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June 12, 1996

Jack Nicklaus


LES UNGER: Well, I guess we have to talk about the weather.

JACK NICKLAUS: Talk about whatever you want to talk about, I guess. I was playing with Davis when we -- so Davis and I had about the same amount of golf today. I don't know what it's done out there, but I guess it is probably pretty wet. What would ya'll like to talk about?

LES UNGER: Questions for Jack.

Q. Jack, for a guy like you, is it a big deal to miss one extra day of practice considering how well you know this course?

JACK NICKLAUS: I was done. I played all I intended to play. I intended to play nine holes today. I have to say, the 9th was a little rushed, but that was all I was planning to play anyway, going to hit a few balls. If I hit any, fine; if I don't hit any, fine. I basically accomplished what I wanted to accomplish today.

Q. Talk a little bit about the weather, what this will mean to this specific tournament. Do you think we will be able to start tomorrow?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have any idea. I haven't been out there. I don't know what damage was done on the golf course, but you know, the thing that you are going to see happen which I think we all hate to see happen, but I think the USGA, they will protect against that as much as possible is that the greens when we got here Monday were taking footprints, and you could see where a footprint would go here and there. So they are going to have to be pretty careful the first couple of days with pin placements; otherwise, we are going to have -- the guys in the afternoon are going to have a pretty rough situation, so... But I think they will handle that. They have had that problem before. They will figure out how to handle it and they'll handle it. The golf course itself is in pretty nice condition. I don't think anybody had any complaints with the golf course to start with. The rough is tough. Fairways are good. The golf course is playing long. The greens, you know, have gotten better each day. Now the greens are going to revert a little bit with that weather and get soft again. But you know, what's new? We've had the same conditions all through the Midwest all spring, so if you think it is going to change, it's just what we have.

Q. Jack, is this your last Open and if so, can you reflect on your place in the history of this event and what you're going through mentally, emotionally right now on the eve of this tournament?

JACK NICKLAUS: I hope not. (LAUGHTER) That way I don't have to reflect on it, right? No, I don't know what this will be. I made an announcement earlier this year that I felt like this would probably be my last consecutive major tournament that I have been eligible for. This would be 147, I guess, and my wife thinks 150 sounds better, so that means if I play well this week, she is sending me to Britain, but we'll just have to see. I said I wouldn't go to Britain unless I was playing well, and -- I have enjoyed 40 years in the Open. I mean, somebody says this is your 40th U.S. Open. I think that's a lot of U.S. Opens. You know, guy is 56 years old, that means he had to start -- had to be moving along at an early age, so I just did a thing on ESPN, sort of reflected back on some of those Opens in some of the early years and things, and I still remember some of it, and it was -- I have enjoyed my run. I think I don't have the golf game to compete at a level that I used to be able to compete at. I really don't want to play. I probably should have not played in the last couple of years in major tournaments. That probably -- but you don't want to ever really stop until you are sure. I think I've probably gone about as far as I should go, and I still have some semblance of a golf game left. And I think like going out there this week, I feel like I have played well earlier this year. Haven't played very well the last -- well, I haven't played much last couple of months, only played the Memorial tournament and didn't play very well there, but I played well at the Tradition this year. Went to Augusta, tried to take that game, try to make a right-to-left game out of it and when I left Augusta, I couldn't hit my hat, so -- and I haven't played particularly well since then, so... But I am hitting the ball a little bit better now, hitting the ball similar to what I was when I went to Augusta. I don't have to play right-to-left on this golf course. I am very pleased with the pattern that I have got going, and I am looking forward to playing. I would like to, you know, obviously like to, if this is my last Open, I'd like to play well in it. I'd like to play, you know, all four days. I'd like to obviously shoot enough scores to have a chance to compete. Whether that is possible or not, I don't know, but I am looking forward to it very much.

