June 29, 2000
LES UNGER: Sir, a great start and a great score. The assumption is that you would be fairly pleased with your play today.
JACK NICKLAUS: That would be a correct assumption. I haven't played a good round of golf in a long time, and at least where I finished it, and I was very pleased to do so today. Obviously got off to a good start with three birdies. And first hole was -- I sort of made up my mind that I played too defensively at Pebble Beach and I needed to get little bit more aggressive with my golf game. And so I just decided to do that. You have got three par 5s here that you couldn't be aggressive but you certainly can hit aggressive shots. You don't have to get it in on two. I had two good shots on the first hole, sandwedge about eight feet; knocked it in the hole. Nice tee shot. 7-iron in about three and a half, four feet on the second hole. Knocked that in the hole. And I said: This is pretty good. And hit a 1-iron and a 7-iron at the 3rd hole and tried to bring it in from the right, and left it on the right fringe, and lo and behold, I holed a chip shot. I said: That is pretty good too. I didn't play a very good iron at the next hole. Hit, chipped it up about five feet; made it, which is something I haven't been doing. Two things I haven't been doing is saving it when I am missing the green, or converting it when I hit it on the green. First 4 holes, I did both. And then I had a longish putt at the next hole. Missed about a 12-footer at the next hole. Almost made about a 25-footer at the next hole. Then the 8th hole, which is really a big part of the round, I had a nice 3-wood off the tee, 136 yards, little downwind, good hard 9-iron. It was covering the flag stick. And both my caddie and I were just: "Ooh, here comes another one." Hit at the top of the bunker; ended up a downhill lie. Didn't have any chance of getting it near the hole. Hit about 15 feet by, but I made the putt coming back. That was kind of neat. Then I had 5-iron. Covered the hole at the next hole. And I wish I hadn't seen Jay putt, because Jay hit a ball that didn't break. And so I played less break than I was going to; my ball broke. I missed the putt. Anyway, so was out, 33, I guess, something like that. Whatever, it was. And 10, I hit on about 20 feet; missed it. 11 was a par 3. I hit it just at the top of the hill, came back down; 2-putted it. Then 12, I played 12 with 1-iron, 1-iron, 9-iron about twelve feet; made it. That was really kind of nice one. Almost birdied the next hole. Had about a 25-footer that just barely missed the hole. Then I missed the fairway at the next hole. Drove it; got a bad bounce. The ball bounced right in the rough, and I had one of those chop-it-out sand wedge lies. I chopped it out short of the water. Had 92 yards. I hit a sand wedge up about four feet; made it. It was a save again. Something I haven't been doing. Next hole, I spun the ball back and had about, I don't know, a 25- or 30-footer. And I had about a 15-footer at the next hole, and maybe a little longer -- maybe 16, 17 feet. Missed that. Then I watched Graham Marsh at 17 play a 5-iron. I know he hit it just a shade heavy, but he still got the ball right to the hole. I said: That has got to be a good 6-iron, but I want to keep it down because a little bit of wind was starting to blow. I blocked it out to the right; buried it in the back face of the bunker. No shot at all. I couldn't get it inside 20 feet. 2-putted it; made a bogey. One of the things that is hard to do when you haven't done it for a while is to finish a round. Here I am -- I sort of struggled a little bit at 16. Drove it in the rough. And I bogeyed 17. I am saying: "You can't finish this way." That is the whole secret of playing golf, is when you are not -- when you haven't done it, you get nervous about finishing it. You got to go finish the rounds. So hit really solid 3-wood around the corner at 18. Had 166 yards. I hit a 6-iron in about four feet, I guess. Made the putt. That is a pretty good way to finish. So I was obviously very pleased with 67.
LES UNGER: Questions.
Q. How many drivers did you hit today?
JACK NICKLAUS: A lot of drivers. Hit driver most everywhere. I told you where I didn't probably --. I hit driver at 1. Driver at 2. 1-iron at 3. Par 3, next hole. Hit 3-wood at 5. Driver at 6. Driver at 7. 3-wood at 8. 10, I hit 3-wood. 11, hit 1-iron-- 11 par 3. 12, I hit 1-iron. 13, driver. 14, driver. 15, 1-iron. 16, I hit driver. 18, I hit 3-wood. Hit a lot of drivers actually.
Q. How does the course feel to you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Fine. I mean the golf course is -- it is a nice golf course. It is in nice condition. The scoring was fairly easy this morning. The greens didn't have a tremendous amount of fire in them; weren't extremely hard. They had a reasonable pace, but not lightning fast. It was really not a very difficult morning to play.
Q. You said you got more aggressive, you felt, because you had to go and be more aggressive today. Was that going into the round, or did that begin to materialize when you saw what was happening with the game?
JACK NICKLAUS: I said before I got to the first tee.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah.
