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June 16, 1998

Jack Nicklaus


LES UNGER: I guess for, I don't know how many years in a row, we have been blessed by the visit of Jack Nicklaus. I wonder if you have another performance like The Masters awaiting us.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that would be nice. I don't know whether that is possible or not. We will have to see. The golf course is certainly a formidable test. And, the ability to score on the golf course is going to largely involve manipulation of the golf ball and patience. And, it is certainly a golf course that most of the young kids today will not have experienced, that type of a golf course. And, that doesn't mean they can't play it. They just won't have experienced it. Certainly some of the more experienced guys, I think, will probably have a little bit of an edge on it.

LES UNGER: There seems to be a sense that the driver is only going to be an occasional weapon and that accuracy --

JACK NICKLAUS: Not necessarily. I like the guys that use the driver a lot -- but I think they are better -- use the driver not for distance, but use it just to -- better put it in play. I think there is holes where you might want to hit a driver where a 3-wood might be the right club, distance-wise, but you might take a driver, and cut it into the hillside because a cut 3-wood will not be long enough. I am saying manage the ball into the contours of the golf course. You go through the golf course, I mean, obviously the golf course is a hillside, and you are maneuvering the ball into that hillside all day long, and some of the guys might be long enough to hit that 3-wood and do that, but the 3-wood cut too, a lot of times, will leave the guys longer than they want. I think there is still a fair number of drivers played.

LES UNGER: From Tom Watson's prediction that the winner might shoot over par, to about 6-under that has been about the range so far. Do you favor any of those?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think that is a nice range, 6-under to over par. Yeah, that is a good one. I think somebody will break par, but they are going to have to play pretty well.

Q. 146 consecutive Majors. We are so used to saying it, we lose site to what it really is. It is an awesome --

JACK NICKLAUS: I'd like to know how you count, but I look at it as -- I don't know -- what do I have, 153, is it, Scott? Where did he go? 154?

Q. Counting amateurs?

JACK NICKLAUS: I am talking about -- since I have been playing -- the way I would count my Majors is since I have been eligible to play in them. That is how many I have played not including the amateurs.

Q. But the question --

JACK NICKLAUS: So that would be -- this is my 41st U.S. Open, right? 41st or 2nd. 42, I played in 41. 42nd U.S. Open, 40 Masters and 36? 36 of the other two, yeah. British and the PGA.

Q. Well, you always tell us you love winning. You love competing. But what else about your character, or you, has done this? I mean, nobody it is just an amazing feat?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that I have been fortunate from a health standpoint that I have never really, you know, been injured to the point where I couldn't play. I always pointed and prepared myself for these events and was always ready to play when I got there. In other words, even if I had injuries, or I had something, I figured a way to rest myself or get myself ready so I could play in those events. If I were playing golf to play golf everyday and play a lot of tournament golf, I would have probably been injured more. Only one tournament that I had to withdraw from, which was The Masters, and that was after the first round. But, that -- I don't know what to attribute it to other than that. I have been very lucky.

Q. I remember in 1966, there were two officials walking with you. What was that all about? I have kind of forgot?

JACK NICKLAUS: You forgotten? If you forgotten what do you expect me to do. You never forget everything.

Q. They weren't walking with me.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't remember them walking with me. I don't even remember.

Q. What do you think the odds are of you beating Tiger, Ernie and Justin again this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: They better play well (laughter). You wouldn't expect anything less, would you?

Q. This is a follow-up, everybody makes a big deal about the young guys. But at an Open, I think age is not that big a drawback, I think there has been as many winners in their 40s as in their 20s.

JACK NICKLAUS: I think it is probably the nature of the type of golf course that we play.

Q. How do you see your chances and maybe a guy like Tom Watson?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think tomorrow will probably have a very good chance. I think Tom will play very well here. I don't know whether I have been able to prepare as well as I would have like today have been able to prepare. And, but, you know, I am here and playing, and I am quite happy to be here and playing. So, we will see what happens.

Q. You played a practice round with Chip Beck today. I know you have spent some time with him. Can you tell us what you have been doing with him and kind of assess what his game is at right now?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Chip came and worked with me about-it was after Doral, I guess, or Honda in that timeframe. I spent a couple of days with Chip, and I think that, you know, I like Chip. For a long time, he is one of the most positive, energetic players that I have known on the Tour, and I just -- what has happened to him has been a shame. I think it is mostly in his head. I don't think there is all that much wrong with his golf game. I have tried to work with Chip to help him with his head a little bit, and how he can get a little bit more positive with what he is doing, and to think how he can course-manage himself a little better. When he qualified he was like a little kid. He picked up the telephone he said, "I qualified." He said, "Can we play a practice round?" I said, "Of course." We played today. He played quite nicely, actually. And, I don't think -- I think it is a matter of time 'til he gets his confidence back to play well again. I don't think that is very far away.

