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June 16, 2000

Jack Nicklaus


LES UNGER: Jack, I think we basically want to reminisce with you a little bit. I'm not sure anybody is very interested in every shot because they've got it on the computer.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, come on.

LES UNGER: Personally, I hope it's not your last visit here, because I've enjoyed sitting next to you, but if it is, good luck in the future. How about turning the clock back to wherever you'd like and give us a little history here.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not good at that. I think I'd rather go for questions.

LES UNGER: Okay. Let's go for questions.

Q. You walked the last 18 today with your wife, Barbara, all four sons in attendance, what will you miss most about the U.S. Open?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the U.S. Open to me is a complete examination of a golfer. The competition, what it does to you inside, how hard it is to work at it, how hard it is to make it happen, when the conditions aren't your conditions -- you have to persevere and work at it. I enjoy that. I enjoy the punishment. I suppose I must be a masochist of some kind, but I enjoy that. I enjoy getting there and doing that. Today I hit the ball really well today, and yet I couldn't grind out a score. And that's -- evidently I just don't have the ability to grind out a score anymore. If the conditions are pretty middle-of-the-road, I still score pretty well. Like this morning, or yesterday, the conditions weren't very difficult. This afternoon, I hit the ball as good as I could hit it, I obviously missed some shots, but for the most part I hit the ball pretty well, and walk off with 82. And I miss the chance to grind that out and make a score at a U.S. Open. That makes you feel proud that you've been able to do that.

Q. Jack, can you explain the crying on the 18th green, and the wiping away of the tears?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was the wind -- (laughter). You know, I just walked up on the 18th green, and it was very, very nice obviously. My eyes well up, and then as a result, I couldn't even see my putt when I putted, and I topped my putt. I hit it and left it ten feet short. I thought -- I told Jackie, "I'm going to make this one in the hole and make -- give a chance to make an eagle." And I hit both short. But down on the tee, I said to Jackie, I said, "What do I have to do? Let's see if we can knock it on the green in two." And obviously I had a very good tee shot. And then I hit a -- I had 238 to the front, about 261 to the hole, I guess, and sort of a crosswind a little bit in our face. I knew I was going to have to play it up the opening if I could get it on there. I cracked a 3-wood pretty good, probably 245 with the crosswind in our face, and that's pretty good for me. And I was really proud of that. It's been 20 years since I knocked the ball on the green in two. I can't remember when it was, but it's probably been that long. And that was a nice way to finish up what you're doing. And then 3-putted -- get back to reality.

Q. Jack, could you share your thoughts coming up 18 today? And also, do you think this will be your last Open, or is there a possibility you'll be back?

JACK NICKLAUS: There's always a possibility. But walking up 18, every hole I went to the gallery was terrific. And once I got myself -- I really was not into -- I was into trying to play four rounds of golf at this golf tournament. My goal was to play all four rounds and all four days and try to be in contention as best I could. I obviously didn't do that today. So I was into golf -- well, I was still into golf after that. But 8, where I hit three shots as good as I could hit them and walked away with a double bogey. I hit a 3-wood off the tee, and I cut it up into the wind a little bit to kill it, because I wanted to make sure -- I knew it would be too long. Still went too long actually by about a foot. I was getting ready to chip it back, and Jackie said, "Why bother to chip it back? Why don't you drop it? You can drop it in the same place you're going to chip it. Matter of fact, you can chip the spot." Having my son tell me that helped me a little. And then I hit a 7-iron, which is never -- I hit it 20 feet short of the hole, and it looked like it landed on the highway. So I had a tough pitch shot and stuck the club underneath the ball, just as pretty as you can be, and hit right between the fringe and the collar, and shot it all the way to the front of the green. I said, "Boy, this is not my day." That probably ended the golf part of it. For now, I was trying to play the best I could. But I started to enjoy the people. All I was trying to do was hit the ball on the green, make some pars, get on with the round, and finish it up. And I couldn't get it on the green, couldn't make par. And the people were very nice. As I got to 18, I was kind of -- I just took the walk up 18 as a last walk, and really didn't do much until I got to the green. And they wouldn't be quiet, I guess, which was quite nice. So I -- Jack -- I started kidding a little bit with Jackie about the putt. As I got over the ball, I couldn't see it. As I say, I topped the putt. But it was very nice. It was a nice feeling. Nice way to end your Open run and 44 years. I suppose the only way that I would come back is if I won the Senior Open in a couple of weeks and I was playing overall well next year and I could contribute to the tournament. But I say the chances, even if I won, would probably be fairly slim that I'd play. I think that Pebble Beach has always been a great part of my life. And to finish up your last open at Pebble Beach -- obviously, I'd prefer to play four days. But to finish up here, is probably a place that I would than any place else.

