July 24, 1998
PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA
Q. How do you feel today? What did you think of the way you played today?
JACK NICKLAUS: I played better than I played yesterday. I still don't think I played very well. Putted atrociously both days. But, you know I am still in position; good round. I am in the middle of the tournament. But, I just haven't driven the ball very well, I don't think. Been in the rough too much. You can't be in the rough around here.
Q. Can you compare this to some of the other, perhaps, conditions at Open Championships? People have talked about this rough being as anything they have ever seen.
JACK NICKLAUS: Not if you hit it in the fairway. Fairways are plenty wide. No reason to hit the ball in the rough. If you hit ball in the rough, you deserve to be penalized.
Q. Any problem --
JACK NICKLAUS: I love to hear them complain about it. That just sends them home. Anybody complains about it, worrying about it all the time, you know -- I used to love to walk in the locker room: God, you see how fast those greens are; see how deep that rough is? Just writes in each one of them off. That is just one less guy to beat this week. I think the golf course is set up beautifully. I think it is very good for the Seniors. I don't think there is enough rough for the regular TOUR. In the fairways are plenty of rough for the regular TOUR. Around the green, I promise you, for any Tour.
Q. Disparity between other tournament stops and Opens - seems to be growing even more than it has in years past where par, even par, for four rounds seem to win. Does that seem to be out of whack to you or is that the way it should be that an Open Championship should be that much more difficult than other tournaments?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I just don't think the other tournaments are very tough. In other words, I think what has happened is that -- I don't like it. I think that they have got on a kick of thinking that 63 and 64 is what you should shoot everyday. And, frankly, I just don't think that is the game of golf. There is par. And I think par should be protected to a certain degree. I don't think -- you'd make it ridiculous. But, I think the whole idea of a golf tournament is to produce the best golfer that week. And whatever venue you are on, you try to make that venue as challenging as you can to pull out the best golfer. Yes, it is entertainment. But, it is also a game. It is a sport. And every venue is different. So somebody different is going to come out every week for something a little bit. They are a little bit better, as far as I am concerned, the tougher it is; the better it is, to draw out the best players. I think Riviera is set up for the Senior Open. I don't think it is set up tough enough for the regular Open, but I think they set it up plenty tough for the Senior Open.
Q. You talked yesterday about your hip not feeling very well. Any change from yesterday to today?
JACK NICKLAUS: I started out this morning, I didn't think I could walk the first two, three holes; then woosh, went away. Last 12, 13 holes didn't hurt at all. I have got to have floating bodies or something in there that you -- I told you I said, one day I know what it is; next day I never know what it is. Today it was hurting a lot when I got started; then it just stopped. So obviously I must have, you know, a piece of cartilage that is moving around in there that's gotten caught. So, it is now in a place that it is very benign. Let's keep it there.
Q. We just heard you say that you putted atrociously; didn't drive the ball very well yet. You are still --
JACK NICKLAUS: My iron game was terrible, too. I chipped poorly. My sand game was great. Okay. (laughs).
Q. Saying all you are still in good position, so you must feel pretty good?
JACK NICKLAUS: If you call 146 good position, 6 shots behind.
Q. Considering what you said --
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't like to consider. Basically if I had been playing halfway decent -- I have played Riviera enough to know that Riviera, when you play well, you can shoot a good score. And when Hale came back from a bad round, shot a good score today -- I had the opportunity to shoot a good score today. I mean, I missed a little 2-footer at 9 and I missed a 3-footer for birdie at 10. Missed a decent chance at 11. Bogeyed 13 with a terrible tee shot. Bogeyed 18 with just a horrible iron shot into the green. Missed a short birdie putt at 17. I had opportunities all day long to do things and didn't do much. I played well enough to shoot 72. That is what I did. And you know, 72 is not going to win U.S. Opens.