Q. A year ago at Congressional, Tiger opened with a 74 and then he didn't want to talk to the media. I read a quote which said that he will learn. He will grow. I am curious in the past year in looking at Tiger, what growth have you seen in him?

JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't seen him.

Q. Just in observing, you haven't --

JACK NICKLAUS: I really haven't seen him to be very honest with you. I mean, I haven't played with Tiger in the last year. I really haven't. Nothing more than basically saying Hi. So I don't really know what he has been doing. That was an offhand remark when asked -- I said he is young. He will grow. He will grow into that.

Q. To those --

JACK NICKLAUS: You guys can answer it better than I can.

Q. To those of you who said that maybe he doesn't have the game suited to a US Open, how would you respond to that?

JACK NICKLAUS: He has won a lot of USGA Championships, juniors and amateur, and they are not set up a whole lot different. Sure, each one gets progressively more difficult, but I think he will be -- I think this will be -- he will play very well here, I think. Of course I think he will play very well anyplace. He is a very good player.

Q. Subject about the media and Tiger. These kids are under a lot of pressure today in a big crush. Compare that to when you were coming up and compare how you handled it and what kind of steps you took in growing to basically accept this whole as statesman of the game?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think that we had much of that when we were growing up. I certainly didn't have any of it. Any to the level that Tiger has. I mean, he has had it since he has been five years old, you know, -- I think that you know, with any good player or any player at the top of their game goes the responsibility of media, the fans, the other players, sponsors, et cetera. And, I think that through the years the fellows at the top of the game have handled that pretty well. And I think that those fellas are largely responsible for the status and the high status, I think that the game really enjoys today -- I think the young kids that are coming along today -- not young kids -- that are very good players and are good kids; probably none have had the pressure put on them as Tiger has had. So, -- but either way, that responsibility is still there. And, certainly all of us hope that he accepts that responsibility with his, you know, with his good golf game too. Certainly you guys can answer it better than I can. I don't see him. I don't know what he does. But, I mean, the only time I see him is in the locker room or on the practice tee, and I know the players like him and they never -- I have never had them say anything but pleasant and accommodating -- and interested in what is going on. Which is, you know, the marking of a nice person. So, beyond that, I -- he does have a responsibility, as does Ernie, as does Justin, as does Couples or Watson, or anybody that is in that position.

Q. Was there a point that you felt though that you had to take it upon yourself? Was there a certain, I don't know, maybe a year in your career or something where you felt that this responsibility is mine now?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think you really think of that as you are growing up. It just happens. I think that happens over time. I think largely there were guys in front of me that shouldered that responsibility ahead of me. Largely Arnold and, you know, I think I maybe grew into that as time went on. I maybe wasn't, when I was 20, 25 years old, Arnold was still shouldering that responsibility, and I wasn't put in that position at 25 that Tiger is put in at 22 or 3.

Q. Two-part question. One, any equipment changes this week -- putter, driver? Still using that putter you used at Pebble. Two, the second part, last year you had the distraction or the pleasure of trying to go and watch Gary play while you were also trying to play Congressional. This week, where is Gary and who else in your family is present?

JACK NICKLAUS: Gary is in Madeira, playing the European Tour. My wife is with me. My son, Michael, is caddying for me. Michael has only caddied for me once before and Michael's girlfriend is with us, his fiancée. So, that is the extent of the people that are here. I have no distractions. I have nothing but looking forward to playing golf in front of me.

Q. Equipment?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I am always changing equipment. I mean, I have probably used a different putter every tournament this year. I am using one of our GB-86s which is a Golden Bear putter -- like I won the Tradition with, smaller version than I won The Masters with in 1986. I have got a new 3-wood in my bag which I picked up Friday, which is -- I have been working with us trying to get a smaller head for my 3-wood. We finally got one and they sent it to me Friday and I put it in the bag. And I like it a lot. It will get a lot of use here.

