July 8, 1998
DAVE SENKO: Thanks for coming in, Jack. Why don't you start off with your streak.
JACK NICKLAUS: This last week or actually last two, three weeks I have been thinking about it, and I felt that my preparation for the U.S. Open was less than ideal. I played nine holes the two weeks prior to the U.S. Open and hit balls, I think, once. And, my inability to prepare myself properly, I think is something that I have never been able to do. I don't think that my play in the U.S. Open was terrible. It wasn't good. But I don't think it was terrible. And, after I left the tournament I sort of thought about it. I said well, with three weeks in a row coming up, The Players Championship, the British Open and the Senior Open, three weeks in a row, I see no way in the world that I can walk and prepare myself properly to do justice to playing in the British Open Championship. So I just made up my mind that -- I said I wasn't going to do it until I got over there. But I felt like in fairness to them, to not have that be an issue over there, I said I thought I would do that this week while I knew I was playing in a golf tournament - while I was here. I thought it was right time to get it done. In this time of my life, I think that I really -- I'd like to win the U.S. Open Senior Championship and I think that is probably more important to me in the game of golf right now than competing in the British Open. I don't think that I could prepare myself to be properly -- or be competitive and I might make the cut or something like that, but I don't think that is competitive. So I just decided that that is what I was going to do.
Q. How do you feel about it inside?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'd like to bring back the letter. I'd like to bring it back everyday. But, you know, I think that -- I think for the most part, I have been a very healthy guy on the Tour. I have had to withdraw from two tournaments in my career. That was the World Series of Golf in 1981 in the fourth round and in the Masters after the first round through injuries. So I think that I have been pretty lucky. Certainly don't have any regrets with that. I would have ended my streak, as I said, in that release, probably at the Masters if the USGA hadn't been gracious in giving me the invitation to play the next three years. And, I will take each year as it comes. When next year comes around, I will see if I think I can compete and whether I accept the invitation or not. But, I mean, I am unhappy to end anything. I don't -- obviously, I am sad about it. I'd love to keep playing. I love to play the game of golf and I love to play major championships more than anything in the world. But I think that all good things must come to an end and I'd like to have them come to an end on a note that I have played reasonably well through the ones that I have played up to this time.
Q. Jack, looking beyond this year, do you have a sense of how many more Majors you would like to compete in and which particular major would you be more inclined to play?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't have any inclination one way or the other. I think that I am going to go find out how involved and what I have to do to find out what I am going to have to do with my hip, which is going to be the deciding factor whether I will play, period. I hope I can make it through this week and the U.S. Open Seniors in two weeks, you know, by being able to walk through those two tournaments. If I can, I will finish. I don't intend to play the rest of this year. I intend to find out what I can do with this hip and what I have to do, whether I have to get a new hip or whether I have to do what whether I can -- whether the synthetic disk thing works enough or not or what. I don't know. Or maybe take enough time to just exercise the devil out of it and get it strong enough where I can keep it in position, keep it functional. I can exercise myself in the morning and get pretty good. And by the time I get to about the 3rd or 4th hole, I start to get dysfunctional and weak and then it starts to further -- some days I make it decent some -- yesterday I had to quit after about 15 holes. But it is -- I don't I've played golf on one leg long enough and I have played for the last four, five years that way; never to where -- the extent that I am now, so what tournaments I play in the future will really depend on what I think I can do to put myself in that position. I think I'd love nothing more than if I to have get a hip to get myself ready to play in the Masters and U.S. Open next year.
Q. You had the opportunity to reflect. What has this meant to you, this streak?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I have reflected on it for a lot of years, but I think that my sole thing of reflection has been basically to not play in something that I embarrass myself. I think I have been playing -- I have said it before, I think I have been playing on borrowed time as it relates to the level of my game for the last couple of three years. And I just felt like I maybe I don't want to stretch that any further than I can. I think I stretched it far enough when I was healthy. And so I don't want to stretch it beyond that if I can't walk.
Q. Is it fair, Jack, to say that the problems with your hip is the --
JACK NICKLAUS: Not totally.
Q. For the decision, not totally?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not totally. I think the hip is a contributing factor, but I think that my ability to compete is part of that. In other words, earlier this year my hip was not really bothering me that much. And, I pretty well made up my mind about Doral time that after The Masters I was going to do what I am doing right today. And the USGA gave me the invitation and then my hip got worse about a month, six weeks later. So I think that -- I don't think that the hip was necessarily it. I think the hip maybe forced the issue a little bit more, but I think that my time has come to say, thank you, and say that I have played enough major championships -- that doesn't, as I said, I am not going to play more, but right now.
