June 29, 1994
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
JACK NICKLAUS: What can I do for you?
LES UNGER: Why don't you talk about Pinehurst just a bit.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, what do you want me to talk about Pinehurst? I can talk for hours about Pinehurst.
Q. What is your first memory of it?
JACK NICKLAUS: First memory? I came here in college. I was 18 years old. I was on spring break. I came by and I played -- I played number 2 then, I think, I probably played number one, maybe number four. I don't know, I played three, four golf courses. I think I played down at Pine Needles. I played several golf courses here and I enjoyed it. After I did that, I said well, I think I want to come back and play North/South one time. I came back the next year, played North/South, won that. I remember the way the golf course played for the North/South. I don't remember -- I think we can probably go back to the archives and find out the scores I shot. It was over 80 both rounds, and I have shot in the finals and won the tournament. That is the way this golf course used to play. Used to play hard, fast, used to play very difficult to get the ball up and down around the greens it was a very, very difficult golf course; particularly in the springtime when you didn't have your grass on the greens -- around the greens and I have never played it any other time where I have seen it under those conditions except that time. That used to be gold conditions, conditions they like to reproduce, but never seem to get there. Mother Nature seems to rain on top of you anymore and it doesn't allow it to happen.
Q. The way France has played it?
JACK NICKLAUS: You would know.
Q. You have won two years ago, three years ago, you won last year, compare your golf game at the moment compared to --
JACK NICKLAUS: I had -- I think my golf game was better last year coming in. It was pretty awful coming in last year but I played pretty well during the tournament last year. I have just started to play a few good rounds as of late. I haven't played many, but I played a few. And I am starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as far as playing some decent golf. That is kind of encouraging. I played, obviously, couple of decent rounds at the Open, and then I played a couple of decent rounds last week, and in between it was sort of -- just didn't -- I just didn't make any putts. But on the last round, particularly, I hit the ball very, very well; looked like I had a chance to show a low score; then I messed it up. But I am a little encouraged by the way I am playing. I am not playing great. I am not playing my best by any means, but you don't necessarily want to be playing your best on Wednesday anyway.
Q. What did it do for you in your confidence to play so well at Oakmont?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, first two rounds gave me a lot of confidence, then I destroyed it the last two. I mean, I didn't drive the ball particularly well at Oakmont last two months. As a matter of fact, I didn't drive it particularly well the second round. I got six roughs in the second round, I got out, but I was in where I could play then the third round I ended up in all the lies that Johnny Miller was in the second round which -- we'd be five yards apart. He'd chip it out and I'd knock it on the green. That was the way Oakmont was. If you were just off the fairway you just couldn't play at all. And I sort of got in that syndrome the third round, and I lost my ability to be able to do anything because it was just too difficult out of the rough. But I certainly started swinging better. My golf swing got considerably better. I carried it over, to some extent, last week. I certainly feel like my iron game has come back a lot. I am still not totally happy with the driver, but I am getting better with it. That is encouraging.
Q. Which driver is this?
JACK NICKLAUS: It is a prototype of another model of the Bear. It is the Bear with face progression on it; made it a little deeper face.
Q. (Question inaudible)
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think so. I don't think-- I drove with that driver last week; I drove the ball decent. I think it is a pretty decent driver, but it is not going to be what we're ultimately going to put out. I have already made the changes on this driver for the next thing I want. I just want to keep working 'til we get the prototype the way we want it, then we'll make another model of it. But I play myself through that stuff anyway.
Q. Could you just comment on the new pace of play outlines they put out?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand it, frankly. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense. We have been playing on the Senior Tour, which plays very fast, and I don't know what they are really asking us to do. To be very honest with you, they have asked us to play at a slower pace than we played on the Senior Tour, yet, play faster per shot which doesn't make any sense at all to me. I don't understand it. Does anybody else understand it in here? Does it make any sense to anybody? They'd ask you to play ten seconds faster than we have ever played on the tour, on any shot; yet, they give you more time than we have ever given to us to play 18 holes of golf. I don't understand that. Doesn't make any sense to me.
Q. Ben Hogan had a five hour round at Oakmont; what do you want?
JACK NICKLAUS: If you want-- say what you want and give a guy a reasonable amount of time to play. I mean, 30 seconds is ridiculous. I mean, we have been playing 40 seconds for how many years? That is what we have been playing all the time, always playing 40 seconds. Those have been the guidelines that we have used playing golf, and it has been very -- the regular tour has become very fast; the Senior Tour has become very fast, the play is very fast; all of a sudden we are supposed to take ten seconds off a shot. That doesn't make any sense.
