May 28, 1996
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay, what can I do for you? What would you like to talk about? Talk about the golf course first? The golf course is pretty good. I think I got up there last week, the golf course was real good and then, of course, it started raining, which is nothing unusual, I guess. So now it is relatively soft, but we had just an absolute ton of rain this spring. I understand from -- tell me if I am wrong -- I was told about 26 inches above normal; is that about, right?
JACK NICKLAUS: If you could take a golf course and have 26 inches above normal, which means you have not been having much sunshine having that much rain and have it in the condition that they have done here - they have done a remarkable job. As I understand, most all the other golf courses in the area are just in terrible shape. I understand Oakland Hills is just having a horrible time right now.
Q. Not too bad right now.
JACK NICKLAUS: I understand the greens have been having a horrible time just getting them back. Trying to get a golf course, to get it ready at this time of year, has been very difficult. They have done a great job here. The golf course is good. If we get any kind of breaking weather, the golf course will play very, very nicely. The rough is, you know, it is something else. You just can't move the ball anyplace out of it. Maybe some of these other guys can, but I don't think that I could 25 years, I couldn't move a ball out of this rough.
Q. Is it the thickest you have ever seen it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Pretty thick. I can't imagine it being any thicker. Of course, our fairways are generous, so you better keep it in. But the golf course is in excellent shape. The guys have done a great job and prepared the course very nicely.
Q. How similar is this course to Oakland Hills?
JACK NICKLAUS: Similar? Only turf-wise, except our greens are mostly bent and theirs are basically poa annua.
Q. Terrain or anything like that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Terrain is, I'd say, fairly similar. I can't -- Oakland Hills is not much different, really. They are just probably two weeks behind us weather-wise, is what they have got, Steve. Being, what, 200 miles north, that is about what they are. And so if they have had the same weather, they are going to have a hard time bringing things together at this early stage of the year, too.
Q. Will this be a proper preparation site, then, for Oakland Hills, do you think?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think -- I am not worried about this being a proper preparation site for anything.
WES SEELEY: And your game at this stage?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I haven't played. I played PGA Seniors. I didn't play a round -- I didn't play 18 holes from PGA Seniors until I got here Saturday, so that was about six weeks without playing a round of golf. I played, you know, several 9 hole rounds and practiced a little bit over the last week or so before I got here, but I am a little rusty, but I am hitting the ball decently. Just finished the Skins game out there. I am walking down the 9th hole and had 7 pars and a birdie and I hadn't smelled a skin and I birdied the last hole to win a skin. I said, good gracious, played some pretty fairly decent golf to do nothing, but I am not playing badly. I am not playing great, but I am not playing badly, but I don't think my golf game is great anymore, so...
Q. The six weeks off is by design, just business things or --
JACK NICKLAUS: I had a whole bunch -- I would have loved to have played a tournament in there, just couldn't get it in. Too many things happening, and just sort of happened that way.
Q. Greg comes in here after five weeks just as he did, I guess, a year ago. No. 1, have you spoken to him in that time, or --
JACK NICKLAUS: I spoke to him the day after The Masters, that is all.
Q. What do you think his mindset will be coming in here, any idea?
JACK NICKLAUS: You will have to ask him. Would be pretty hard for me to answer that question, wouldn't it? It has been five weeks since -- whatever it has been, maybe -- whatever it has been, I am sure that he's had a nice rest and he came in here last year basically about the same time. Didn't he take the same time off last year? And he came in here and won the golf tournament? I expect him to play pretty well this week.
Q. When you were young in your career and focusing on Majors more, did you look at film much of a course coming up?
JACK NICKLAUS: Never have, no.
Q. Looked at the course and study films?
JACK NICKLAUS: No.
Q. Mickelson was saying that he watched the '85 U.S. Open on film and could pick something up.
JACK NICKLAUS: Not going to pick much up. Look at it and find out that it is in Detroit. (laughter).
Q. Trees and holes, got trees and sand traps --
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't see how you can really get much out of it until you can play it. If you played it several times and you know the golf course, then if you want to look at film of how it played in a tournament, that is something different; but if you have never been there, I would think that is pretty difficult. Can't imagine gaining too much from that.
Q. I know you did in Augusta, but did you go in as much in U.S. Open and PGA's ahead of time?
JACK NICKLAUS: Always did. Absolutely. I am going to Oakland Hills next week and play one day, and then I will go back before the tournament and see how much I need after that.
Q. Phil talked about he bought some classic MacGregor woods from a collector and has been hitting them, I guess at home in Arizona.
JACK NICKLAUS: Playing right-handed now?
Q. Found some lefties. He said that -- the question he was asked was about, you know, chasing your records that you set when you were his age, and given that, and he said that it is not possible for anybody to do this because the equipment has brought so many -- it doesn't allow better players to separate themselves from the field anymore and that the story he told about the MacGregor woods was that when he misses shots with those woods, he really misses them more than you can miss shots nowadays. I mean, the ball just goes well off the mark. And as you look back, was talent more of a determining factor when you were his age?
