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March 3, 1997

Jack Nicklaus


Q. How many Heat games do you get to a year?

JACK NICKLAUS: Last time I was at a Heat game was when I played the Doral last year. Maybe not. I went down to a Bulls' game. I might have gone to one or two last year.

Q. What's going on with your physically? Is your hip really bothering you?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it has been bothering me, but it didn't bother me today. Actually my hip is quite good today. But, the biggest problem is because it has been screwed up, I haven't been able to practice the way I need to practice. And, I haven't been able to prepare myself or do the things you need to do. I've been playing awful. I've been playing awful for a long time. But, anyway, that's all right. I feel actually pretty good today. I felt good today. I really -- I walked 18 holes today and I don't hurt anywhere, and that's really good.

Q. Are you still wearing soft spikes?


Q. Do you think that helps at all?

JACK NICKLAUS: Uh-huh. Yes, I think it does.

Q. Talk about, I guess, swing-wise, what are you doing or --

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what I'm doing. But I know I've been -- I can't hit the ball out of my shadow and I've got a rare combination of short and crooked going. And, that's a lot of fun. And, so, actually, I just left -- when I left the practice shed, Phil Rogers was there and Phil's been a good friend for a long time. He said, "Jack, I've got to help fix you." So I think that -- he said something that made sense to me about what we talked about the first time I've had something make sense to me for a while. And, I started hitting the ball good on the practice tee. And, whether I can take it to the golf course by Thursday, I don't know. It put my body in a position where I didn't hurt to swing and it was correct and easy.

Q. Can you talk about the golf course? You've seen it now.

JACK NICKLAUS: The golf course - Raymond accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. He said he wanted to make it tougher. He sure did that.

Q. What do you think of 18?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I have always tried to play golf with a golf club. Now I have a hard time driving with my rifle. I mean, 18 is really narrow. 18 was narrow before, but you go back to the back and you play it with a prevailing sea breeze and there's not much driving area to land the ball, because you can't carry the ball over the water, and bunkers are on the right, there's not much, and so -- but you want a strong finishing hole. The 18th hole has always been one of the strongest holes in the game of golf, the 18th hole on this golf course, and they've made it tougher. Frankly, I have no objection to anything Raymond did on the golf course. Matter of fact, I kind of like it. I think it's going to make the golf course play more difficult, which I think it should. And, I felt like Doral was always one of the -- I always enjoyed coming here and playing. That's why I enjoyed playing. It is good and tough and I enjoy playing. The golf course has gotten easier, you shoot 142, 143 and you might miss the cut. 142, 143 and you always had a chance to win the tournament. I like it that way. I think that's the way golf courses should be. The tougher the better. This golf course is tough. It's certainly very demanding off the tee. It will be easier on some holes. Because the bunkers will be easier to hit than the sand. You used to hit the ball to the left on No. 2. I'm not sure that the sand will be easier to play out of than the rough. But for the most part, the course is longer; it's tougher. The few greens that he's pitched towards the water and shaved the banks, those are going to add some strokes.

Q. Raymond is portraying it as a restoration; not a redesign?

JACK NICKLAUS: It's a partial/partial. I think he restored a lot of the golf course, but I think he also redesigned a little bit of it, too. But you have to do that if you're going to do that. I think he should be allowed that latitude and I think he took it and I think that's fine. I think the guys are going to complain. They're going to yell like the devil. But, I think he did the right thing.

Q. Is 18 too hard now?

JACK NICKLAUS: What's too hard? It's the only hole -- as I said, that's one hole you really -- it's really difficult to drive on. But do you want the 18th hole in golf on your golf course to be really scary and tough? If you do, he certainly accomplished it.

Q. As somebody who played here the first time, how much now does it look like then?

JACK NICKLAUS: It doesn't look like it at all. The bunkers, when they did the golf course, the bunkers -- he made the bunkers without any walk-outs, or any islands, and the original golf course had islands and fingers down in the bunkers and so forth. My guess is that over the next year or two he's going to come back in and do that. He's got to come back in. You can't have people walking up the banks of bunkers. I think he's going to have to do that. I don't know why they didn't do it when they started. Or maybe he had a reason for not doing it. And if you know what that reason is, I'd like to know. Do you?

Q. I think he says how he wanted them steep on all sides -- just so the ball never plugs in there, it always comes down, falls down into the bottom?