Q. You got bent out of shape?
JACK NICKLAUS: They didn't enforce anything. If you are going to do the thing, then you enforce it at the start. You don't change the rules. Just enforce -- the first group played in what, four hours and --
Q. Four and a half.
JACK NICKLAUS: Four and a half hours. All you are going to do is get slower. You got to start off at the first group and go from there. It is not how fast you play per shot. It is how fast you keep going, and that is what they did on the Senior Tour. That is what they have done on the regular tour, they have done a very, very good job on the tour. I think it has been great. I love it. I have always been a player who played the pace of the field, and then sometimes that pace is slow; then they speed up; then I get myself in trouble. But I like the faster pace, I think it is great, but I don't think you take a pace like that and all of a sudden just, you know, jump way ahead of it.
Q. What did the USGA say?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't talked to the USGA.
Q. Who made the rule?
JACK NICKLAUS: It said David Eger and Judy Bell on the sheet.
Q. Why don't you ask --
JACK NICKLAUS: I was just asked the question.
Q. I am sorry.
JACK NICKLAUS: I am not complaining about it. I was asked the question about what I thought about it. I said I didn't understand what they were doing - is what I said. I mean, it didn't make any sense to take -- did you miss the first part of what I said?
Q. I just got here.
JACK NICKLAUS: What I said is they have given us-- senior play and the regular play has been very fast, on both tours. U.S. Open was slow. But that was the enforcement of the USGA on the first few groups, not to pace the play of a player. All they got to do is keep that moving and the pace of play has been moving on all the tours. They have given us ample time to play. As a matter of fact, more than probably ample time to play the golf course on the number, but then they asked to us play ten seconds faster - a shot which doesn't make any sense at all. That was what I am saying. I don't understand what they want to accomplish. Maybe it is only ten seconds faster a shot if you get behind. I don't know. But if you played at that pace, if you played a ten seconds faster shot all through the golf course, we will be playing in about three hours and ten minutes probably.
Q. I join in your bafflement.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand it. I don't understand why the players-- why the players are suffering the brunt of managing a field. Doesn't make any sense. They have passed it on to the players. I don't think it is the players' fault.
Q. Do you know how much weight you might have lost at Oakmont?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't lose any weight. I gained weight at Oakmont.
Q. How drained were you by Sunday night?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was fine. I didn't have any problem at all. All I did at Oakmont I had two glasses of water on every tee and I kept myself hydrated and I didn't have a problem.
Q. You had all those younger players were playing on empty?
JACK NICKLAUS: I mean you had to just drink water. If you didn't, you are just asking for trouble.
Q. How much has the rain softened up these greens and how much difference --
JACK NICKLAUS: A lot.
Q. Going to be able to go right at the pins?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know if you go right at the pins. What we have right now is a golf course with fairly slow greens and fairly soft. But yet chipping to them, the ball will get away from you. I mean, they are firm; they are soft hitting in, but firm chipping, meaning the ball will skip and run off on you, so they are kind of -- actually they got kind of touchy to play right now. I am not sure exactly -- I mean one time we were chipping out; one time hitting bounce and skip; then hit and stop, just-- they are not consistent yet. I think we would all love to see them dry out and play a little faster.
Q. If they don't, if we get more rain tonight; if we get more rain during the week, how is that going to affect. . .
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what they are going to do to the golf course. Arnold and I played up here two months ago.
Q. Just after The Masters?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, we played a practice round. I think we played it on Tuesday. On Monday evening we played a practice round. Greens were extremely slow, slower than they are right now. Yet the next day when we played, the greens were magnificent. They cut them-- double cut them at night; double cut them the next morning and they were terrific and they ran about 10 and they were just great. And I don't know how -- I mean, they change the golf course overnight by just mowing and doing things -- maybe that is their plan tonight. They have had very hot conditions. They have had very difficult conditions for growing grass and maybe their plan was not to abuse the golf course prior to the event and bring the speed up the last day. What does the USGA say they are getting the speed to?
Q. 9 and a half, 10?
JACK NICKLAUS: If they did exactly what they did with us then the speeds will be that and they will play fine. If we get rain; then they will be soft, but they will at least be quick. Quick enough. They probably weren't running 7 out there today. They are pretty slow. But I don't really expect to see the golf course that way tomorrow -- I expect to see a different golf course tomorrow. I mean, it's a wonderful golf course, it is sand hills and that is the reason why somebody picked this area to build golf courses because it drains fast. I mean, doesn't take long around here; doesn't it?
Q. It was an accident.
JACK NICKLAUS: It was an accident?
