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July 9, 1997

Jack Nicklaus


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Jack Nicklaus back for the 15th Ford SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. Thoughts about coming back for this event and your game.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's always nice to be back anywhere at our age, isn't it? I think all the fellows are happy to be back. Amen. I think that the golf course is nice. I think they've done a really nice job in getting it in condition. I think Mike's worked hard. Mike's worked hard on the changes to get those in shape so they look like they've been here for a long time. The golf course looks good. My own game is reasonable. It's been a lot better in the last, you know, six weeks or so than it's been for the early part of the year. I've played some decent golf. I haven't really felt like I scored nearly as well as I've played, but hopefully one of these weeks that's going to come along, and hopefully it will be this week.

Q. Have you made up --


Q. You knew that was coming?


Q. It's been in one of the golf magazines or something, said you are. I don't recall you ever confirming that.

JACK NICKLAUS: Huh-uh. Huh-uh. Nope, I have not. You're talking about the British Open, I assume?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: No. I've said I wouldn't make up my mind until after this tournament. Two factors, one of them is eliminated. If Gary qualifies, I was going to go automatically. But, Gary missed qualifying, shot 72 in the first qualifier, didn't qualify, so that's gone. So if I play -- if I win here, I'll go for sure. If I play very well and think that I can be competitive, then I'll go.

Q. Kind of like last year --

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't want to go if I don't think I can be competitive. It's a long way to go. It's a big trip. But, then again, there's only one British Open every year, just like there's only one everything every year. I love to go. I love to play. But, I don't want to go unless I'm -- I don't want to go to just take up a spot.

Q. Is it different than last year? Is it a different qualification, different standard than last year?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, a little bit. I've had so much trouble with my body through most of this year that the preparation, getting ready to play, and the problems I had last year physically. I mean, I don't know how I played so well, but I played pretty well in the first two rounds, and I ended up spending three hours preparing for every round, trying to get so I could play. You know, that gets a little old. I felt a lot better lately, so that's -- hopefully that's part of wanting to play. When you feel better, you feel like your body is going to stay in one piece.

Q. It sounds like you have a higher standard, though. You have to play better going in than you did, you felt, last year. Is that true?

JACK NICKLAUS: I wasn't hurting when I went over there last year, like I have this year.

Q. Have these problems initiated anything in your game, Jack?

JACK NICKLAUS: Physical problems?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: Not really, Lee. Just a steady flow of deterioration over time (laughter). But, no, my physical problems have been problems I've had for -- you know, they're just problems that a lot of us have. You don't get to the SENIOR TOUR without getting beat up a little bit. It's not a big deal. It's just -- you know, it's old age, that's all. My hip has been the worst problem. That's a problem that's been on and off for ten years. But, it's been more frequent in the last five years and been very frequent this year.

Q. You don't have to let them know Friday?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. I've entered the tournament. I'm entered in the tournament.

Q. You either show up or you don't show up, is that it?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I wouldn't do that.

Q. I know, but that's all --

JACK NICKLAUS: I had to enter the tournament like the 1st of June. If I decide I want to go, I have to enter. It is just like the PGA CHAMPIONSHIP, I've entered. Whether I am going to play or not, I don't know.

Q. You don't really have to make up your mind till Sunday?

JACK NICKLAUS: They have a qualifier Monday and Tuesday, or -- Sunday and Monday. And, so, I wouldn't make up my mind past Monday just because, out of courtesy to them, because they're pairing, I wouldn't want to have them pair me and not have me play.

Q. Does the streak have anything to do with it, any extra factor into it at all?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've played a long time. Yeah, probably does, because I hate to not play from the standpoint that I've played every year ever since I've played golf. And I think that -- but there's sometime when that's going to end, period. I'd rather end it on my terms than just keep going. I mean, I can play the British Open till I'm 65, through age 65. You know, I'm exempt through then. But, you know, I don't want to take up a spot. I don't just want to go through the motions of showing up for the tournament. Most of the time I've played - even though I haven't been playing as well as I used to play - I still played well enough to be somewhere near it. I mean, if you look in the last five years, I mean, the Masters, I've had some pretty good rounds being in contention, 67 a couple times the first round. Almost in the lead -- what was I? One shot out of the lead or something like that at the British Open. Even this year at the US Open, after the first two rounds, if I would have had a good round on Saturday, I was in the middle of that golf tournament. I didn't have a good round Saturday. But, I was there to be in the middle of the golf tournament. So, you know, when you feel like you can be competitive, then you want to play. If you feel like you're just there going through the motions and taking up a spot, you don't want to do that. I don't want to just -- I'm getting close to that. Maybe I'm even past that. Maybe you're the last one to know. Still, I want to be fair with the tournament. I want to be fair with me, too.

Q. Jack, you made an awful lot of accomplishments in golf over the years, and such. You're in the record books. Now getting the Achievement Award on Saturday night, what do those kind of awards mean to your career?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, all of them are very nice. Anytime you get any kind of award that honors you for your achievements and your records, your past, are very nice. They're nice things to have anytime. You don't get those awards unless you achieve something. I'll be on there with good company. You know, the previous fellows in front of me, Byron, Sam, Arnold, who else is in that? Fifth or sixth time they've done it? Fifth time. There's one I missed there. Who did I miss?