JACK NICKLAUS: What -- it's falling down into is a crease, all the bunkers are increased at the bottom, and they have to learn how to rake the bunkers. They're raking the bunkers around the bottom and up the banks and putting a crease in it. All the balls are rolling in the increase. He says: "I can't get them to rake them the way I want them to wake them." That's the problem we have. They'll learn that. Good gracious, I've got 138 in play now, and do I have every golf course the way I want it; do they maintain the way I want? Of course, they don't. You've got to work with them and it takes time. And, I think Raymond did a nice job and I think in time they're going to learn to do the things he wants to do, and there will be some things for maintenance that he's going to have to adjust to and make corrections on some things. But, every golf course has that. For the first time out of the block, for what he did, he did a heck of a good job.

Q. Does the course play the way it did? You said it doesn't look the way it did, but does it play the way it did 35 years ago?

JACK NICKLAUS: I wouldn't know. I certainly played no game 35 years ago that I found I have in my bag today, so, I have a hard time guessing, if you know what I'm saying. The way I played 35 years ago it wouldn't make much difference. The bunkers I'm finding, the first ones, I never even looked at those, if they would have been there 35 years ago.

Q. Raymond said that when he first played this course it was probably the hardest course he had ever played. Do you share some of those same feelings?

JACK NICKLAUS: It had a lot of very, very hard features on it. A lot of balls would run and get off the greens and get away from them and very difficult to get up-and-down. It had a lot of those features on the golf course.

Q. Talk a little bit about Tiger. I don't know how much you've played with him or met him or all those kind of things.

JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't played with him since the U.S. Open last year. Seen him one time since.

Q. What do you think about what he's done since turning pro?

JACK NICKLAUS: I would be pretty hard pressed to say anything different than what anybody else has said. I think he's phenomenal.

Q. Nowadays with all the attention, media pressure, all the various things, did you have to deal with the same type of things that he has to?

JACK NICKLAUS: To a much lesser degree. I don't think that I had anywhere near the amount of media or public pressure that this young man has had, and he has handled it beautifully.

Q. How does that impact on a guy's game, head?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. It maybe impacted his game to where he played better. He didn't play anywhere near as well in the amateurs as he is. He is certainly a good amateur, but not as good as he is now.

Q. He's certainly a positive for the sport. Everyone has said that. Getting away from Tiger, do you see anything at all in this golf growth, boom, whatever, that you're a little worried about it, because you've spent years building up the game? Is there anything on the horizon, maybe how expensive clubs are becoming or the absence of daily fee courses?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's really become very much on the upswing.

In my design work, I'd say probably better than half of the courses I build now are daily fee golf courses, or resort golf courses, access to the public. No, I don't really see too many things. You're going to find a negative with everything, if you want to. Right now I see golf as a genuinely growing in our country, genuinely growing all around the world, bringing new people into the game. Lots of kids are coming into the game. Lots of women are coming into the game. Your baby boomers are starting to come of age and starting to -- who are now having money to do different things, so they're wanting to play golf, but they're also wanting to travel. So that's why your daily fees on your resort golf courses are more popular. We're finding that people want a first class experience but don't necessarily want to be tied down to one golf course. So that's why your high end daily fee golf courses are becoming more popular. This golf course, they raised the greens fees a hundred dollars.

Q. 225?

JACK NICKLAUS: They're 225 now. I'm not going to pay 225 dollars to play golf. But what I'm -- I should really explain what I meant there. I don't think anything about paying three or $4,000 dues to a golf course, but to go out and play one single round -- but people are thinking different now. In other words, people are thinking, okay, I may come down, I'm not going to spend my $3,000 for my yearly membership at the golf course, I'm going to play -- I'm not going to play more than 20 rounds of golf this year, and if I average 150 dollars a round, I'm spending the same amount of money, but get to play some more golf courses. Would I do that? Probably not. But that's beside the point. People think that way. I'm still of the old school. I want my practice tee and locker room and I want to be able to go out there when I want to and tee off when I want to. But that's not what the average public is thinking today. And I think that's -- actually I think that's very good for the game of golf.