Q. Jack, on the 18th tee, you went over and sat on the fence there and just kind of looked out at the bay. What were you thinking at that time?

JACK NICKLAUS: I was hoping someone could take a picture and I could have it later. (Laughter.) I don't know. I was just walking around and wanted to take a last look at it. And I basically went over and sat down. The water was over there, and so I sat down and looked at the -- I did think about that, actually. I thought: I'm sure I'll get a couple of pictures of this, and that's a pretty nice picture to have.

Q. Jack, you said that when you had the double bogey at 8 after two very good shots, well actually two or three very good shots, you said then that was kind of it; you thought you were sort of giving it away.

JACK NICKLAUS: I think I played decently, but I couldn't do it.

Q. On 14, you sat back there and you waited on that one, too, and you almost got home on it.

JACK NICKLAUS: Actually, I hit that ball good enough to get home. I put it right in the right spot, but the darn thing got in the rough; it didn't clear the rough. If I hit it in the fairway, I could have gotten it over the green. But there was no shot today. The only place you're going to do it is if you put it on the green or in the bunker in the front, you might have a chance to play. You're not going to have a chance from the fairway; you're dead.

Q. At 14, somewhere down deep, you thought you could still make the cut?

JACK NICKLAUS: I thought I had a chance, sure. I don't know whether I was going to make the cut. I don't know what's going to make the cut. I bet 8-over, wouldn't you? I think 150 would be close. I wasn't any more over that at the time. Sure, I played the last four holes like -- five holes like --.

Q. They got your picture on the rail.

JACK NICKLAUS: But, sure, I had to make a birdie or two. But I never made a birdie today.

Q. One birdie in 36 holes.

JACK NICKLAUS: I made one this morning. Yeah, I made one at the 11th hole this morning. I hit it so close I couldn't miss it.

Q. Well, old friend, I wonder how many of the guys are in here who were with you in 1962 at Oakmont when you won the first one. That had to be one of the greatest moments of your lifetime at the age of 22, Jack.

JACK NICKLAUS: You were there. Yeah, absolutely. You remember probably better than I, but I was too busy enjoying my first tournament. And that's 38 years ago.

Q. There's a lot of us that don't want to see you not catch the next one. You're going to win a Senior U.S. Open, and then come on back.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I might, but I don't think so. I think my golf game just doesn't seem to be good enough to be able to compete. I still believe that I can play, but I've got to figure out -- if I keep hitting the ball the way I'm hitting it, I'm going to play well somewhere, and I'm convinced of that. But today was not the day. I just -- I've had a horrible time when I get conditions that get hard and fast, which used to be my favorite conditions. That was the place I excelled. I can't make those conditions work.