Q. I'm looking.

JACK NICKLAUS: I know Byron, Sam, Arnold.

Q. I'll can't come up with it real quickly here.

JACK NICKLAUS: I can't either. Those are nice awards. They're nice things for people to say thank you to you and for you to say thank you to the people.

Q. Arnold and Byron, Sam Snead.

JACK NICKLAUS: It's the fourth then?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't miss anybody.

Q. Don't think so.


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Anything else?

JACK NICKLAUS: Do you want to talk about the golf course, changes in the golf course? You guys haven't asked me about that.

Q. We've had good response from people.

JACK NICKLAUS: Let me give you the reasons why we did what we did. First of all, when we did this golf course, I thought the golf course was going to be plenty tough enough. So, I didn't do a lot of things to the golf course. I kept it fairly open, let them play golf. But, I thought a couple things lacked a little definition. And after we played it a few years, I came back and I asked -- I talked to Billy first, Dettlaff, then I talked to The TOUR. I said, "I'd like to do a couple things. They're scoring this golf course better than I think they should score the golf course. That maybe there's a couple places on the golf course you can be a little sloppy. And, I'd like to shore those up. But, also there's a couple of holes that I think we can probably create a little bit more excitement." So that's -- I felt No. 2 could use a little definition off the right. I think that bunker might make the hole easier simply because anybody hitting the ball about where that bunker is, is probably going to go off in the trees, keep the ball from getting in the trees. No. 9, I definitely felt like they were taking advantage of the 9th hole, hitting it up the left side and bouncing through the rough and going through the trees. I thought that really wasn't the way the hole was designed or meant to be -- I didn't think that that would be in play. I tried because it was a fairly long par 4 not to make it to difficult so I put grass hollows rather than bunkers. So I felt like it needed the bunkers. We put the bunkers in and they put the trees in. Those are tough trees. You know what I'm talking about there?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: They're tough trees. Then we got around to the 13th hole. I think the 13th hole just lacked some definition off the tee. I don't think those bunkers will make the hole an eighth of a shot tougher or an eighth of a shot easier. I think they will just give you a little definition off the tee. 16 really didn't feel like -- guys playing 3 and 4-iron off that tee, they still might play an iron off the back tee. But, at least, they're going to play an iron or a fairway wood into a spot and I think it is going to be a better hole and the guys won't be driving the ball all the way to the green, which they've been driving it over sometimes over all the bunkers downwind. 17, I felt like it really wasn't a fair enough tee shot to tell a guy to hit the ball all the time, to give him a chance to get home in two. So we filled a little bit of lake in, softened the fairway a little bit and bunkered it on the right to where they were bailing out coming down and put trees on the right so you just couldn't throw it anywhere out to the right but then moved the tee left so we felt like the angle would give you a better shot and a fairer tee shot getting down the fairway to get home in two. I think it would create more excitement for the golf tournament. Because I only tried it on one occasion. I didn't try to hit on it on the green before, but I mean, I tried to put it down there on one occasion when I felt it meant something, two years ago when I had a chance to win and made eagle there. I felt like that created a lot of excitement within the tournament and I felt that more of us ought to have that opportunity to be able to do that. That's why I put that in. I think that actually makes it a little easier, not tougher, but more exciting. Then the 18th hole, we said we really want to take away the right side where they had the one big one tree and if you hit it further right, you could hit it as far as right as you wanted to and there is nothing in your way. Put a few more trees in on the right side to try to make you play the 18th hole the way the 18th hole was designed. That's what we did and why we did it.

Q. 18 today you saved a pretty good par from going in the --

JACK NICKLAUS: I hit a tee shot right where I wanted to. I hit it right down the corner, didn't carry the corner. I hit my one-and-a-half iron. Sometimes I carry a 4-wood and put a one-and-a-half-iron in, take my 1- and 2-iron out. I switched it back tonight. I'm going to put my 1 and 2-iron back in, take that out and take the 4-wood out. Because my 1-iron can carry that corner, I think (laughter). Let's put it this way, as I always tell someone, you can carry that last year. Anyway, that's where we are.

Q. With the adjustments then, what do you just offhand pick for a winning score?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think ultimately might be a shot or two tougher, that's about it. That's about all. I mean, if you have it dry and hard, the scores will get a little harder. I think the golf course will play like it should play, yeah. Which is all I ask. I mean, I don't care if the guys shoot low scores. I don't want to have them shooting, you know, even par and then make the golf course tougher and they can't shoot par. That wasn't the objective. I think they're shooting low enough that a little bit more discipline on the golf course won't be objectionable.

Q. In light of the Tigermania, all the stuff on the regular Tour, does the SENIOR TOUR seem quieter to you now? Is it as exciting as it's ever been?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think the SENIOR TOUR has continued to grow in popularity. I think Tiger has brought new people into the game, not only on the regular TOUR, but he's brought a lot of people to the SENIOR TOUR, people are more interested in the game of golf. He's been good for the game. He's handled himself very well. We're delighted to have him. I think he'll help golf everywhere in the world. Nice to have a little shot in the arm for the game.

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