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June 23, 1999

Jack Nicklaus


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Nicklaus makes his appearance in the 1999 Ford Senior Players. Jack, maybe just a few thoughts on your last month and where you are since you came back at Bell Atlantic.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm right here. Outside of that, well, the last month has been kind of interesting -- the last couple months has been kind of interesting, because I got to a point where I was able to start playing golf and start hitting the golf ball; start walking; start playing. And finally, I got -- why shouldn't I go play tournament golf; so, I did. And the thing has happened to me that he said would happen is I just didn't have strength, and I still don't have strength. And I'm doing better, though. My golf game is just not very good right now but it will come around if I keep going after it -- try not to -- I am overdoing it, I know. And I really shouldn't. But I really sort of want to play.

Q. Jack, what do you mean you don't have strength. You don't have strength in your hip?

JACK NICKLAUS: Endurance. Endurance strength. From surgery. He said it would take me about six months before I had much endurance, so forth. Anesthesia gets out of you, and all the other things, muscles that atrophied and everything else. Every once in a while, I hit a shot or two and I say: That's pretty good and all of the sudden, I can't find it for an hour. And I hit a few more good ones, but that's all right. I much prefer this to the alternative, frankly. And I'd rather work myself back into shape, and that's what I'm trying to do. But I'm not -- I'm not anywhere near the level, golfwise, that I need to be or want to be.

Q. Do things feel differently after the surgery, sense of balance?

JACK NICKLAUS: I just have freedom that I didn't have before. I think there's a lot of things I keep finding out -- everyday things. I can't believe how many things I must have forgotten in my golf swing. It seems like every day something new comes back that I can remember that I used to do and I can do again. Now, do I have the strength to do it or not is the question. So that's -- I experiment with them and use them, and if I did this and try to put it on the golf course, and try to put it in my golf game. It's little frustrating, but it's also-- it's also fun doing it.

Q. How about four days on this golf course, as opposed to two days, as it turned out, at Pinehurst?

JACK NICKLAUS: This is a golf course to walk. It's pretty easy. I'll walk. I always walk. But I think it's just going to take some time, that's all. I say the same thing every time I walk into a press room. I'm getting tired of telling people it's going to take time, but I'm tired of telling myself it's going to take time. Look at it, four more days before I'm five months out of surgery. So, I'm less than five months out of surgery. And I've played, you know, I've played a senior tournament and I've played a Memorial Tournament and I've played a U.S. Open. And I guess it could have been a lot -- lot worse.

Q. Jack, what freedom has it given you in your private life?

JACK NICKLAUS: My private life?

Q. To be able to get around the house and do the things you want to do?

JACK NICKLAUS: It wasn't all that bad. I guess that's right. It wasn't bad until I tried to do anything. Frankly, I was -- I could get myself to where I could exercise myself into position where I didn't hurt and I didn't do anything. That's why I want to do the surgery, because I didn't really hurt that much, until maybe in December. And I had trouble down at the Presidents Cup and I couldn't get enough exercise to get myself as neutral as I wanted to get. And when I finally started back at the end of December, I couldn't get there. So, I decided that's when I decided to have the surgery. But as far as getting around and doing things, I'm able to do more things now, but I'm still in a rehabilitation mode.

Q. I have people in my life, relatives who are facing the same thing that you have, and they are afraid to do it. Is there anything you can say to those people?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was about ten times easier than I thought it was going to be. I think that the hip surgery part itself, I was more worried -- first of all I wanted to go to a place that I wasn't worried about infection -- from it being sterile at someplace. That was -- that to me was my number one thing, obviously. Nobody likes to be put under. You said, am I going to be better than I was before. The place I went to, New England Baptist was terrific. They are terrific. Clean as a pin. The doctor was terrific. The staff was great. That part of it was really taken care of. One of the things that I researched with my people at home, more than anything else. I think a lot of people could have done the operation. Ben Bierbaam, the person who did it, was terrific. There's quite a few people who probably could have done it, but not with the staff that I had. What I'm driving at is I had about -- probably about a week of discomfort, if that. If I'd had to do it again, I wouldn't be put under. I'd do it in a local, only because of what the anesthesia does to you. Although, the doctor doesn't want to you do it that way, but they will do it that way.