Q. You're the only living man now, that has won four United States Opens. And I just wonder if one stood out in your mind as the most delightful one, outside of that first one?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't think you can probably pick any one out, but '62 at Oakmont was obviously very special, being my first win as a professional. And I was a kid, and obviously it was very special. Setting the Open record at Baltusrol was something unique. And the finish at that golf tournament, -- talk about 1-irons. That was 238 yards uphill into the wind, almost with a -- it was getting dark. Thunderstorms, really. And I went back to that place and tried to hit a golf ball to the green with a driver. I couldn't get it there. And then to come back to -- then to come to Pebble Beach in '72 and, you know, my feelings towards Pebble Beach and to have won here -- almost won twice here. It's pretty special years. '72 was a year that I had won The Masters. And I guess that's the only year I've won both of them, isn't it? The only time I've won both. And so '72 was pretty special. And then, of course, '80 at Baltusrol, when I had a horrible year in '79 and hadn't really started -- I missed the cut the week before Baltusrol, but knew I was playing pretty well -- actually, not dissimilar to right now. That was obviously 20 years ago, but I feel like I'm playing pretty good. And I just missed the cut the week before the tournament, and all of a sudden the next week, boom, things came together, and I broke my own record there. Yeah, it was some pretty special moments there.

Q. You said you can't grind out a score anymore. What's missing that prevents you from doing that?

JACK NICKLAUS: It's probably my old golf balls. The USGA told me last week, he said, "We tested all those golf balls. They were 20 yards shorter. And one went 20 yards to the right, and one 20 yards left. How you can win tournaments with that golf ball, I don't ever know. It's the worst ball ever made." Now I've got a good golf ball and can't make it work.

Q. Did you see Arnold do his last run, go his last lap at Oakmont?


Q. Did you give any thought to the point that one of these days this is going to come to me and I'm going to do my last lap, and how am I going to handle it?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've done it; it's gone. I don't know whether I need any more laps.

Q. I mean beforehand.

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I never thought about it. I don't think much about that kind of stuff, I really don't. Whatever happens, happens. I'm still dumb enough, I guess, whatever you might want to say, to think that -- I was thinking that I could play well enough to compete in this tournament. Maybe -- I still feel that way, because I'll go home tonight and probably -- go back to the locker room and kick my locker and beat my head against it, and say, "When am I going to go out and practice to get better?" That's stupid, you know, but that's the way I am.

Q. Jack, I wonder if you could assess, as a player, the work of the architect on No. 5. How did you like the way the hole played, and what's causing that backup?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I kept telling -- when I was here in January, I talked to the guys here at Pebble Beach, and I said, "Guys, you know you're -- the USGA put the rough lines close and moved the rough line in on the left side. Guys, that's not supposed to be rough. You've got fairways around other greens. You need the fairways to the left of that green, because if you're left and you miss that ball left of the green, you can't play, period. You need to bounce it. And there's rough right down to the green." And so that's why -- if you miss the ball at all left, you can't chip it. And I designed the hole so that the fairway fed from the left side. All the way down to that bunker, the fairway goes up and feeds down to the hole. If you miss it in the rough, you've got a place to bounce the ball into the hole. So it shouldn't be that tough, but they made it more difficult and didn't allow it to be played the way it was designed. I guess as an architect I can say that, right?

Q. We're talking about your thoughts and emotions in your last Open. What do you remember about your thoughts and emotions 44 years ago as you walked to the first tee and your first Open?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was probably a little overzealous 17-year-old looking to play in a tournament. I was playing with -- who did I play with? I played with Freddie Wampler, and I think Tommy Jacobs. I think that's who it was. Anyway, 3-wood down the fairway; 7-iron on the green; holed a 35-footer. Went to the second hole, parred the second hole. Parred the 3rd hole. My name came up on the leaderboard with 1-under after 3. I walked to the 4th tee and made a double bogey, and they never saw me again. I shot 80-80. Then I went out on Saturday, and the only thing I remember on Saturday, I remember watching Cary Middlecoff and Dick Mayer finish, but I remember going up the sort of the bank -- I think it was the 13th tee, 13 or 14, par-4, going away from the clubhouse, and I watched Peter Thomson and Denny Shute play, putting a niche in the ground, sticking the balls off the ground, and hitting them off the ground. I saw them down in Argentina about a month ago. That's sort of what I did as a 17-year-old at my first Open.

LES UNGER: Thank you very, very much.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you. I appreciate it, and we'll see you next year at the Open. (Laughter.)

End of FastScripts….

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