Q. What would be your main remembrance of your first U.S. Open?


Q. What do you remember about the first time you played in this tournament?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was 17 years old. It was at Inverness. I was playing the first round. I think I played with Tommy Jacobs and Freddie Wampler, I think. I'm not dead positive about that, but I think I was. And I hit a 3-wood off the first hole down the middle of the fairway, hit a 7-iron on the green about 35 feet and I made the putt, parred the second hole. I parred the third hole, and my name went up on the leader board. I drove it in the left rough at number 4, didn't hit it on the green in 3. Made double bogey. My name went off the leader board and that was about what I remember. I shot 80, 80 which for a 17-year-old kid I guess wasn't all that bad but it was -- and then I had stayed around over the weekend and I remember going out and watching -- I remember watching Thompson and Devlin Spencer play and I remember watching Middlecoff and watching Mayer. I remember before the tournament watching Hogan practice and I guess Hogan never made it to the first tee. I guess he sort of -- I think he got spasmed up, hurt on the practice range, if I am not mistaken. Never did get to the first tee. I remember watching, I think -- can't remember whether -- I think Middlecoff and Mayer tied, didn't they? You weren't there. Okay. (LAUGHTER) I think they had a playoff, if I'm not mistaken. I think Mayer won the playoff. Could be wrong on that, but anyway, that is basically what I remember my first Open.

Q. So far there has been a bit of difference in opinion on how much teeth to this course will be taken out or added to with the rain. Is it going to be tougher or easier because of the rain?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think the golf course will be easier. Yeah, I think for likes of me it might be more difficult, because I don't have the length that I used to have; but for the likes of most of the guys who hit the ball far enough today, they will able to throw the ball at the pin. I think if you look back at the PGA Championship that was here in '79, we had rainy conditions on a very nicely conditioned golf course then, and they shot low scores and you said, boy, how in the world could you shoot scores that low? I think, what was it, 272 or 3 something on the tournament. Does anyone remember?

Q. '72.

JACK NICKLAUS: '72? Is that Player? Player won that one?

Q. Graham.

JACK NICKLAUS: Graham won that one? Player won that in what?

Q. '72?

JACK NICKLAUS: '72, Player won in '72. Okay. It was Graham shot the low scores, and you know, I think it was because the golf course was soft. You have as tough a set of greens as there is in the game of golf here. I always think Augusta might be tougher, but only because of the speed it would have. If you took them both at the same speed, these might be tougher. And you have pin placements here that when the greens are firm, you can't get the ball to the pin and if you try to -- just take the first hole for instance. The pin placements they have on the front left, front middle left, middle center, I guess, and back right, and you try to throw the ball into those pins when they are soft, the ball will go there and stay. You throw it when the greens are firm, if you don't hit it in the right spot the ball takes one bounce through the green and you've got a virtual impossible chip back, so you have to be careful; play it into the center. Then you have difficult putt up a three-foot ledge. I mean, you have got a whole bunch of different circumstances when the golf course is dry. Sure, it is shorter and you are playing shorter clubs, but I think they can stop a 3-iron easier than they can stop a 7-iron. And 3-iron, 7-iron really doesn't make that much difference to these guys. And most of them aren't going to play 3-irons anyway, I will, 2-irons or 1-irons. I think there is more to the golf course when it is firm, any golf course.

Q. Everybody talks about the length of Tiger and John Daly. How would you compare their length to yours in your prime and where do they get their power in their swings if you have played with them?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I have played with both of them. I don't know -- I think Tiger plays well within himself. John plays, I am not sure, how much within himself, because I just don't think anybody knows because he hits the ball so hard all the time. Both obviously are very good players, in very different ways. They are both very long. Who is longer? I don't really know. I don't think it is all that important who is longer. Daly is probably longer, but Woods is awful long.

Q. Are they longer than when you were in your prime?

JACK NICKLAUS: If I used the same equipment, I don't know. I couldn't answer the question because -- I doubt it. I certainly -- I think if they went back and used what I used and put it on-- I don't know how much difference it would be or one way or the other, but I suppose that I was probably about close to as long -- that much longer than most of the guys that I played with as they are with the guys they play with. Most everybody hits the ball long today. And I think equipment has got an awful lot to do with it, obviously, but they -- I don't think I ever hit the ball as hard as Daly. I don't think I probably was as long as John, but you know, who knows how are you going to tell. I mean, I use I know I am -- I was reading the paper this morning and they had a recount of Hogan's last round here in 1951 of the clubs he played to the greens. You know, 1-iron, 3-iron, you know, all that kind of stuff, and if you ask the guys today to go out and play these clubs to the greens you find out what scores they would shoot. I mean, there is just -- it is a different game than what they used to play.