JACK NICKLAUS: Bob, you have been at every press conference that I have given. What have I said? I have said exactly that.
Q. I don't have those old notes.
JACK NICKLAUS: I said exactly that.
JACK NICKLAUS: He said no differently than what I have said, but we are -- but now we won't change equipment now because all the young kids have grown up with it. We just started into metal and just started into perimeter weighting; just started into those things, we might have been able to change some of that stuff but we can't change it now.
Q. A few years back, though, you were really pushing for a Tour ball.
JACK NICKLAUS: That is the only thing you can possibly adjust today. You are not going to change the clubs. I still push for not -- not a Tour ball, a spec, that the manufacturer make a ball, for a tournament ball. I mean, I am not suggesting that we have a ball and walk on the first tee and pick one out of a basket. I am suggesting that I play Maxflies and I walk on the first tee and I have 3 Maxflies made to a spec that the Tour has required; same with Titleist, same with Wilson, same with, you know, whoever else makes golf balls.
Q. Would you agree with him that your records are unreachable for any particular reason?
JACK NICKLAUS: More difficult, yeah, several reasons. One, I mean, if somebody gets there, you know -- you know that may well happen. I mean, I think it is possible, certainly possible. I mean, Tiger Woods has got a pretty good run started. I don't know what he is going to do beyond that point. He has got a pretty good start. As a matter of fact, he has got a better start than I had - won two Majors by the time he was 20 years old. The equipment is one thing. You have got the number of players is another. The conditions of the golf course is another. There is a whole bunch of issues that bring parity to the game. And I would think if you went back and took the guys, as talented as they are, and brought back a 300 and what is it, I don't know 336 or 334 dimple golf ball, whatever it was, you bring that ball back, put a set of forged irons and a set of wood heads in their bag and go out and play, you are going to find out that -- you are going to find out that you are going to have about half as many good players as you used to have or half as many outstanding players as you used to have. And the equipment has helped a lot of -- you have learned that -- I mean, good gracious, I am here this week, I brought in a 6 and 3 quarter degree driver; brought in a 7 and a quarter, 7 and a half, I brought in an 8, I brought in a 9. I mean, you know, if I got a good driver, a wood driver -- I mean, I wouldn't even have a clue what that wood driver had for loft, I want to find one that really looked good and I could hit. I mean, we could make golf clubs -- I could change a shaft. I could tip it a half an inch. I could go a lighter shaft, a heavier shaft. I could do a whole bunch of different things with it, different lengths, we never even thought about that. You know, I mean, the putters -- I mean, players got 10 different materials for inserts, for different feels. I think one I am using comes off about one and a half to one, working on one that comes off one-to-one, I mean, I mean, we would have never even thought about it.
Q. What length driver are you playing now?
JACK NICKLAUS: 45.
Q. Inch and a half more?
JACK NICKLAUS: Basically than I have played most of the time. We wouldn't even have thought of those things, but each individual guy has the ability and the technology to go and grab at anyone of those. They got all the manufacturers out there wanting to look at stuff so if I want a set of golf course -- I have got beginning of set of golf clubs in the fall-- went down to MacGregors when I was a kid or first year as pros or whatever, and we ground a set of golf clubs and that was the golf clubs I used that year and maybe had two or three drivers in case I broke one and if they weren't good then they had to wait 'til next year to go get it. I mean, you don't do that anymore. It doesn't work that way.
Q. How about the zero iron, the Daly zero iron?
JACK NICKLAUS: Doesn't mean anything. You are the second person that asked me that. I don't have a clue what he has done. If Daly hits his one iron and knocks it 9 miles up in the air then he has one with less loft and he calls it a zero. He could play a minus one if he wants to, what difference does it make? He doesn't carry a second wood. For him, to get a driving iron, basically, is what he is asking you for, is -- you know, it is probably pretty good move for him.
Q. You said he didn't even know what the loft was?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think he has loft in any of his clubs, if you look at him. He doesn't care what his golf clubs are. That kid picks up anything and goes hits it. Hits it great. He is a tremendous talent. He never worried about that. Watch what he does. You ask him, what is it. He says, I don't know, they just gave it to me; I like it. Maybe he is far better off that way. Everybody else knows to the half of degree of everything, I mean, you know, he doesn't know any of that stuff. He doesn't care. Just goes and hits it. Pretty good way to be, actually.
Q. I am going to be clear on one thing you have said. You said there was half as many -- there would be half as many outstanding players as there used to be or as there are now?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you are talking about separating the players, right?
JACK NICKLAUS: The equipment, if you went back to the old players, you would -- they would separate themselves. It would be half as many guys who would -- at a U.S. Open or at a Masters would be as competitive as they are now. I think the equipment is exactly the -- I said it in reverse of what you just said, right? I just agreed with you is what I said.
Q. Did you get a Kodiak Bear?
JACK NICKLAUS: No.