Q. Are you seriously considering the hip replacement options?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have not done anything because I want to finish these next two tournaments before -- when I get into something, I usually get into it completely. I don't want to get totally immersed in worrying about that and then thinking about that before I start -- before I play the next two tournaments.
Q. Including the PGA decision in this announcement was just for this year to be --
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, this year.
Q. Done for this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: Done for this year.
Q. Since you --
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know how much after.
Q. Thanks, Jack. Since you and Arnie have meant so much to golf and to each other and you saw him -- he is a little older than you - he kind of faded a little bit - do you ever have conversations with him about what it was like to reach this point in life and have to make these kind of decisions?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I really haven't because Arnold won't have that conversation (laughter).
Q. He thinks he can still go out.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, seriously, I think that Arnold and I are very different. All of us -- we are two human beings and totally different people. Arnold loves just being out there. And he loves to just play golf. I mean, he goes home for a week, he plays golf everyday. I go home for a week, I do everything else but play golf. We have always done that. I love tournament golf and I love to compete. And I think Arnold loves just to be there and loves to be part of it. I think that we should all do what you enjoy and Arnold enjoys being there. And I enjoy competing.
Q. You talked about it being a matter of competing and yet we see you at The Masters on Thursday and Friday, fans see you and say: Well, hell, he is still competing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was there, yes. But I am not sure that I can anymore. That is why better to stop it now than when I play ten tournaments in a row where I don't compete. I made the cut 10 of the last 12 Majors and probably that was reasonably competitive.
Q. After the Senior Open, I think you referred to really getting this hip thing checked out. What experts will you be talking with? How will that procedure work for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I really don't. I have got several people that I have respect their judgment greatly and I will contact them after the Senior Open.
Q. Did the stubborn part of you make this a difficult decision with the hip problems?
JACK NICKLAUS: Stubborn part made this a difficult decision for a long time. I think that (laughs) -- I think that Barbara and I have talked about it quite a bit. And I have said: Barbara, I don't know why I am out there. She says: Well, don't go out there. You have no reason to go out there and play if you don't think -- if you don't want to and don't think you can compete. And I said but, I don't have anything I love to do more. She said: Then go play. Now that is no answer. I said you are supposed to give me an answer. I mean, I don't have a real answer and I didn't have a definitive one. I felt like when I saw the schedule come out last year, when the USGA put the Senior Open the week after the British Open, I saw then that I might have trouble. I was worried about it then. Turned out that is right. If the Senior Open had been two weeks after the British or this hadn't been the week before, I don't think I would have made that decision. I think I would have gone ahead and played.
Q. Where does the streak rate as far as your proudest achievement?
JACK NICKLAUS: Only one I have got left, but that is all right. Or had left. (laughter).
Q. Is this a record for the ages with Faldo being the next closest at 44, is this a record for the ages in your mind?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I am very proud of being -- of the longevity of that. I think the longevity of that speaks that I have taken care of myself, and, in a reasonable fashion, that I have worked hard. I focused hard to keep my golf game able to be competitive against for several decades against kids a lot younger and particularly the last couple of decades. I think that the discipline that is required and the sacrifice for my family more than for me, you know, my kids have -- as much time as I do spend with them, I still sense that as they get older I need to spend more. I mean, they are off in business and doing other things. And I think those of you who are close to my age understand what I am saying; that, you know, when they are little, they got little problems. When they are big, their problems gets bigger. I think that I find that what I have had to do to prepare has consumed me on almost on a 24-hour basis. And I have never been consumed by anything before to where I didn't have time to spend with my family, my grandkids, and I think that was more the issue than anything else. That I didn't think it was fair to them for me to be totally as selfish as I have been in playing and making my life be the dominant force of a family. They have never minded. They have never had an objection. As a matter of fact, they did nothing but encourage me. I sensed, from my standpoint, that I can't give them the things that I think I'd like to give them and I think the things that they need. And frankly, that is more important to me than playing a golf tournament.
Q. How did you take the news when you heard Larry Gilbert passed way after he won last year's Senior?
JACK NICKLAUS: I kept in touch, pretty good with Larry. As a matter of fact, Larry was doing some of the stuff that I had been doing and working with some of the people I was working with. And when Larry got there I knew that he was in pretty bad shape when he got there. So I knew that. But the pain and the suffering that he went through in a very short period of time was pretty bad. I mean, he was -- it was very painful for him. And, of course, we all felt very bad about that. Larry was a really good guy.