Q. You haven't said since that news conference in February but is it going to be a feeling or a score that persuades you whether or not to play in the British Open?

JACK NICKLAUS: A feeling. I mean, I am certainly -- I am not going to go if I miss the cut. If I make the cut and I play reasonably well and looks like I think that I am playing decently; that I can compete, then I will probably go. If it doesn't, then I will make that call on Sunday night or I will make it on Friday night.

Q. Could you give us a recollections from some of your favorite Opens that you have played in through the years?

JACK NICKLAUS: What was the first part?

Q. Some recollections from your favorite U.S. Opens.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, '57 I gave you the recollection there. '60 was one that, you know, I played with Hogan last day and I think that was a pretty special tournament for a young guy who was 20 years old to look at the lead board after two rounds I guess I was 142, I guess, and Hogan was 142. Look at the lead board and say hey, I'm playing with Ben Hogan. That was I was pretty excited. And to go out and play with him and at the end of -- he had just hit every green in regulation the second round, and then he proceeded to hit the first 34 with me, and the way he played, the way he handled himself, how courteous he was with me, and it was a special thing for me and the -- and from that event, Larry, you know, I was very flattered because when I came here the next year I went to Augusta; then came here, Hogan sought me out to play practice rounds which I really got a big kick out of. Evidently he must have liked playing with me, and so I just -- I got a big kick out of it then playing with him. We both had a chance to win the golf tournament. We both sort of faultered at the end, you might say. I mean, I played 3 over par the last six holes and he played 4 over par the last two holes. But that was a pretty special event and enjoyed that very much. Then come back to Oakland Hills the next year and I just went through this exact same scenario on ESPN about ten minutes ago. And I was two shots behind Littler with seven holes to play and I was on the 12th tee. I hit a good tee shot at 12 and the 2 trees that are in your way now were not there then. You had a shot at the green those days. You don't have a shot now. Those trees have grown. You can't even play to it unless you hit it straight up on your second shot. There used to be an elm tree about 100 yards shorts of the green down at the right, and I clearly remember this like it is was yesterday. I had a 3-wood to the green. I hit it, just nailed it. It was going right at the pin. The pin was right at the side of the green and as I was standing there, all of a sudden I saw hats starting to blow in the air and paper going up in the air and this little whirl wind came through and hit this little elm tree and it went like this and bented out, hit the end of a branch and dropped straight down. And I knocked it on the green, 3-putted and made bogey rather than making birdie on the hole. Then I bogeyed 17 and lost by three shots. But I remember Oakland Hills for that. I remember it was a pretty special golf course for me. I enjoyed playing my practice rounds with Hogan and I had a good chance to win twice as an amateur. Obviously, I can go through, '62 obviously was special, winning my first professional event. Being in U.S. Open; beating Arnold in the playoff at Oakmont. All of it was a very special week. Then I missed the cut the next year, that wasn't so special, we will forget that. That was at Brookline. And then the next time I missed the cut from Brookline was here in '85, but anyway going to the next Open, it was special to me was Baltusrol. I would think in '67, because next one I really had a chance to win, I really wasn't competitive at Congressional or Bellerive or -- I was finished third at Olympic, but I really wasn't competitive. That was Palmer and Casper. Then went to Baltusrol and shot 62 the day before the tournament, practice round, and you know, I then realized that I can really play that golf course and of course I shot 65 the last round playing with Arnold and of course, holed about a 22-footer the last hole to break Hogan's record. Next year was a year that was -- I played very well, at Oak Hill. That is where we first -- we first saw Mr. Trevino the year before, finished fifth at Baltusrol, but he came down the stretch and he was playing right behind me. That was the year that I probably played some of my best golf in the U.S. Open. Kept hitting the wall 15 feet from the hole missing the putt and Trevino drove it in the rough; he missed the green, he is on 25 feet, par. He says, he missed another green, he is on 20 feet, par. I am sitting there; I am going crazy listening to this people giving me the feedback up there and of course when we got in, Lee won the tournament and played very well, and he won by -- I don't know what he beat me by, about four shots, I guess, as it turned out. But I had played a good Open then. Let's see. Then we went to Pebble Beach, was the next special one for me. And that week Pebble Beach played as though I think the way Pebble Beach should play; not the way it has played the last time. I thought Pebble Beach the last time was set up like an interior golf curse and not like a seaside golf course and in 1972 the course was hard and fast and I were talking a few minutes ago about the 6th green. I remember it was so blue that you can't -- you tried to figure how you are going to stop the ball on it; the wind would just continue to blow the ball across the green. And the wind in June in Pebble Beach is not all that normal. But it was really tough, difficult, and I can't remember whether I shot par or one over par, but I won the tournament, I don't know, two or three shots, whatever I won it by, but that was tough. And then I guess the next chance that I had where I really played pretty well was Medinah and that was in 1975 where I had. I lost Grand Slam by three shots that year, you might say, I won the Masters. I won the PGA Championship and I lost the British Open by 1 and U.S. Open by 2 and double bogeyed the 16th hole in the last round. Lou Graham won the tournament. Drove it in the left rough and missed it up the left side of the green; couldn't get it on and then chipped it down and missed the put and then made double bogey there. But I played very well obviously that year. Then I didn't really compete that well until 1980 and we went back to Baltusrol, both Weiskopf and I shot 63 the first round. I played wih Aoki all four rounds and I still go to Japan and the first question I am asked every single time I go to Japan is oh, tell us about 1980 U.S. Open, Baltusrol with Aoki and you know it's every time. So it's obviously had a big impression on them and had a big impression on me because I really played well there. And then of course the last time that I really competed closely was probably '82 at Pebble Beach again when Watson -- obviously, when I came and I remember Whittaker was interviewing me on the 18th green and congratulating me on winning my fifth Open and he forgot about a young man named Watson who just hit it over the 17th green and was about to chip it in, so... Okay?