Q. Anything with the bow and arrow?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. We went up and we had about six days of sunshine in the Alaskan peninsula. I didn't go to Kodiak. I went to Alaska. They have about six days of sunshine a year and they had about a dozen before I got there and they had eight more while I was there and it was, 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. We had a nice view with our binoculars from about 2000 yards for two or three miles several times from the bears and that is all we saw. 800 yards is the closest we got to one. Got some nice rest on the hill, didn't we, Steve? Get up at 4 o'clock in the morning; go out and walk through the streams; have your boots freeze up on you and climb the hills and get up there and sit down and start-- and then freezing to death then; by 9 o'clock you are sitting there sweltering there with your longjohns on; then everything comes off. It was not one of the better trips I have made.
Q. I have sat in these press conferences five years in a row now. Do you still get an enjoyment out of playing golf, Jack?
JACK NICKLAUS: If I play half way decent, sure.
Q. With all the pressure that everybody puts on you, I think, the press has a big thing to say well, he is not playing up to speed and, obviously, you said that you are getting older and I know that has affected your game. Do you still really enjoy going out and playing golf --
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't enjoy playing golf if I play poorly at all. That is why I am trying -- that is why I said this year I am going to cut back my golf game. That is why I am not going to probably play -- unless I really play pretty well at the U.S. Open, I am going to play the British Open. I do not enjoy going out and playing poorly. I just do not have any fun doing that. And there is only so much of it that my system will take. And I take a little bit of it, but I don't really want to have a whole lot of it. I have enough years of it over the last five; probably -- Senior Golf -- I probably could still compete at the senior golf level. It is pretty difficult out here now for me.
Q. Do you know what for sure you will play in, Jack?
JACK NICKLAUS: All I know is that I am going to play in -- I am going to play the U.S. Open next week. I will play the Senior Open three weeks after that and the Senior TPC. Whether I will play again before the PGA is a questionmark. After the PGA I am going to play with my son Gary at Peter's event. I am going to play --
JACK NICKLAUS: Phoenix. Japan, in November. I am going to play the 3-Tour Challenge. I am going to play the Diners Club matches and if I qualify, I will probably play the Senior Tour Championship. And I may pick up one or two events somewhere along the line if I got time to be there. I am going to do -- If I don't go to the British Open, I might pick up something around there during that period if I don't -- I might pick up something in September, October or something, I don't know.
Q. Any preparation for Senior, like Kroger or something like that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think I could play there. I got too many things happening.
Q. With all the time you have been away from golf, the last month or so, have you thought at all about Oakland Hills in the last Open and --
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't had time. I have had other things on my mind, Bob. Golf is not my No. 1 priority, my friend. Golf is something I really enjoy playing if I can play it halfway decently. And I love being involved in what is going on, but you know, when you don't do something as well as you used to, you don't have as much fun at it and I go out and if I play decently, I am really -- I really enjoy it. The problem is, when you play decently it is probably not competitive and that is the part -- that really is not -- is the fun part is being competitive and I mean, decently is probably going out here this week and finishing the top -- somewhere in the top 30, I suppose, probably would be playing decently for me, but to be competitive, that is a question I don't know whether I could be competitive. That is why I struggle with it and I probably think that I am probably better off doing what I am doing.
Q. Anything about this golf course that in the last couple of years here you have missed the cut, is it --
JACK NICKLAUS: I misses the last two?
Q. Yes. What are the demands? What can't you handle with this golf course now that you were better able to handle?
JACK NICKLAUS: Rain and the length. Length used to not be a problem factor for me. Length has become a big factor for me. I am longer this year than I was last year due to the driver I am using, but length has become more of a factor to me than anything anymore. I mean, you look at Raymond and Hale, take an example of a couple of senior players who still compete when they play on regular Tour and they still compete. Raymond's strength has always been in his short game and Hale has always been throughout his game and very strong within his short game, and my strength was always my power. And I never worried about my short game. Well, you know, when they went to the Senior Tour and/or even playing out here, they don't -- they may lose a little bit of it distancewise although Raymond was still very long and Hale was never concerned about being long; still had a short game and they still could compete. I don't have the length, so I have lost the factor that dominated the game for me and I don't have a chance -- actually, I have to compete with something that was inferior which my short game was inferior to theirs, so it is very difficult for me -- it is more difficult for me to compete. My short game probably right now is the best it has ever been in my life. And because I have had to concentrate more on it, but I don't know whether my short game is going to be ever as good as it needs to be to be at the level that would compensate for the power that I lost. I doubt that it ever will be.
Q. You talked a few years ago about possibly which it didn't happen, but talked about possibly finishing up the Open with the three places that you have won at; you have gone a couple of years beyond that. Do you have one or two special memories of Oakland Hills, things that --
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, special memory of Oakland Hills is I won there the last time I played and I almost won there as an amateur. In between, I didn't play particularly well at Oakland Hills. I like Oakland Hills. I think it is a good golf course. I think it is probably next to Augusta the most difficult set of greens that we find in golf, really tough set of greens - which doesn't bother me. I like that part of it. Doesn't bother me in the least. It is a long golf course, though. Long, hard, demanding golf course.
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