Q. Except for the endurance, have you seen anything that's better as a golfer that the surgery has helped you? Can you see --

JACK NICKLAUS: A lot of things. Freedom through the ball, sure. I didn't have any freedom through the ball -- I haven't for the last four or five years.

Q. Where does that result?

JACK NICKLAUS: Hopefully, it will result in a better golf game. Right yet, I don't have the muscle strength and tone to be able to hold that to know exactly what's going to happen. I hope that some of my power will come back through the ball, because as those muscles strengthen I'll be longer with my swing. I'll be quicker through the ball. I'll be able to stay behind the ball rather than having to float through it. There will be a lot of things that will happen to me, but once I get enough strength to do it, that will be the result. I'm not terrible right now, but I'm not good. Last week at the U.S. Open, I was not swinging good, and I mean, I was 50, 60 yards behind Payne -- Hal Sutton and Curtis Strange. Neither one of them are particularly long hitters. I used to out hit them fairly easily. I wasn't within 50 yards of them. It's pretty hard back there when they are playing 7- and 8-irons and I'm playing 2-irons two greens. If you would have seen my second round at the U.S. Open, you would have said: Man, he should be winning, from the second shot in. Because I tell you one thing, I played 75 -- I turned a 90 into 75.

Q. Isn't it fun to just be out here?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's what I'm saying. I enjoy this versus the alternative. This is a lot better. Absolutely. Rather than sitting home and waiting to be able to come back out and play, just say I don't want to go out there and be in front of the people and not being able to play my best and so forth. I understand that, and I think they understand that; so I don't mind that. I want to play myself back into shape, because this is where -- this is where I will play myself back in shape.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JACK NICKLAUS: Winning. That would be all right. I don't know about -- I don't know too much about winning. But the winning is going to be -- just being able to enjoy a better quality of life.

Q. Do you think it's harder for golfers to give up what they do because they have done it for so long? You've had just a marvelous life doing this thing. It must be harder, I think, for the older players to give it up, the camaraderie and everything else?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. You get a lot of that at a lot of places. I think what I enjoy about golf is competition. That's my fun of golf. I think most of these other guys are the same way. They have been athletes and competitors all their life.

Q. Hale Irwin said that.

JACK NICKLAUS: They just enjoy the competition. That's what I enjoy.

Q. How long did it take you to shake the anaesthesia?

JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't shaken it yet. He said it would take six months. He told me -- he said it took me a year.

Q. What kind of feelings come from the anesthesia that still stay with you?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. They just said your body takes six months or more to get out of your body. I just do so many dumb things, or my body does so many dumb things. They aren't coordinated. I guess that's part of it. I feel fine, I sit there, I can do things that I don't -- I say, where did that come from.

Q. Jack, as somebody who bought your first video, after you get recovered and feel like you're playing well, do you think you'd make a how-to video for guys in their 60s now?

JACK NICKLAUS: I just go back and re-date the one I did. (laughter).

Q. They don't have wooden clubs anymore, Jack. You said planning for next year. Are you pointing toward all four majors?

JACK NICKLAUS: By the time I get my golf game turned around, it will be next year and I'm hoping to play all the majors next year.

Q. Where does The SENIOR TOUR play -- you said you would play more in it?

JACK NICKLAUS: Next year? I don't know how much I'll play next year. I'll play probably -- I'll probably play -- if I feel like I can, I'm probably going to play quite a bit of golf next year, both on The SENIOR TOUR and regular TOUR. If I'm going to play the four majors, I'm going to need to play a few other tournaments on the regular TOUR to have a golf game to play those golf courses. And Senior TOUR, I think I'll play the majors and I'll play, you know, some of that, too. After that, I don't know what I'm going to do. I may play an odd major here and there, or play an odd tournament here and there, but it will be mostly senior golf after that, I imagine. Probably bet I play more senior golf this year than I have any other year by the time I finish up the year. I think -- I only have this tournament and the Senior Open on my schedule, but I bet I play three or four more tournaments than that, maybe five before the year is over, just because I think I want to play some golf.

Q. That would be the best place to do it.

JACK NICKLAUS: The way I play, it is, it doesn't have to be the best place to play. I'd try and squeeze myself into Super Seniors six months early.