LES UNGER: Larry, did you get an answer to your question? (LAUGHTER) Next.

Q. Just as a follow-up to your comments about Ben Hogan, early comment for me, if you would, on the influence that he had on you as a youngster, playing with him that way, especially with your course management skills.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I wouldn't say anything about the course management skills. I think that I probably developed that on my own. As it relates to playing with Hogan, as a young kid -- I mean, every kid imitates. And I go back prior to that -- I go back when I played with Snead in '56, I guess at the -- I played an exhibition and I went out and copied his swing that day and his rhythm the next day and won the Ohio Open the next day. Now, I did the same thing when I played with Hogan. When I played with him, it seemed like the next week I was playing Hogan's swing. I remember making sure that my swing got a little flatter for some reason, and I always made sure that my right never would catch my left, always remembered the back of my hand would lead everything through and up high, I mean, it was, you know, you would swing that way and that the influence that Hogan had on me from that standpoint was more imitating things as a youngster which you do. Also, I loved his demeanor on the golf course, the way he handled himself. He was -- Ben was never discourteous. When I hit a good shot - he didn't say it very often because he wasn't sure how many good shots you hit - but when you hit one he'd say "nice shot." He handled himself the way I like to be handled on a golf course and I learned from that. I think he was -- obviously I was very flattered by the way he treated me after that. But I think that -- I loved to go out -- I used to go out and watch Hogan practice; watch his action and watch some things so I learned from that standpoint. But I never played with him enough to really know his course management. I learned that basically by myself.

Q. If there were to be a serious delay this week, because the of the conditions, do you have a view about change of format that may have to be --

JACK NICKLAUS: I mean, I don't know. I think you have to ask the USGA that question, but does that mean, will they play 36 holes on Sunday or will they play on Monday, I don't know what they do. I assume they are trying to finish it on Sunday; play 36 holes, but you would have to ask them that question. Is that what you meant? I may be the oldest fellow on the field, but I am not the one to answer that question. (LAUGHTER).

LES UNGER: We hope to have a statement on that by 7 o'clock this evening.

Q. On the '71 Open at Merion, do you have any comments--

JACK NICKLAUS: I forgot that one, yeah.

Q. Oh, okay. I just wanted to ask you if you had any comments on it.

JACK NICKLAUS: If I have any comments on it? I should have, but I didn't think about it. Obviously I played well at Merion and tied with Trevino and he beat me in the playoff. Do I have any comments on it? Not a whole lot of comments. I played pretty well that week. I remember finishing the round. I holed a whole series of five-footers and about the last 4, 5 holes to keep myself in it. I remember that. And I remember I played pretty decent golf that week.