Q. The setup being as difficult as it seems to be -- does that help you the way you are playing because nobody is going to go run away or --
JACK NICKLAUS: I think so. I always feel like nobody is perfect. Everybody is going to make mistakes. And usually an Open champion is one where the guy who makes the least number of mistakes and controls his game; scrambles a little bit, and obviously plays more -- at least, not more mistakes means a guy who plays the most good shots, I don't want to put it in a negative frame. You don't have to hit the ball long and perfect. You have to hit the ball long enough and in play. You don't have to hit the ball close to the hole every hole, but you have to put the ball where you can play from. I saw where the pin was at 18. I didn't mean to miss the green to right, but I knew I could play to right. I couldn't play from the left. So I favored the right side of the hole. Hit a bad iron hit, right of the green; hit a bad chip. You have got to put yourself in a position to where you can always have a chance to recover or always have a chance to save par; give yourself the opportunity to make birdie on a number of occasions. To me, that is the way I have always felt the way the game is played.
Q. The course playing as difficult as it does Hale's score surprise you?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. The golf course is not that tough. I mean, I shot 72 and I missed -- I threw away 6 or 7 shots. Not just missed, threw away, and so that is -- that doesn't mean you are going to get all those; you are going to throw away some things, but realistically, I should have been under 70 today. I don't think -- 68 doesn't surprise me at all.
Q. Through the years you have been able to sit there and pretty much tell us, knowing the course, knowing conditions, knowing the players, what you would have to have as your target over the next two days to come back and win and majority of the times you have been right. What do you think it is going to take from you the next couple of days to wind up with another U.S. Senior Open title?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I said at the beginning of the week, I said, if anybody broke par, I thought they would probably have a good chance of winning the golf tournament. I think it probably still stands. I think I am going to probably have to shoot no worse than a pair of 68s to win the golf tournament from this point.
Q. Just as a benchmark --
JACK NICKLAUS: Or 68, 69 somewhere in there.
Q. Can you think back and just give us an example of what you consider to be the toughest conditions in a major tournament that you have ever played, something that stands out?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, probably Winged Foot in 84. 74? 74. When Hale won. 74. 84 was when Fuzzy won; wasn't it? Yeah, on those conditions, right there, I thought Olympic was very difficult. Whether it was -- in other words, when you get a golf course where the fairways run fast; the greens are hard; rough is tough around the green, and you really can't get to the green or stop the ball on the green out of the rough, then you have got a pretty tough golf courses. It is just how they are set up. Pebble Beach when I won in 72 was very difficult. The greens got very glassy; the rough was tough around the greens; the wind was blowing; it was tough to manage your game. When Kite won in 82, it was very difficult again. Pebble is not that difficult a golf course under normal conditions. But you put the Open conditions on it, Pebble becomes a very difficult golf course as Olympic. Olympic probably is not that difficult a golf course on a day-to-day basis either. Riviera isn't, for that matter, if you cut down the rough for the members, it is not that difficult. They are all good golf courses. It is just how tough the conditions happen after they set it up. If they set it up and you get wind and dry conditions, then you have got a tough golf courses, that is really what happens. That is what we had at Winged Foot, at Pebble Beach; we had a little bit at Olympic.
Q. You said couple of 68s can put you back in contention. Are you capable of 68s here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I hope so. I am going to find out. I don't know whether I am or not but I am certainly going to find out.
Q. With the wind picking up, how that did affect--
JACK NICKLAUS: A little tougher this afternoon, I am sure, than it was this morning. No question about that. Any time the wind comes up a little bit and then you have got -- the greens are going to firm up and you know, ball is going to run a little bit more on them that -- plus they get spiked up a little bit. Afternoon is always more difficult. Golf course is beautiful. It is set up very nicely. Greens are excellent. I would say there isn't anything wrong with the golf course. Fairways are excellent. Rough is fine. The greens are, you know, the greens have held up beautifully. You can still can play the shot in the green and get a predictable result. I mean, what -- that is truly what you are asking for, if you can get a predictable result, and if you play the shot that you think you should play, and the ball hits and - poof - it is gone, then that is not what you are expecting. You can expect, if you hit the right shot, to get a good result; you can get that right now, which is good. That is what you are trying to do.
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