Q. Almost sounds like a democratization of golf experiences, and that's good for the game?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's fine. And we're building golf courses that way. We're doing that all over the world. My mentality is not there yet, I'm seeing it. I don't really see too many negatives in the game. I think probably the biggest negative you're having is that the explosion from what Tiger is bringing into the game, people are coming to the golf course are not yet golfers. He's had some trouble on golf courses with the gallery or with the press or photographers. And they are people who are genuinely coming to the game because they're attracted by him. They'll learn. That will end shortly. So I don't really see anything that I see from too much of a negative standpoint. I see things very positive right now.

Q. Jack, back to your game. Last year we heard that the streak of majors was going to end and four majors later it's still going.

JACK NICKLAUS: A lot of the USGA saw fit to invite me this year and spoiled my retirement party.

Q. Do you think that this might be the year?

JACK NICKLAUS: I will probably, you know -- I'm not going to say anything for sure until I get to the U.S. Open. If -- if what I'm doing right now with the way I'm playing golf is any indication, I should retire today. You think I'm kidding? It as bad as I've ever hit the golf ball. And the only time I can think of worse was my 49th birthday, I played with Gene Dickinson and shot my age for nine holes. That was when my back was really bothering me. That was eight years ago. I got over that and won a few tournaments since then. I'll get over it today and I hope I win some tournaments, obviously. I can answer the question best when we get to the U.S. Open. My plans are probably to end my major championship tournament golf at the U.S. Open, unless I play very well in The Masters and U.S. Open. That's the only way I can answer that question right now.

Q. Well, you've got your own swing to worry about before Thursday. What about your pairing with Norman, do you look forward to it?

JACK NICKLAUS: I told him: "I've got bad news for you, you're going to have to put up with me again."

Q. Is there somebody on TOUR whose swing you really admire, that you might stop on the driving range and just watch them?

JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't been out here enough to know. I haven't stopped and watched anybody, no. But I'm sure there's some very good golf swings out there. I'd like to stop and watch my son, Gary's, more often, but he's not out very often, because I think he's got as nice a golf swing as there is out there. I've always enjoyed watching Ernie swing a golf club. He swings it beautifully. I think Norman swings the golf club very well. They wouldn't be out here if they didn't. The young kids, I haven't seen them enough to watch them play. Obviously, Tiger. But I really haven't been out enough to watch them.

Q. Greg made some changes in the last four months. Did you see anything different in the way he looks or sets up?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. He didn't say a word about it and I didn't notice anything different. He's a little less rotational. He's not as much round as he was, which I think that's just a phase. I think that's probably better for him. But outside of that, I didn't see too much. I thought he played very well today; hit the ball very nicely.

Q. Jack, when you design a golf course as being played by your peers as Muirfield was in 1976, what is this week like for Raymond and Greg as a course he'll be reviewing in May, BellSouth, is that an unusual week, is there tension or anxiety?

JACK NICKLAUS: You always want your golf course to show well. I've had probably over 50 golf tournaments -- over 50 of my courses have housed fairly significant golf tournaments. That's quite a few. In my early years, most of the golf courses I did were for tournament golf because that's what they asked me to do. But you always want your golf course to show well. You want the guys to enjoy it. You want the guys to play well, yet you don't want them to tear it up. You want it to be a fair test. You want them walking away wanting to come back and play it again.

Q. Do you have a design philosophy?


Q. You said early on, "the tougher the better." Is that basically it?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. Do I have a design philosophy? Yes. Am I going to go through it now? No. It could take hours. Besides, Chris is going to write a book on it, so I'll let Chris tell you about it.

Q. Is this a tournament that you're going to want to play for quite a while, in South Florida?


Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: I want to play here as long as my golf game is suitable to play here. If today was any indication, it's not suitable anymore. Now, that doesn't mean that I won't be better tomorrow and it will be suitable Thursday. That's the way I look at the major championships. That's the way I look at the British Open this year. That's the way I look at most anything I play. I'm not sure my game is suitable for the Senior Tour. I haven't finished better than 15 in a senior tournament since last summer. So, that's why I said that.

Q. I guess kind of speaking to that, recently I heard an interview where you talked about your two most memorable moments in golf I think, was the '86 Masters and Tom Watson's victory this year. I think I got it right. Can you talk about why Tom Watson's win was so important to you?