Q. How do you view the course for this year's tournament? How do you view this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: Golf course is excellent. They have really done a nice job. Golf course is in wonderful condition.
Q. Will your bad hip be a factor; will it affect your play?
JACK NICKLAUS: I hope not. I don't want it to. But you can't help it, I suppose.
Q. When and how did you contact the R&A and, I guess, the PGA of America?
JACK NICKLAUS: I wrote Michael Bonallack and Kim Lindsay a letter and sent it to them yesterday and sent them a copy of the press release that I was going to release this morning. I think Michael released it yesterday after he got it to some press over there. That was the intention.
Q. Same to the PGA?
JACK NICKLAUS: Same to the PGA.
Q. 157 tournaments, I think you have said that '86 at Augusta probably gave you the most satisfaction. Does that still stand?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes.
Q. Of 157 which --
JACK NICKLAUS: Joe, 54, I think, but that is all right.
Q. Whatever it is, which one bothers you the most? Which one disappointed you the most?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not being able to play in the 155th.
Q. You are bad.
JACK NICKLAUS: I am bad? Well, let me see if I can think about that.
Q. What one really let you down?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't -- I never really have much regrets out of the ones that I have played in and somebody just beats me, ala, the '82, I guess it was, Open at Pebble Beach -- was that '82?
JACK NICKLAUS: Where Tom chipped in. '77 where Watson beat me at Turnbury. Those were the two tournaments or where Trevino chipped in at '72 at Muirfield. Those are the three that got away from me that somebody just beat me and nothing I could do about it. As far as my own inability to get ready to play the golf tournament, I forget those. I mean, seriously.
Q. I understand.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really know where my worst tournament was. I am sure it was there somewhere, but I don't know where.
Q. At the risk of being repetitive, I am sorry to make you repeat this, but could you -- if you could crystallize it, what is it about what has happened recently that has led you to make the decision that you can no longer compete at the level you are most accustomed to?
JACK NICKLAUS: I said earlier, it's -- when I played the U.S. Open, I played nine holes two weeks prior to the tournament. That was because I couldn't play. I had pulled a groin and my hip was killing me at Philadelphia. The Memorial Tournament -- I missed the cut at Memorial Tournament. I was down as far as I could get. I went out there and hit balls and I couldn't do it. So, when I got to the U.S. Open, I played pretty well at the U.S. Open. I made a stance-change enough to accommodate -- allowed me to figure out a way to get it around the golf course. But, I've always been able and prided myself in being able to prepare. There is no excuse for not being able -- to be prepared. I have always been prepared to the best of my ability and I didn't think that I could do that anymore. I felt like if I could not do that, then I really didn't deserve to play and that to try to do that and try to play this week, next week and that week was going to be a very, very difficult task and I felt like the Senior Open with a realistic chance to play well and win the Senior Open was far more important to me than just going over to be able to compete and show up in a British Open.
Q. Which hip?
JACK NICKLAUS: Left.
Q. What is preventing you from being prepared the way you say you want to be prepared?
JACK NICKLAUS: My hip. That is what I just said. There is two weeks prior to the U.S. Open I couldn't do anything. I'd go out and I would hit balls for ten minutes and have to quit.
Q. You talked about your ritual in the morning getting loose. What do you do after a round?
JACK NICKLAUS: That is why you had been waiting around here, I went over and had my hip worked on a little bit, for about 20 minutes. Now I go home this evening, I probably got about an hour of exercise that I will probably do this evening and then I ice it. It just consumes me. I mean, I don't want to be consumed by something. We are only on this earth for a short period of time and it is not fair to my wife to sit around and wait for me to do everything that -- you know, it is just not right. I just -- golf is a game and, you know, a lot of people say life -- it is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that. I am not sure that that is exactly the truth. It is a game and should be played as a game. Played in a spirit of a game and not -- and if the game of golf is not going to disappear because I can't play. And certainly shouldn't be monopolized by whether I can't play or not.
Q. You mentioned your --
JACK NICKLAUS: There is so many good players and so many good people playing the game that the game of golf deserves to have its focus on this game and for me to just slip aside would be just fine.
Q. Has Barbara, for example, responded to your making this decision about the British Open?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, sure, of course she has.
Q. What is their feeling?
JACK NICKLAUS: Barbara is supportive of whatever I do. I made the decision with Barbara. As a matter of fact, she usually edits all my press releases. Any grammatical errors in there? If there was, it was her fault. (laughs). I really -- I haven't really -- I really didn't discuss it with any of the kids. I mean, I think they knew what I was doing, but I didn't discuss it.
