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June 13, 2000

Jack Nicklaus


LES UNGER: Well, you've had a couple of rounds on the golf course and have one more coming. How about just starting off with a comment about the course.

JACK NICKLAUS: The course is good. I played it Saturday. I played it yesterday, and I'm going to play it again tomorrow. I did not play today. I think the golf course is in excellent shape. I think everybody is going to tell you about the same thing. The greens are a little softish yesterday. I don't know what they were today. But, of course, Monday, you never have much speed. And, of course, the rough is very thick. Outside of that, that's about it.

LES UNGER: What would make you happy this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: What would make me happy?

LES UNGER: Yes, sir.

JACK NICKLAUS: Shoot a low score. I can't think of anything else that would make me happy, as relates to golf.

Q. Jack, where does this course rate among the courses you've won on, in your mind or in your heart?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, in my mind, I've always said that if I had one round of golf to play, I'd like to go to Pebble Beach. I love Pebble Beach. I love the golf course. I love the conditions we had here when we played in -- when I played the Amateur here, when I won the Open, in '82. I think that the conditions have changed a little bit since then. Of course, I've changed a little bit since then. Not that the course has gotten older, but I have. I like the fast conditions. I like the seaside feeling of it. And I think they've taken a little bit of that away with the ryegrass. But that's -- with the number of rounds of golf they play every year, I can understand that. The fairways are terrific. I certainly don't have any complaints with that. It's just that the density of the grass, in the rough, is the only thing that I think is basically different, that has changed on the golf course. And that's -- it's the same for everybody, so it's not that big a deal. I don't mind it from a golf standpoint. I mean from a Pebble Beach standpoint. I'd like to see Pebble Beach in fescue roughs, and the Openish-type rough that you see in Scotland, and which you can have here. But that's the only thing, but we don't have it; so I don't worry about it. We had it back in '82 and '72 and before then.

Q. Tom Watson was in earlier; Tom Kite was in earlier, and they both said that experience is going to amount for a lot, playing Pebble Beach. And they wondered whether or not you three could win, possibly, but they look for great tournaments from all three of you. And I wanted your thoughts on it.

JACK NICKLAUS: You want my feelings on it? First of all, yes. I think the experience will have a lot to do with it. A lot of guys think because they come here and play it at the AT&T that they're going to get experience on how this golf course plays. I've never seen many rounds at the AT&T that give you much experience for what we're getting this week. You get to know the golf course and certain areas, somewhat, but you're not going to know much about it. Do I think that Watson and Kite and will have a great tournament? I think Watson and Kite will. And I'm hoping that Nicklaus will.

Q. Jack, would you talk about the state of your game and your hip right now?

JACK NICKLAUS: My hip is fine. My game has not been really, really good. My biggest problem is that I can't practice. I practice for a while, and then I get another ding of some kind in my body, and it won't allow me to work at it the way I want to. I worked at it pretty hard. I've done what I think I could probably do. I'd like to work at it harder than I am right now. I'd like to spend more hours at it. I think I need to spend more hours. I think I'm a whole bunch of hours behind. Certainly not my intention. My design was to practice as hard and work as hard as I can, and I've been trying to do that this spring as much as I can. I never thought that age made any difference, but I'm starting to think differently. Just starting.

Q. Back to the age factor. We've known the cliche that somebody can turn in three days of rounds, but four days is a real decisive factor. Are we at the point where the technology and conditioning, that maybe that cliche doesn't apply anymore? That somebody can go for three days and not really finish, as they get older?

JACK NICKLAUS: Talking about age having a factor in three or four days? I don't think it makes any difference. If you could play three days, you can play four days. I don't think that's an issue. I don't really think that makes -- that for me, from that standpoint, doesn't make a difference. I think all that happens, is you have a harder time preparing yourself and being ready. I don't worry about a fatigue factor. I don't worry about whether I can play just as well on Sunday as I can on Thursday. I don't think that should be a issue. At least I wouldn't think so.

Q. Jack, your win in '72 -- twice you win in '72 at Pebble Beach; you beat Johnny Miller in a playoff and came back and beat the field in what many considered was the toughest Open.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, guys, the acoustics in here are killing me, I can't hear a thing.