Q. It progressed from there?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I tried to. I tried -- every time I played a sort of a defensive shot, I kicked myself one. I said: "Get aggressive again. Get aggressive. Take the shot properly." I haven't been aggressively hitting the golf ball -- not necessarily playing a stupid shot. There are two different ways of being aggressive - aggressive is being aggressive through the ball with the golf shot not; not playing it just -- sort of trying to feel the golf shot on the green. I am certainly going to play what I think is a smart shot; not play an aggressive stupid shot. That is the other way.
Q. How much golf have you played since Pebble Beach?
JACK NICKLAUS: Every day but one.
Q. What, where?
JACK NICKLAUS: That day I didn't play golf.
Q. Where? I said "where."
JACK NICKLAUS: I could say on the golf course, right? Michael, where did I play? I played on Saturday at Pasadera. Sunday I did not play. Monday I played in Utah. Johnny Miller's event Pro-Am Tuesday, played in the event with Michael. Wednesday, I played at -- opened up a golf course called The Bear at Okanagan in Kelowna, BC. Went to Basalt for three days and played -- actually I did, actually. But two days, didn't play the first day we got to Basalt. Then I played about nine holes the next day, played about 11 holes the next day. Came home, Palm Beach. I played, like I said, I didn't play -- I hit balls for about two and a half hours on Sunday. Played Monday about, I guess I played nine holes or so. Then I played 18 holes Tuesday at home. What are you going to get out of that?
LES UNGER: That you are cutting back.
JACK NICKLAUS: You get something out of that, you got something.
Q. It has been a long time since we could say: Jack Nicklaus is in contention at a major. There seems to be kind of a palpable excitement in the galleries. You could feel at every hole you walk -- actually, I wonder could you feel it? Was it something that --
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. It was kind of fun. I haven't seen anywhere near a major for a while either. So it is kind of nice to hit a few decent golf shots and shoot a decent score, I guess I shouldn't say -- last round I played in the Senior Open was 67, too, which was two years ago.
Q. First time on a first round tournament in --
JACK NICKLAUS: I am saying that is the first time I have shot -- I have shot two 67s in a row in a Senior Open. I had a year in between. First time at the start of a tournament. I suppose last time I was in contention was at The Masters, I suppose. But I won't call -- I mean, as I said, at Augusta I turned about 135 or 136 into 144. That was again one of those times where I hit the ball very well but didn't do much with it. Today, I did more with it.
Q. Usually in a golf round one shot or one putt -- something that kickstarts you, that you kind of feel like you are going to have a good round. Anything today that you could remember that was a good shot, a good putt that kind of kicked you --
JACK NICKLAUS: I think two putts, probably after birdieing the first three holes, I hit not a very good iron at the next hole, and I chipped it; left it about 5, 5 1/2 feet short of the next hole; then made that putt at 4. 3-under, all of a sudden, you give one back; you don't want to do that. Then I had a couple good opportunities, but I got around to 8. When it looked to me -- I was really getting aggressive (inaudible) - kind of making another birdie, then I ended up putting my position for bogey. Made the save for about 15 foot. That was probably the key putt of the.
Q. Simple question: Is this the best you have played since the hip replacement?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I don't know. I have hit the ball quite well quite a few rounds, but probably that was probably the best score I have had in a tournament.
Q. From this round, Jack, you said earlier in the week when you were in the pre-event here that you felt that it was going to happen; you were going to get a good round going. Now, here you got three great saves, three very fine saves. Your putter was excellent. You start off with three birdies. Is that an indication we got things going?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, yeah, I felt for about a month or so that I have been hitting the ball pretty well, but I haven't been getting much to happen. I just felt that if I keep hitting the ball this way, pretty soon I am going to start scoring. And hopefully, this is an indication that the first round I have had -- obviously, I have got to follow it up. But it's the first time that I have felt good about a round of golf when I have walked off the golf course in quite a while.
Q. Wouldn't it be ironic considering your last U.S. Open appearance, if you won this and got the full exemption to go back again next year? How ironic would that be?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I have said at Pebble Beach, I didn't know whether I would play next year, even if I won here. It will be my choice if I did. But I finished up at Pebble Beach, and I wasn't real happy with finishing with 82. I can't imagine anyone finishing up with 82 being --
Q. Anybody in here.
JACK NICKLAUS: Anybody in here would be? You all can have it. You can have the 82 any time you want it. I had a very nice reception at the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, and, you know, that was very nice, that part of it. But I didn't -- unless I am playing well enough to be competitive, I don't really want to go play again and beat my head against the wall. If I would happen to win here this week, and I was playing really well next year I played enough golf to where my golf game was competitive, yeah, I would consider playing again. But I don't want to go back and play when I'd really take a spot from somebody, from a young guy that has a chance to win a golf tournament.
Q. No guarantee that you will go back?
JACK NICKLAUS: No guarantees I am going to win either here. Let's see one thing at a time. Let's go win this tournament; then we will worry. Ask me that question Sunday evening; then I have got an option.