Q. You mentioned about you had not prepared as much as you maybe wanted to this week. Talk about your general health right now and how much you have been able to play the last couple weeks?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think healthwise I feel great. But, I pulled a groin right before Philadelphia. And, I tried to may -- I played a Senior Tour event, basically my feet right together because I couldn't take a backswing. And every time I did, I stretched that groin and it hurt. And, I thought I calmed it down by the time I got to the Memorial tournament and midway in the first round at the Memorial tournament on the backswing in the 13th hole, I pulled it again. And then I just sort of limped my way around the next round and a half. And, played terrible. I just couldn't swing. So I haven't prepared much for this tournament. Hoping to let the thing heal a little bit. Then I pulled it again Saturday. And, I had to walk off the golf course Saturday. So, my preparation hasn't been very good, but fortunately, knock on some wood here, try that one and this one (knocks on his head) and I changed my stance. I was doing sort of -- I know you heard me say I was using Jimmy Demaret's stance, that narrow point, my toe pointing to give me the freedom. Oddly enough, with the toe pointing to -- all I would do is pull it with my backswing because I was worried about the downswing. I came here before Rodgers and Jim Flick on the practice range; he said: Put your foot straight. He said it is a better post for you coming into the ball anyway. I tried that yesterday which is the first time I played since Saturday and it didn't hurt at all. And, I played about 12 holes yesterday and I was just delighted and I played 18 holes today and had no problems at all. And didn't even feel like getting the pull. So maybe that change of stance and change of straightening the left foot will allow me to go ahead and play. I wish I would have thought about that a week ago, though. But that has been my problem and I just -- my hip has been pretty good. Rest of me is pretty good. I think what I did was when I was on my bear hunt in early May, I was walking through the mountains with my boots on in high grass, I think I just strained that area. And, as soon as I got back, I didn't realize when I got back I made a swing and I felt something go (making sound) I said, uh-oh, -- I am sure I had a strain.

LES UNGER: You went bear hunting?

JACK NICKLAUS: I do all kind of crazy things.

LES UNGER: The Bear was bear hunting, did you say?

JACK NICKLAUS: The Bear was bear hunting, that is right. I think I am doing fine. I just haven't been able to work. I have been able to work on my short game, but I haven't been able to work on my long game.

Q. USGA is going to make some decisions shortly, maybe even tomorrow, regarding the clubs and the equipment and some of the changes, maybe even something to do with the golf ball which you have been pretty outspoken about and taking the air out of it, much like Pete Dye said the same thing. What is your opinion about what you think that they should do or -- and have you had any input with the USGA? Have they talked to you about anything suggested as a course designer yourself?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, last conversation I had with the USGA, Buzz Taylor came to see me in January. We had a conversation. I have had no conversations since then. He asked me my opinions and what I thought. And, we went through the ball thing and we talked about clubs and we talked about a variety of things. He asked me a bunch of questions - he and David Fay, they asked me a bunch of questions about different things. Whether they used any of it or not, I don't have any idea. I don't know what they did. And I have not been privy or asked things about that. Only thing I worry about is maintaining the integrity of the game at its highest level - which is where I made my living and where I have played all my life. I don't think that we need to reduce the advances of technology that have made the game so much more pleasureful (sic) for a lot of people that certainly not what I want to do. I don't want to do that from a club or ball standpoint or anything else. From a tournament standpoint is the only thing I am really concerned about. And, the type of golf ball that most of the fellows play in a tournament is not the type of golf ball that most people play with anyway. I think that equipment is not going to probably get changed significantly. I mean, there may be a few things that you guys know more about than I do because I haven't really paid any attention to it. I figured USGA has been the custodian of the game for however old the USGA is 100 -- 1894, 104 years. I mean, if they have been -- they have taken care of the game quite well, I think my only thing is that I think that they had needed to do something, and -- well, I think that the prudent thing to do any time is to not make a rash decision but to make a decision based on overtime of what you think needs to be done. That evidently is what they have done. And, I guess I am going to be as anxious to hear what they have said tomorrow as you are. So, I don't really know. I am sure there is a variety of things but I think that what they can do with clubs, I think are probably minimal. I think that the golf ball is probably the most logical thing to make the greatest adjustment in.

Q. Last year when you played with Johnny Miller here you mentioned that you never really played the Olympic Club well. Although you played well that day. Talk about that.

JACK NICKLAUS: I mean, well, meaning "Win." I mean, I finished third here with Arnold and Casper in 1966. I have no idea what I did in 1987. That is the only two times we played here; isn't it? I played the amateur here in 1958. I lost to Harvie Ward in the second round and -- never forget that round. Never seen a guy make so many putts, but anyway, the -- it's never been that I haven't liked the Olympic Club. , I just haven't won on it. I always liked the golf course. It is the type of golf course that I have grown up on for many things. You maneuver the golf ball, length is not a great factor, height. You hit the golf ball into the greens is a factor. It is all the things that I have done all my life that really you need to do on this golf course. So, there is no reason why I shouldn't play well. I just haven't won here.