Q. I was just wondering if having won -- only you and Ben Hogan as far as records indicate, only you and Hogan have won on an Open course and a PGA TOUR event the same year, and I wonder how that ranks among your personal achievements? And if you remember anything in particular about the win over Johnny Miller in the '72 Crosby?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I won the '72 Crosby, '72 Open, and '73 Crosby. I won three times here in a row, a year and a week. Do I remember much about it? No, I don't remember much about when I won at the AT&T. I do remember about the Open.

Q. How does it rank?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was a pretty good time when I was playing some pretty good golf. I think Pebble Beach is a golf course I've always loved to play. And it always allowed me to -- or responded to my golf game when I played well. I don't know how to say that -- or I responded to Pebble Beach, one of the two. Obviously, I was proud to win those three tournaments in that period, too.

Q. Understanding that this could be your last U.S. Open, do you think that -- have you asked yourself to maybe approach it in a way that you'll smell the flowers a little bit, stop and reminisce about what this course has brought to you, what the U.S. Open in general -- do you think you will reflect at any point?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. I'm not a reflector. I never have been. But the only reason I say it probably will be my last Open, I think the USGA has been very kind to me. I think they've probably given me more exemptions than probably was necessary, but I think it's been pretty nice that they have. If they gave me another one, would I accept it? Of course I would. I love playing the Open. I love playing under the conditions of such. I would not like to take up a spot if I didn't think I can play. I still think I can play a little bit. I'm hoping I can. My chances of coming back to the Open probably will revolve around my winning the Senior Open or something else, if I play another Open or not, and that's fine. But I think that -- will I smell the flowers? No, I'd probably sneeze too much. But will I enjoy this week? Yes, because it's Pebble Beach. And if I was going to pick a spot to want to play my last Open on, I would probably pick Pebble Beach.

Q. Could you rank the five wins that you've had on this course, in order of importance to you?

JACK NICKLAUS: The order of importance? Well, I would have to obviously say the Open in '72, the Amateur in '61, the three Crosbys, and two Shell matches (laughter).

Q. The last Open that was played here, you finished wondering if Colin Montgomerie won the thing. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit, and if looking back, you're still a little bit surprised that that score didn't hold up to the conditions?

JACK NICKLAUS: I frankly don't remember much about it. What did Kite shoot?

Q. He was 3-under.

JACK NICKLAUS: He played a phenomenal round of golf. And I think Colin played earlier. I thought I made a comment on television that I thought that it would hold up. I was very surprised. Did he finish second?

Q. Third. Sluman finished second.

JACK NICKLAUS: Whatever it was, anybody that played a good round of golf on that day, played a good round of golf, because it was a difficult day to play golf. Tom obviously -- obviously, the pitch shot he hit at 7 was not dissimilar to the pitch shot Watson hit on 17 in '82, as far as sort of determining the outcome of the tournament. But outside of remembering much else, I was talking, not playing.

Q. Tiger was in here this morning. It's pretty obvious to me and others, he keeps track of how his record is at his age versus your age. I wonder if you keep track of that, too? And also, whether winning 18 majors for him is going to be harder than it was for you to win 18, or whether it's harder for you than it will be for him?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think he's going to have to answer those questions. The first question was: Do I keep track of his versus mine? No. The second part --.

Q. Is it harder to win 18 majors now than when you did it or not?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I have no idea. It depends, I think, a lot on your competition, who you're playing against and what's happening. I think there's an awful lot of really good players today. But I think most of the guys that I won -- when I won my majors, were guys that had won majors themselves. And that's the reason I probably got beat several times by Watson or Trevino or somebody else, because they knew how to win majors, which made it harder to win. Today, right now, we don't have many guys that have won many majors that are playing. It's been all spread out. If Tiger is coming down to the end of that tournament, and he's got -- for him to win that, it's a lot easier for him to win that than somebody who hasn't won versus what I had in competition. Are there more, really, guys that can be at the top of their game? That, I can't answer. Either that, or he's so far above them that he's making everybody else not look very good. That can be, too. But I think only time is going to tell that answer. There's going to be young guys that are going to come along in the next three or four years, five years, whatever it will be; that you're going to ask the question: Well, going into today, do you think Tiger is going to be a challenge to you? That's going to happen. I had that happen to me, I won a bunch of times. All of a sudden, Johnny Miller won a bunch of tournaments; Johnny is going to be the guy to beat this week. He's going to get that same question as people come along. That's what happens; it's great for the game of golf. I think it's great for the game of golf, what he's doing. Likely there will be somebody else coming along to take over the dominance, somebody for you guys to write about and the challenge of what that is, challenging records and things. I think that's really good for the game.