Q. After today do you have a number in mind that is going to take to win?
JACK NICKLAUS: No.
Q. You said yesterday you thought 9 under would be a good number. Do you still feel that way now?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I -- I said -- I asked you what won last time. They said 9-under. I said, that is a pretty good score here. But I don't have any -- I don't have any -- scores were pretty low today, and, you know, I suspect the golf course will get firmer and probably a little bit more difficult as the week goes on. I don't know. I don't ever really worry too much about a score once the tournament starts. Certainly have to see what happens, but the golf course did yield today. And before the day is over I think even the guys you see this afternoon will shoot some good scores. But 9-under is still a pretty good score.
Q. You mentioned you were a little nervous toward the end when it looked like a good round might be going away with that bogey on 17. What makes you nervous on the golf course and is it more competitive pride instead of nervousness?
JACK NICKLAUS: I suppose a little bit of both. I think that the nervousness comes from not having played for a while of being successful. It's very simple to walk around a golf course and shoot 75 or 82, or whatever it might be, sign your score card with very little nervousness. When you are shooting 67, you get a little bit more nervous about making sure you keep that round or improve it. You don't want -- you know that you can do it. You don't want to be stupid and lose it. So I guess it's a little bit of both.
Q. Compare the course this year with back in 1992 conditions, weather-wise?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't remember, score-wise or anything. I don't remember. Comparing 9-under, whatever it was, would be pretty difficult for me to do so because I really frankly don't remember. I would imagine fairly similar.
Q. Given the conditions of the course, other than yourself, of course, who would you feel the layout favors? What players would you consider to be strong contenders?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I don't pay attention to that. Anybody who plays well.
Q. I have to ask you - I have asked you this before, but I am going to pop it again. Is there one thing left, one goal, that you feel that you'd like to achieve that maybe you have achieved before, but a goal that you want to do again?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes.
JACK NICKLAUS: Play well tomorrow, the next day, and the next day. That is win. Yeah, I'd like to win again. I haven't won for what four years? Something like that, whatever it has been, 1996. I'd like to win. Everybody likes to win. I don't have any -- if I didn't -- I don't have any specific goals in the game of golf as far as that goes, but if I am going to play, my goal is to win, and to do the best I can and put myself in contention and get myself an opportunity to come up the 18th hole with a chance to win. That is the fun of it. No fun to go out there and when you finished 10th or 50th or wherever you finish, no fun to do that. The thing that would drive me out of the game of golf is to continue to play that way. If I can get myself to where I can compete, and enjoy it and have fun being in the hunt, then I will play golf for as long as I can do that. And I have worked hard enough this year to make that happen, and I just feel like, you know, it gets frustrating when you can't make it happen, so you just work a little harder. That is what I have been trying to do, trying to work myself through it. If I can get through it, then maybe I can have a little bit of the old spark.
Q. Hubert Green currently leads. Do you have any history with him or any recollections of maybe playing a round with him or anything like that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Hubert is a good player. He has played very well on the SENIOR TOUR and the regular Tour. He is a good player. But I don't really pay much attention one way or another what a guy does. Just go play one round today; play another one tomorrow; we will see what happens.
Q. Given your comments just before on the possibility of playing or not playing in subsequent Opens, and the emergence of Woods coming along, did you sense a couple of weeks ago a sense of history that perhaps the game would be coming from you to Tiger?
JACK NICKLAUS: That is a press thing.
Q. Because there have --
JACK NICKLAUS: You guys have to have something to write about, it might as well be that. I won't put in one thing or another about it.
JACK NICKLAUS: I mean, he is dominating the game right now. Certainly, I wouldn't be -- I haven't played well enough in the last ten years to really say I am passing -- I passed the baton a long time ago, and it is just -- you know, if that was -- theatrically, if that is the way you'd like it to be passed, then you can go ahead and write about it. I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference.
Q. I know you used to feel that the more difficult the layout, the better your chances. You still feel that way, that the way a US Open is set up might favor you --
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't think this is probably the most difficult golf course we would play an Open on, but we are not playing the U.S. Open. We are playing the Senior Open. Most of the Senior Open golf courses are set up a little softer than the U.S. Open; probably far more suited for the games of fellows over 50. I think this golf course is set up very nicely for a Senior Open. I think it is a very good golf course and very good test. You have got to drive it straight. The rough is tough. I find no criticism with this golf course at all. I find the golf course actually quite good and quite a good test. And I just think that today the conditions were such that any time you have no wind and you don't have any wind, and the greens are not particularly hard -- the rain that you -- a little bit of rain that you have had for the last few weeks, scores are going to be good. But if you had some wind, these greens got firm, with the rough that is around the green, and the rough that is off the fairways, I think the scores will go up very quickly.
LES UNGER: Thank you very much. Look forward to another good one tomorrow.
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