Q. There has been a lot of talk about people waiting for the next great rivalry to develop. Either Tiger/Ernie Els or Tiger/Justin. Can you talk about the importance of a rivalry? Does golf need to have a rivalry like you had with Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, elevated your game?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when you say rivalry, I think there is -- rivalries come about by finding somebody who gets to the top of the game. And, if Tiger is the one that is at the top, then he is going to be rivaled by player, after player after player until somebody knocks him off that thrown. Then somebody else is going to be rivaled by player after player after player. I mean, Arnold was the king of the hill and he was rivaled by Finsterwald and Player; then I came along, I suppose, I guess, I got to the king of the hill and then I had my rivals -- Arnold trying to win that back, had Gary Player, I had Watson, Miller, Trevino, you know, you name it, the guys all came along and were playing -- that is what it really is. There is going to be somebody that gets to the top and somebody trying to get in there. Do I think that is important for the game? I think it is important for somebody to get to the top and, you guys are largely responsible for somebody getting there. Somebody's golf game might get there and you guys might not care to write about him and the public won't recognize him in that situation. You have obviously chosen to write a great deal about Tiger and whether Tiger really deserves to be in that position yet or not, you have got him in that position. So, whoever else is coming along is going to be that rivalry that comes with it. And I think that is good for the game of golf. It is good to have good players trying to knock somebody off of top. I suppose Tiger is probably is the top one today. But there is nobody really -- he is not really dominating to the level of -- of what maybe Arnold did or maybe I did or maybe Watson did or something -- not yet, anyway. I mean, David Duval is right there with it, too. David has won more golf than anybody else has in the last eight months.

Q. You were one of the players who gave videotape testimony in the Casey Martin trial. Now that he is here this week, have you seen him at all? Have you tried to make any -- what do you think of him being here riding in a major?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the USGA stood up and handled it well. And certainly didn't fight the issue. At least, from what I have read - I don't know - I assume that the USGA said -- that is the court ruling; that is what they accept and that is what they go with. I think it is not going to probably make a whole lot of difference this week. I think if you were playing in the British Open, with, you know, the weather conditions, it might make a difference, but I don't think you are going to have much weather conditions this week. But, I don't like it as it relates to the game of golf. But I understand the ruling and from Casey's standpoint, I am delighted for him as an individual. I worry about what its ramifications are for the future of the game of golf. I mean, you know, is there somebody else who is injured this week who would like to ride a cart? You know? I mean, is that -- what happens if somebody comes in, qualifies, he wants to ride a cart; does he want to have an injunction against that tournament? I think that is a little messy for the game of golf.

Q. Have you seen him play at all in person?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't know him. I met Casey a long time ago. I just said hello to him one time before, you know, as one of the kids some place. I don't really remember where. But, I don't know him at all.

Q. So you haven't seen him having to labor up some of the hills here around the greens and things like that? He is saying he is not at any advantage at all; that he is still working at a disadvantage because of --

JACK NICKLAUS: I am sure he is. I am sure he is at a disadvantage. I am not questioning what Casey Martin as an individual is. I am just questioning what is really the ultimate; what is happening in the game of golf. If you have got how many people -- you got 10 or 20 guys playing in a golf cart, I mean -- try the SENIOR TOUR sometime if you want to see pure chaos, and with no gallery. I mean, Senior Tour, the carts are basically for the caddies. If the carts were for the players who really needed the carts, then I don't have a problem with that. But most of the guys on the SENIOR TOUR walk and they got the caddies so they can put their sun cream and towels and soft drinks in a cart for convenience. I don't think that was the purpose of it. The purpose would be to help somebody who needs it like Casey needs it. And, but -- I still -- I mean, I don't like to see them on the SENIOR TOUR either. I just think walking is part of the game. But, that is the decision and that is the Court's decision and we certainly honor that and be happy for the young man to give him the opportunity to play which he might not otherwise be able to do.

Q. I have been following this thing way back and stuff, but injuries are not covered as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. So, injuries aren't a factor under the ruling this judge made.

JACK NICKLAUS: I understand that. But it is still -- somebody else is going -- they will use that -- somebody along the line is going to use it, I promise you. I promise you it is going to happen - going to come in and say: I sprained my ankle. I qualified for the Open. I sprained my ankle. I need to have something. And, they say, well, if he has it to play on a level field with him, then he is going -- you are going to have another mess someplace. It is going to happen.

Q. In your opinion, is it more important for the game of golf to have a number of great young players who are very competitive going at it each and every week or is it vitally important to have that dominant player surface to the top?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think it is -- you are going to have that combination. You are not going to have that dominant player without a bunch of good young players competing for that position. I think which came first the chicken or the egg basically.

Q. (inaudible) leading winner would have two wins.

JACK NICKLAUS: We don't have anybody dominating. I don't know -- how many wins did Tiger have last year, three or four? I mean, three or four has basically been the norm. I think Johnny Miller had his, what, eight or nine wins something like that? Arnold has had eight or nine. I don't know what my biggest season was. But probably seven or eight, I suppose, somewhere in that area. But, you know, that is a lot of wins. Maybe like one to of every 3 tournaments you are playing.

Q. Will we ever see that again?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I think you will. Sure. You will if you get the equipment straightened around.

LES UNGER: Anymore?


LES UNGER: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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