Q. Jack, Davis said that Tom's win at Muirfield was a popular win among the other players as he can remember. What were your thoughts in seeing him win?

JACK NICKLAUS: Same. I felt like I couldn't have been, as I said at Muirfield, I said I haven't had a victory in a tournament that pleased me anymore or anything as much since the Masters that I won in '86 including my own wins. And I was really -- I meant that because I think Tom has played as good as anybody has played in the last five years, and some of the circumstances have been hairs that he had lost by, but some of them have not been under his control, and he just -- he is playing -- plays so well, hits the ball so nicely I -- for him to win, of course to win at my tournament was very special for us and I hope special for me. He has been there virtually as much as anybody that has ever played at the Memorial Tournament. He has played very well and he just, you know, when came down the stretch, I mean he was looking at about a 4-shot lead there; all of a sudden just kept dwindling away as Duval was eagle, eagle, par, birdie, birdie I guess he finished and all of a sudden, woops, 5 or 6 shot lead I guess he had. All of a sudden, now he has got to par the last hole, and I am sure that Tom would have-- it was probably a little sweeter doing it that way I said; he said, yeah, but not nearly as easy but more nerve wracking. I thought it was a very special win for the game of golf.

Q. The way the Tour is these days 15 weeks, 15 different winners. Is it possible in today's game for someone to dominate like yourself or a Palmer where you have five, six, seven victories a season?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think they do. Of course, sure. You could win. Win quite a few events. Dominate as much, I think it is far more difficult. Particularly over a long period of time. I just think that the game has become, you know -- the equipment has made the game too equal. I mean, we were just talking -- Andy North and I were talking about how he used to go out and -- he says we are talking about golf balls, how guys, you know, he says, we are going to do a golf ball; now I like the golf ball, it goes through wind nicely, but can I get one with a little bit less trajectory and one that goes higher because we are playing a course this week where you have to throw it over bunkers. We used to play with the same golf ball basically. I used to love watching Hogan or Snead or Nelson get the ball around the golf course. Because then you saw the ball move left-to-right or right-to-left or high or low. Today the guys just take it and, BOOM, and everything seems to go long and straight. I don't think -- the guys are terrific today, great talents, but I think that -- I think that-- I don't think it was, the game was quite as difficult today. How are you going to change that? That is like asking us when we were playing to go back to hickory shafts, same thing about us. Technology changes things. Only thing that you can control is the golf ball. I am not going to get on that one; not now anyway. But anyway, and I think they will change the golf ball eventually. I think they will. I think they have to if they are ever going to get back to playing, you know, separating the players a little bit. Then if you did that then, yes, guys can dominate.

Q. You mentioned that you would mimic Hogan's swing the next day or the next day after you played with him. Now are you mimicking maybe the way he treated you when you play with players like Tiger Woods the same sort of respect for the younger players that you were given by Hogan?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I think we were down at the Memorial tournament and had made a game with Watson. He said, "I asked Tiger to play;" I said, "that is fine." I saw Tiger's name was down there. I put my name beside it. I enjoy -- I want to watch the young man play. I think obviously he has got a tremendous future. Maybe Hogan wanted to watch me for the same reason, I don't know. I want to watch him. I like to see how he is progressing. Very interested in his career. Very interested in what he does. Because I just think he has got such a future. But I suppose there are similarities there.

Q. Mr. Nicklaus the father of Woods thinks that his son Tiger Woods playing with you, is like you are passing the torch to him --.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand.

Q. I am sorry.

JACK NICKLAUS: Skipping 35 years? Not quite. I think there are a few torches in the middle, but he is going to carry the torch for a long time.

Q. You have been very good at predicting winning scores at big tournaments?


Q. Prediction here?

LES UNGER: Looking for a prediction of a score.

JACK NICKLAUS: Jerry, it could be anything. Probably -- what is par, par 70?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I don't think you are going to find -- probably shoot 6 or 7 under par, 5 or 6-under par.

LES UNGER: Everybody is happy? Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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