Q. That came as an aftermath, the golf course. No, there is a famous saying: When it rains here, if you listen hard enough, you can hear it sizzle when it hits hell because it takes about ten seconds?
JACK NICKLAUS: It goes through it fast, the golf course dries out pretty fast. You are not going to dry out the greens that fast, but I noticed the fellows yesterday morning came in as I was warming up yesterday-- I came in late yesterday afternoon. They said, gosh, it was soft out there. Gosh it was slow out there. And I went out yesterday evening after it had a day of traffic and wind on it, the golf course wasn't bad at all last night. Now I played this morning after it rained against last night and the golf course was slow. So I don't know what the golf course is we're going to play, I really don't. Whatever it be, it's Pinehurst. Pinehurst is a wonderful golf course, a wonderful test of golf; great place to have the Open, this Open, and we are going to have the regular Open in 99. I think that is great. I think you picked one of the meccas of the game of golf and the game of golf is a great place to come and play regardless of how it is.
Q. If it's going to be a different golf course tomorrow when the championship starts --
JACK NICKLAUS: Why did we bother to practice today?
Q. I guess.
JACK NICKLAUS: You still got to hit the golf ball; practice that. I don't know worry too much about where I putted today I worry about that.
Q. How about your game?
JACK NICKLAUS: I get stiff if I wait.
Q. How about your game now; how are you playing now and how do you rate yourself as a chance to win?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, as I said, a minute ago, my golf game is getting better than it was a month ago, but it is not the way I'd like to have it, but it is not bad. And how do I rate my chances to win? We all start out even; that is all I know. We will just see what happens beyond that.
Q. Were you touched by the reception you had at Oakmont and if so, did that encourage you to play a little more?
JACK NICKLAUS: Very nice reception I had at Oakmont. The only thing that is going to get me to play is my ability to play - or should I say if I were to sustain the way I played this year over a longer period of time, I am not going to play much longer, if I start to play a little bit better then I will play. I think -- I am hoping that what happens -- the way I played this year has been a temporary situation. Certainly it hasn't been from lack of working at it. I have worked at it very hard. I have played a lot of golf this year contrary to what a lot of people think, but I have played an awful lot of golf. I work at it as hard as I have ever worked at it. I just-- my body just wouldn't handle me working at it to the length I worked at it to years ago, but I still work at it very hard and I work at it with the intent of playing good golf, but if I can't play and perform, I mean, it doesn't -- it is not any fun for me to come out and beat the ball around in a ceremonial-type situation. I enjoy competing and that is why I play golf. If you can't compete it is no fun.
Q. You talked about the change in court conditions. In terms of the number of courses in this area that you have designed and had a hand in design does that give you the advantage over the other players knowing that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Just one. Just one course here. No, I don't think there is any advantage one way or the other. I think any time you have played a golf course over a period-- although I come out here and play, I have forgotten all the little nuances of this golf course. I mean, this golf course here has got tons of things to try to remember. You can't remember them all if you are not playing a lot of golf here. A lot of little bounces around the green; you hit shots and the ball goes whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, it is going all over the place; you are saying where did that come from; you are saying, oh, yeah, you just learn as you go. A lot of things in this golf course.
Q. Is it the same kind of pressure; same kind of excitement, anticipation, playing in a senior Open as in a regular Open?
JACK NICKLAUS: No.
Q. How does it rate, I mean, it's a major championship; is it?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's a senior major championship. I mean, I think you would be saying-- I think I answered this question yesterday or the day before, I went through -- at the press conference they asked the same question after playing all these majors in a row, I am not trying to degrade a senior major because a senior major is to the seniors a major championship as big as any other thing. But it is not one of the four major championships of the world which are the best players in the world playing in it. We are not the best players in the world. We are seniors, we are passed being the best players in the world. We had our time as it relates to that. As it relates to what we have today, this is the biggest tournament that we have as a senior golfer. And am I excited to be here yes, I was excited to have won it twice,; yes, I am delighted to have it under my belt twice. I'd like to have it under my belt three times and I have worked hard to prepare for this because realistically, you know, maybe I had a chance at Oakmont in my mind, but I think I realistically have a chance with my golf game and my mind here this week.
Q. How long has it been since you played 3 in a row?
JACK NICKLAUS: Since the Tradition, Masters, and PGA seniors every year, last four, five years. Three in a row tournaments or three in a row majors?
Q. Three tournaments?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I did -- I played-- last year I played-- last year I played three in a row twice, six out seven weeks last year only tournament I skipped last year was Players Championship; is that right -- I played Doral, Honda and Bay Hill skipped the Players and then played Tradition, Masters and PGA Seniors I played six out of of seven. I was bla bla bla at the end of that week.
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