Q. How emotional an issue is it because you seem like you are having some emotions up-and-down?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have emotions. I really did not want to do that. I really didn't want to do that. I wanted to play. But I just said, it is not going to happen. I just think it is -- I don't think it is -- there is a certain time -- I just had a feeling that it was time that I needed to do that.
Q. If the hip is not good, doesn't get good, Jack, is this permanent? Is this move permanent? Sounds like you are ready to make this permanent, that you have resolved it within yourself.
JACK NICKLAUS: No. No, I fully expect to play golf again. I think that even if I have to go to the radical thing of doing a hip replacement, hip replacements are about 95 percent successful. Most everybody who has had them done are back out playing, walking, without pain. And, if I can do that, I will come and play more golf. I have no problem with that. But I have kept my golf game alive the last few years a lot because of the streak, of wanting to compete in the Majors. And that is -- senior golf is something -- earlier this year part of my idea of wanting to end the streak was the ability to go play a little bit more on the SENIOR TOUR, support the SENIOR TOUR a little bit more. I feel like I have played the four Majors and probably about three or four other tournaments a year, usually about four, I suppose, on the regular Tour and then I have only competed in about six on the SENIOR TOUR. But then I have got to play about four, five special events. That is as much golf as I have ever played in my life. People say: Jack doesn't play much anymore; I don't play much on the SENIOR TOUR and regular Tour. By the time you add it all together, if you add it all together, it is about the same amount of golf that I have always played. I think that I'd like to -- I haven't supported the SENIOR TOUR to the level that I think I should support it. I'd like to do that. I think the hip is going to prevent me from doing that right now, but if I can get that fixed in a way that I can play, I'd like to play some more on the SENIOR TOUR. But that will put me in a position where I don't have to worry about trying to -- worry about keeping the streak alive and playing the major championships.
Q. If you choose to have the hip replaced, what will the rehab be like?
JACK NICKLAUS: Don't know. I have never had it. I don't know what it is. I haven't bothered to go ask it. That is why I said -- my first inclination is that I am stubborn enough that I am going to try to exercise myself out of it. And the because I keep going to Peter Ergoscue in California and I talked to Pete on the phone yesterday and I said Pete, I can't walk. I says: It hurts like the devil all the time. And I said: I know that I can exercise it back in a reasonable position, but I can't keep it there. He says: Well, that means you are just not strong enough to keep it there. So I am sure his inclination is to let's get on a program that is tougher than you have been doing; and more regimented and probably twice amount of exercise, but I don't want to consume again, everybody's life, around my life. I just don't think that is fair. So, I just got some decisions to make.
Q. In your press release you talked about not wanting to disappoint the fans. Talk about that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the people have been great. And people have encouraged me to play and a lot of encouragement that I have got is really some of the reasons why I have probably continued to play. But I don't want to go out there and have them see just a part of Jack Nicklaus. I have tried give them the best I could give them. I know I can't give them Jack Nicklaus of 35, but I'd like to give them the best I can give them of the Jack Nicklaus I can of 58. I think Jack Nicklaus of 58 could probably still play decently. But, it is going to get awful difficult to play. I have played on less than one leg -- I mean, less than two legs; I really don't want to play on just one without any help of the other one.
Q. Was there a fear of bowing out less than gracefully, not on top of your game?
JACK NICKLAUS: Of course, there is. That is one of the things after I finished the Masters this year and the USGA invited me to play, I am like: What a wonderful time this would have been to end this right here. So then I couldn't prepare for the Open so I don't want to go out and embarrass myself. Why in the world would I want to do that? All golfers have -- no golfer wants to go out and shoot 85 in front of people. I mean, that is -- that can easily happen. But, I'd like to, you know, I say by doing this, I am doing this on my own terms right now because I have still got eligibility. I have got eligibility to play the seniors for another, what, two and a half years I have got at least another 10 -- I have got another 11 Majors in a row that I am eligible for that I am not electing to keep that streak alive through The Masters of 2001. I would think that would be correct.
Q. With how much difficulty was this decision made?
JACK NICKLAUS: How difficult was it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Very difficult. How would you say how difficult? How can you measure it on a scale of 1 to 10? I don't know how you do that. Only thing I have left that I am doing that is of any significance in the world of golf right now ... and I just ended it.....
DAVE SENKO: Everyone have everything?
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay? Thank you.
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