JACK NICKLAUS: There's a lot of memorable moments for me. When people ask me what was that and I said I haven't had a lot of memorable moments recently - when Tom won The Memorial Tournament this year, being my tournament, and I really felt that Tom's golf game has been awfully good for the last few years. He's been a good friend. I've enjoyed competing against him. We both have enjoyed playing with each other as partners. We play a lot of practice rounds together. And to watch him come down the stretch and win that golf tournament, that was a big thrill for me. It was my place, my tournament. And Tom came back from nine years and won there. I was happy for him. There are other things that -- what I do that excite me in the game of golf. I'd like to have a lot of excitement out of my kids more than me. I've had enough excitements.

Q. Do you have a favorite memory here?

JACK NICKLAUS: Not recently. I'd have to go back a few years. The last time I played well here has been a long time.

Q. Didn't you have a top-10 like in '91?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. That was not very memorable. Last time I won here was probably 20 some years ago. And I don't remember much about that.

Q. You say you have a real fondness for this place, right?

JACK NICKLAUS: I've always enjoyed the golf course. It's always been a fun golf course to play. It's always been the place closest to where we have a significant tournament that the office and the family and everybody comes down and plays. I used to go both here and Fort Lauderdale, those two tournaments. And, recently, I've played a little bit at Honda, but I haven't played that much. That course was too tough for me. It was too long and I just had a hard time with it. They're playing a different course this year, but I'm going to Africa Tuesday, so I won't be here.

Q. Having known some greatness and now talking about your game in such a negative way --

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not really talking in a negative way. I'm really sort of playing fun at myself. I get myself pumped up a little bit that way.

Q. This is not a down period mentally?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I'm fine. My mental attitude will be fine. When I tee up Thursday, I'll be just fine. I'm always that way. I always like to get you guys saying, boy, he's way down, and then I go out and shoot --

Q. You're a spin master. You've always bounced back in the past.

JACK NICKLAUS: I've always tried to. I always try to kick myself hard enough so I will bounce back.

Q. Is there any worry or doubt --

JACK NICKLAUS: It was a worry 20 years ago that I'd never bounce back. In 1979, after I played the way I did then, I said I don't even want to think about 1980. 1980 was a pretty good year.

Q. Jack, there's some guys, Crenshaw and Curtis on TV and trying to juggle the two, playing and TV, and not doing that well on the golf course. Jacobsen tried it a couple of years ago. Was that a hard juggle for you in your work with ABC?

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't do that much on TV. My work I did on TV was very little. I did the tournaments that ABC did and the major championships, which at that time was the U.S. Open, British and the PGA.

Q. It didn't interfere with your game at all?

JACK NICKLAUS: I won't say it didn't interfere, but I wasn't doing a number of events and a full schedule. These guys are doing 10, 12, 14 events. And it was only -- the only time I was required to be there was after I finished my own play. If I was in the last group coming down at the end of a U.S. Open and they say, "Jack, you need to get in the TV booth," it was not part of the deal. When I got off the course, when I got finished practicing I would go, and that was the way my deal was.

Q. What would you think the most demanding part of trying to do the juggle would be or is there any --

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know.

Q. -- Focus?

JACK NICKLAUS: You've got a few balls in the air. If you want to really play well, it's very difficult sometimes to keep those balls level. Particularly for that many events, they're going to be demanding on you, they're not going to be very understanding, if you're one of the announcers and you've got 12 or 14 events. And understandably so.

Q. There's been a lot of talk recently baseball, basketball, young kids coming up don't respect the game, there's been a lot of inner criticism in those sports. Is there someone out there, an athlete that you admire as a counter to that, someone who represents fine tradition for you?

JACK NICKLAUS: If I start naming athletes that I respect, there's going to be a lot of them. And to start naming them, I would be leaving out some that I would forget, so I won't do that. But, I think, in most part, the leaders of our sports, in general, you know, are pretty good role models.

Q. You see that role for Tiger in the future?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think Tiger will handle it very well. And I think Michael Jordan has handled it very well. There I go naming names. But there's a lot of guys who have handled that situation very well. And it's a big responsibility.

Q. You had it?

JACK NICKLAUS: Sure. Sure, you've got to handle it well. If you don't handle it well, I think your sport suffers.

Q. Is there anything you would say to Tiger that he should be wary of or watch for?

JACK NICKLAUS: He'll find his own way. He certainly had enough coaching. He'll probably do just fine. And he's accepted very well.

End of FastScripts....

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