Q. Jack, June 18th, which I think is Sunday, marks the 40th anniversary of Cherry Hills, the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. What are some of your memories of that? It's been called the greatest Open, and I was just wondering something you can remember?

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't think it was. (Laughter.) I've got four other ones I thought were much better. Well, I can go back and tell you every club I played and every shot I played for the last nine holes of that tournament. Unfortunately, it was 39 strokes. But I don't want to recap that, but I can if you want. But I remember it as a young kid, I was 20 years old. I was about a month from getting married. My dad was with me on the trip. I came off after Friday's round and he said, "Guess who you're playing with tomorrow?" And I said, "Who's that?" And he said, "You're playing with Hogan." And I played the last two rounds with Ben. It was an exciting thing. It was the first time I played with Hogan. He played great. He hit the ball fantastic. He was a tremendous playing partner. I always loved playing with him. He didn't talk you into the ground; he played you into the ground. And he put on a shot-making display that was pretty fantastic that day. I enjoyed it, and he faltered at the end, and I guess I folded through the last nine holes. And I don't think anybody was even -- Arnold was so far back, nobody was even thinking about Arnold. And all of a sudden, Arnold shot 30 in the front nine and he was in contention in the tournament, but was still behind going in the last six or seven holes. It was going to look like it was Hogan or myself that was going to win the tournament. And obviously, for a 20-year-old kid, I thought I lost the tournament when I didn't birdie 17, and I hit my second shot up on the fringe at 18. And I'll never forget Joe Dey picking up cigarette butts and things in my line. And I was thinking, "What in the world?" This is Mr. USGA down picking up things out of my line, and it was kind of unusual. It was a little out of character for Joe Dey. And needless to say, all I had to do was probably get it up-and-down. If I got it up-and-down -- Arnold holed a 20-footer on the last hole, or a 15-footer, I don't know how long it was, but he holed a putt. And if I made that, he had to hole the putt; instead, he had two putts to win. And many times you go back and you just learn that it was inexperience that cost you not -- cost me not winning that tournament. But that was inexperience, but it was a great experience.

Q. Jack, what was -- what were your first recollections of Pebble when you got here as an amateur in '61, and how have they changed over the years?

JACK NICKLAUS: My first recollection of what?

Q. Your first impressions of Pebble when you got here in '61.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really remember, to be very honest with you. I came down -- played the Walker Cup matches up in Seattle; played The Olympic Club. I have more recollections of a round I played at the Olympic Club with John Swanson than I have recollections of this. There's a few in here who remember Swanson. But that's another story. But I came down to Pebble, and I played quite a few practice rounds. And I do remember that this is the first golf course -- I was playing with Dean Beman. Dean and I played quite a bit of golf together, and Dean, he said, "You're not picking the right club out here." I said, "Have you ever tried walking off the golf course?" And I had never walked one off. He said, "Why don't you walk this golf course off?" He said, "See how you play this, knowing exactly how far it is." Nobody walked off golf courses in those days. I did and played every round under par. But as I played Pebble, and kept playing, as a 21-year-old kid, you don't think about it. Like going into Augusta, when I was 19. I had heard about being at Pebble Beach, but I wanted to find out about it. I wanted to go play. And I enjoyed the way I played. I played -- I only got to play the 18th hole during the week, and that was semifinals and finals, because it was 36 holes. I sort of laugh about that, but I'm sort of proud of it, because I never had any matches that took me then. It was kind of a -- the course obviously was a little bit different than it is today. It was very hard and very fast, not a tremendous amount of wind that I recall. But I used the same score card. Matter of fact, I still have the same score card at home that I made in 1961, and I've refurbished it a couple of times. It may not be the exact same piece of paper, but I have the same yardages, and same book, and probably about half the trees and markers that I had are gone. Certainly, if I used any sprinklers, they're gone.

