. I didn't have any problem with it, but that's what it was. And they, you know, the guys are going over to play. If it becomes a Senior Major, fine. But, I mean, it maybe rightfully some day could be. Right now I don't think -- that's not why I'm going to it. I'm going to it because I've never played the tournament, I've never played at Royal County Down and I want to play it under a tournament condition. I missed it last year. Almost went last year. It was just after playing at St. Andrews. I just really had more than I wanted. Then I also -- of course then -- well, I had a variety of things. I just didn't go.

Q. Have you in the past used fishing, using your time out on the water, to really think out your golf swing and think out some things?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, not too much. It isn't actually fishing. I just happened to be fishing. I'm not saying, "There's a bonefish that's moving to the right, I think I'll take my swing flatter." Don't actually do it quite that way. It's just a place for me to relax; that's all. And Barbara and I fished together every day. I actually fished one day with Gary, a half a day with Gary. He made -- I let him fish first. We were fly fishing, only one can fish. He's a very, very good fisherman. He put the fly right on the nose, the two bonefish, first two casts he made had two bonefish, lost one but got one. Handed me the rod. I acted like I had a, you know, a broken rod or something. I mean, it was like he was laughing at me. He said, "Hey, dad, come on, it's not that tough." You know? We get into a competition, which is kind of fun. But I didn't catch one that day. No... I didn't catch one that day.

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