Q. Do you have any special feelings about the particular tournament, the Senior Players Championship?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I haven't had too many good things happen since we moved over here on my course. (Laughter). We've been over here, what's this, the 8th year here, and I haven't won it yet. I'm having a hard time with it. Maybe one of these years.

Q. Take it back over to Dearborn.

JACK NICKLAUS: Take it back over to a place I don't know. I think the golf course has matured well. I think they've made a few adjustments in it this year. I think the golf course is good. I think the golf course is in nice shape. I think it's pretty good test for the seniors. A pretty good golf course for them.

Q. How do you feel about this design here?

JACK NICKLAUS: We haven't done any work with it here. We worked --

Q. You have a tract of land that was as devoid of features here, a junkyard?

JACK NICKLAUS: I had lots of them.

Q. On par with this?

JACK NICKLAUS: At least 50. Sure. Every golf course in Florida is the same thing. You get a flat piece of ground, but nothing there. Go out in the desert, you've got dead, flat nothing. Try an Anaconda; you want to talk about a bad site. That was, you know, that was a super-fun site. That was a golf course that we spent -- required to spend about 350 million to clean up the area. Probably spent 25 to 30 million on the golf course alone; just keep cleaning up the area. That was worse than this. And this golf course it wasn't that bad. This was just a junkyard. The place was a dump that they put everything from the automotive industry, and people when they legally could do stuff -- and all of the sudden they supposedly shut them off for a long time and tried to clean up what's going on. We found everything including the kitchen sink.

Q. And Jimmy Hoffa?

JACK NICKLAUS: We might find him when we hit a shot yet. You never know. (Laughter.) If you look at the vegetation, I mean, basically all it was poplar trees that grew up out of the blowing of the seeds through the air. That's the only way anything came up. There wasn't anything here. Nothing else would grow. And the only area that had any trees were down around the 4 green and 5 tee, where somebody must have taken some scare of that, or it must have been used for something before that.

Q. You've got one of the richest ecosystems of any Michigan golf course as far as animal life, plant life the variety of species out here. It's amazing.

JACK NICKLAUS: We've got a lot of it here. And most of our golf courses do. We work on it pretty hard, actually. They worked on it here specifically to do that. But we work with most of our places to try to accommodate and work with the wild life that's there, and enhance the ability, mostly for bird life, actually. They are the ones that can get there.

Q. You talk about playing your way back into shape. How much higher can you take it between now and the Senior Open, and just what are your thoughts on playing a new venue like you're going to be playing?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I don't know. I haven't thought much about the Senior Open yet until I get by here. I don't know anything about the golf course or anything else. But my golf game right now, my first objective is to go out and start playing a little bit -- playing a little bit better. Play some decent rounds of golf. I haven't, in my opinion, played a decent round of golf since I've done the surgery. 70s -- I still haven't broken 70 yet. I've been playing golf for over two months. And that may sound crazy to a lot of people. A lot of people say 70 -- a lot of people don't break 70, but I break 70 a lot. I've got quite used doing that. And, in fact, I haven't broken par -- of course I've only been playing at Pinehurst and Muirfield. I haven't broken par for a while. (Laughter.) I just need to be able to start putting a few scores on the board and getting a little consistency to my golf game. Once I start doing that, then the rest of it will come around. Then the ability to be able to get competitive and start to play -- getting to the end of the tournament. And whether that will happen this week -- I certainly hope it will happen this week. I actually feel like I'm swinging quite nicely right now. I feel like I've got a chance to hill the golf ball well. It's whether I can get it into my head whether I can hit the golf ball well yet, and whether I'll be strong enough to be able to maintain that through the week. And then of course, the Senior Open, then I'll decide after that how many more tournaments I'm going to play, but I'll play some.

Q. Are you working with anybody specifically right now, Jack, as far as --

JACK NICKLAUS: Working with Jack Nicklaus.

Q. No one else?

JACK NICKLAUS: What do you mean?