Q. Is it surprising to you at all that players like Davis Love haven't won in two years, or David Duval? David Duval hasn't won in 15 months, and Davis Love hasn't won in two years. Is that the nature of the game or is that going to happen to players?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's sort of what we talked about a few minutes ago. If you have a lot of guys winning a lot of money, and you're calling them the best players, and they haven't won in two years, somebody has to win. I don't really know how to respond. I really don't, because it's sort of mind-boggling to me to see a guy -- I look down the list and I see a guy that's won a million and a half bucks, and probably hasn't finished better than fifth or something. I just -- it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. My best year was about $320,000, the leading money winner, won seven tournaments or whatever it was; and these guys win twice that much every week. I think that's probably -- I think it's neat in many ways in the game that the guys today can make a living playing golf. We never could make a living playing golf. We made our name playing golf, but we had to make our living outside the golf course. The guys today can make a living playing golf. When we played, there were probably, I suppose, two or three guys every year who probably made -- or five guys who made enough to really make more than a good job at home. And today the guys -- by the time you took care of two houses and paid your expenses, if you're playing just strictly golf, because you don't win 300,000 every year. But the guys today, I don't know, it's going to take probably 400,000 just to keep your card. That's a heck of a lot of difference. That's great for the game. What does that produce, does that produce apathy? I don't know. Does it make the guys that get there, not wanting to win, or not strive to win? I don't really know. I think there's pluses and minuses in it.

Q. Jack, part of the history of Pebble Beach is the 5th hole. And they weren't able to change it all those years, because the lady lived down there. You were part of the remodeling of it. Could you talk about the history, and how many times you looked at that hole thinking what you would do if you had a chance to redesign it?

JACK NICKLAUS: I never thought about it. I never looked at it until they asked me. Always looked to me like you should finish the 4th hole, go to the 6th fairway, and it turned out they wanted to put a par-3 there, which was fine. I thought you could play from there across to the 6th fairway and on up the hill, which would have been a neat tee shot. I thought it would have been a great tee shot. And I think you could probably find somewhere on the golf course to throw in a par-3. I don't know what it would be. But as it turned out, they wanted to do it the way they did it, and I think it turned out nicely. I think the hole looks like it's always been part of the golf course. They designed it to try to have similar difficulty and similar length that it had before. I think it's probably a little more difficult, simply because you're not sheltered by the wind there, where you are on the other one. But it's not blind like the other one was. This one, you can see what you're doing. But it was nice to be part of that situation.

Q. Now that your career is reaching its latter days, when you look back --?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, I missed that one.

Q. Now that your career is near to its last days --?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)

Q. Now that you're reaching the prime of your career --?

JACK NICKLAUS: Very good (Laughter.)

Q. How do you stack your achievements to your heroes?

JACK NICKLAUS: How do I stack my achievements to my heroes?

Q. Yes. What goes through your mind?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what I had for heroes. I think when I grew up, I suppose Jones was probably the closest thing I had; although, I never saw Jones hit a golf shot or -- obviously, didn't play with him. But, of course, his record was the record that was out in front when I was playing. In many ways -- how do I stack my record against Jones's? I think my record obviously stands up well against Jones. But Jones quit at 28 years old. Jones played -- two of the tournaments were Amateurs, but he won all four of the majors in one year. So who's to say? Obviously, I didn't tack Jones's record on my closet door and check it off as I went, and that was certainly not my objective. The first time that I was -- even thought about Jones's record when I won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1970. And I walked in, and they said, "Jack, that's great, that's your 10th major." I never even thought about numbers until then. The first time I ever thought about it. Never entered my mind, nor did anybody mention it. They said, "You only have three more to tie Jones." That was the first time I had that happen. Then I was aware of what was going on as relates to that. Poor Tiger. I mean, the first time he wins a tournament, "Okay, Tiger, only 19 more to go." Poor kid has that sitting in front of him every day. It's a lot tougher today than it was then. But I never really went out to try to compare my record to somebody else's. All I ever wanted to do was to be as good as I could be during my time. I don't think it's fair to compare my record to Jones or Hagen or Snead or Hogan, or even Tiger for that matter. We all played at different times. We played against different people. The only comparison you have is majors. The only logical comparison you have is majors. But all I ever wanted to do is be as good as I could be. And does that stack up all right with me? Yeah, I think I could have been better. But I think everybody thinks -- anybody who had any success at all thinks they could be better.

LES UNGER: Thank you, sir.

End of FastScripts….

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