Q. (Inaudible) Rick Smith --

JACK NICKLAUS: Jim a little bit. Jim was at Muirfield and Jim was at the U.S. Open. I don't really work that much. I never have worked that much. Even Jack Grout who worked with me for a year, we'd go out on the practice tee, and maybe after 10 days and he may -- we may cover about 90 different things and one time in the day we talk a little bit about the golf swing. Jim doesn't really -- he's become -- he works with me in our schools and becomes more of a close friend. And if he sees something, he says something, but we don't go out and work on something specific. I'd rather -- I'd rather do it myself and a pair of eyes on the side is nice. And I think -- I think the kids today rely too much on teachers frankly. I think they get too -- too dependent on somebody else's helping them. And I think that the whole idea is to be able to transfer the ability of that teacher to the kid or to the golfer, whoever it might be, to allow him to be able to be responsible for his own golf game. And when you do that, I think you become a much better player. That was the one thing that Bobby Jones had stressed to me when I was a kid growing up. He said that he used to run back to Stewart Maiden all the time. And he said when he finally realized that he didn't have to run back to Maiden, and Maiden was just another pair of eyes for him to occasionally look at what he was doing. And that's when he became a much better golfer. And Grout did the same thing with me. So I've never tried to rely on somebody, unless I was just really horrible, and then I might say: What do you see, and then I might change something.

Q. Are you amused by all the gurus and all the psychological -- with the kids today?

JACK NICKLAUS: (Shakes head.) Can you quote that? It really doesn't make any sense. I can understand -- I mean, I believe in helping somebody in teaching. Guys have all helped each other out here for years on the TOUR. But to have somebody there every time you warm up, every time you -- every time you hit a shot, and every time you do this, you've got -- that would drive you crazy. You can't concentrate and work on what you need to work on.

Q. In that same vain, Jack, how do you feel about the trend that you see about caddies lining up putts for everybody?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I had to do it last week. It was so dark on Thursday morning, I couldn't see the ground. We had such an early tee time that the first three holes, I asked Scottie -- I can't tell if it's breaking right or left, Scottie; give me a little help. The light was so low. My eyes would just not focus at all. I'm hitting a pitch shot and I'm sitting there: Where's the ball. I'm looking at the green and saying I can't see anything except a flat surface, and I know it's not. And finally after that fog -- that mist lifted, then I could see and I was fine. But I had never had that before.

Q. Should have been there at 5:38 when I was there and they were setting up the course,?

JACK NICKLAUS: Jerry, they didn't play at 5:38. You went out and played at 5:38?

Q. No. I was there doing a story on how they setup the course.

JACK NICKLAUS: You couldn't see anything. No, I understand that. I don't mind not seeing where the golf ball goes. Somebody else can look for that. What I want to do is when I have to do this around someplace -- whether to aim to the right of the hole or left of the hole.

Q. Especially there.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah. It was very -- I had that at the first time -- first time I ever had that happen to me was the Senior Open at Ridgewood. Was that 1990? We had a big thunderstorm come in the -- and it got really dark, and at the 17th, I had 8-iron to the green and I could not see. Could not focus on the ball hit it fat and made six. Lost to Trevino by a shot. I'm sure some of the rest of you do experience that, I'm sure.

Q. Jack, if you should get a telephone call from Tom Watkins or Tom Kite, successful players on the PGA TOUR as obviously you were, and they ask asked for your advice as far as the transition adjustments they might have to make, what would you share with them?

JACK NICKLAUS: From what the regular TOUR to this TOUR?

Q. Making the transition?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think it's much of a transition. There's no transition from a regular TOUR to this TOUR. The hard thing is going from this TOUR back to the other TOUR.

Q. So there's -- it's just a mindset of coming up against players --

JACK NICKLAUS: Those guys when you come here, you're golf game is -- even if your golf game is here, and even if the golf game is bad, you don't feel -- see, on The SENIOR TOUR, the best players on The SENIOR TOUR might be just here. (indicating lower). When you come from the regular TOUR, your golf game should be, if you're playing at all, should be certainly very, very competitive in the winner's side on The SENIOR TOUR, which has been displayed many times by so many guys. I mean, when Hale has come out, Gil Morgan has come out, Bruce Fleisher has come out, Allen Doyle. Guys who probably haven't -- as they have gotten closer to 50, not been as competitive, but still been reasonable there. As soon as they got to The SENIOR TOUR, that level -- grow to a different level. I wouldn't have any advice to them. I think they are -- they will find that out pretty quick that they are going to be very competitive when they get here, because they have been playing at a much more competitive TOUR than this. Not to say that this TOUR is not competitive. I'm just saying it's competitive at a different level. That's why we're seniors.

End of FastScripts....

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