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June 16, 1994

Jack Nicklaus


LES UNGER: In case you don't recognize it, we have the 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus. Here.

JACK NICKLAUS: That is right, that is what my wife told me this morning. She came in, she says, "I'm going to put a spell on you. You are 22, you are 22." I said, "I accept it."

Q. Then what did you do?

JACK NICKLAUS: So I worked. Anyway. . . .

LES UNGER: Would you mind going through the usual non-par or par.

JACK NICKLAUS: Been so long since I have been in a press tent, it is not usual. Today was a day that the last two days I haven't -- I haven't hit the ball very well. Hit a few club shots on the face of the club. I wasn't as good as I thought I should be. I finished up last night hitting the ball very well on the practice tee. I warmed up well this morning and opened up with a pulled tee shot down the left rough. I said well, this is what I have been doing and I got a decent lie. I played a 7-iron out of the rough to about twelve feet, and I got totally robbed on the putt. The ball hung on the top side of the lip, which will fall in the afternoon - meaning, that the cup was like this early in the morning. So anyway, I got off to a par. Second hole I hit an 8-iron at about four feet from the hole. Didn't even come close. 3-iron and 8-iron. Third hole I hit a 3-wood and a 4-iron that I thought I put right in the hole, just went right past the hole on to the back fringe. Hit a good 3-wood that went to the back fringe. Hit a terrible chip. Left it about 15 feet short and missed that putt. Next hole I hit 3-wood -- yeah, 3-wood and 8-iron about 25 feet, and I almost made that, very closely. Next hole I played a 5-iron just short and played a terrible chip. Left it about ten feet short. Missed the putt. 7th I hit in the left rough with the driver. Hit it in the right bunker, which was a pretty good shot from where I was. Hit a good bunker shot to about six feet; made it for par. Then I started playing golf. Next hole I hit a 2-iron at about 3 feet from the hole for birdie. Next hole I hit a driver, didn't quite catch my 1-iron. I left it in the bunker, hit it out about 15 feet and not a very good bunker shot; really hit a good putt that didn't go in. Next hole was a 1-iron, 6-iron; rolled through to the back fringe- as every shot will do there today - probably and I want to make sure I left my chip short; I was a little too short. I left it about five feet short and I made putt. Next hole I hit a 3-wood and 9-iron about, oh, eight or nine feet, I guess, missed that. Next hole I hit a 3-wood and a 3-iron and pitching wedge about 20 feet and I made one. Next hole I hit a 6-iron about ten feet, I guess, maybe 11 feet. I missed that. Next hole, I hit 1-iron and a pitching wedge about twelve feet, I guess, I made that. Next hole I played a 3-wood and a 4-iron about 30 feet to the right of the hole. I nearly made that. Next hole I hit a 1-iron, which went through the green. I didn't play a very good pitch back. Left it about, oh, 18, 20 feet short and missed that for bogey. Next hole I played 2-iron and a sand wedge about 25 feet by the hole. I left about four feet short coming down. I made the second putt. 18 I played a 3-wood and a 5-iron about oh, must have been what seven, eight feet left to the hole? (Laughter) About 40 feet, I guess, 35, 40 feet, and all I am trying to do was figure out some way to get it close enough to make a second putt and the ball went in. I played about 10 foot of break and just turned and it fell in the cup. End of story.

Q. Chris Patton had to drop out after eight holes with heat exhaustion. Colin Montgomerie had to have to I.V. fluids. What did you do out there to keep at bay and how do you feel for the next few days?

JACK NICKLAUS: I just drink a lot water. I had two glasses of water on every tee and I do that every time I play. I usually drink on 72 tees, during the tournament. Lately only 36, but I drink -- actually, I drink usually one cup and I thought because of this heat, I tried to drink two because I knew it was going to be a problem. And I drink two and I feel fine. Just keep up that and keep a little bit of food in you, keep the blood sugar level, and that is about it.

Q. Did you go to those wooden woods last night?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I have used -- I started using them about a week ago. Why? What do you mean?

Q. I just hadn't seen them in your hand for a while?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have used them at U.S. Open almost every time. I don't remember, Jeff, I have used-- I get to the Open and I look at the golf course and if it's -- the golf course really doesn't require a whole lot of distance; then I have always used my 3-wood. I usually put in a wood driver because I hit 10, 15 yards short, maybe 20 yards shorter than my metal driver, but I think I hit it straighter. And I hit it far enough when I need it. So that's what I did.

Q. You have often said in recent times that concentration was a big problem for you. What went wrong today?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have not said that.

Q. Concentration has not been a problem?


Q. What has been a problem?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have just played poorly. It is hard to concentrate when you are hitting where I have been hitting it, but no, I have not had a problem concentrating. Any time that I have been able to find my golf ball, I have been able to concentrate, and I found my golf ball today. I didn't have a problem at all. That is not a problem for me.

Q. Jack, I talked to Barbara on the 12th hole. She mentioned that you have been stressing "patience," not only patience with your game, but also patience with your swing. You obviously --

JACK NICKLAUS: Patience with myself more than anything else.

Q. With yourself? You obviously displayed a lot of that today.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it was easy to have patience today because I didn't make very many mistakes, but I think this whole golf tournament -- U.S. Open, is about patience, about being able to control oneself, being able to have good course management. U.S. Open has never been about power. It has always been about playing a game that are under the most difficult conditions that they can give you, and they've given us pretty good difficult conditions here at Oakmont. And that is why I have always enjoyed the U.S. Open. I always loved to have what I think is the ultimate test. And who knows what I am going to do tomorrow. But today, I was good. And that was fun. I really enjoyed -- I had a ball out there.

Q. You have said often you found something-- "I found it while practicing; I found it." What do you find out there, find on the practice tee?

JACK NICKLAUS: Looking for little Gremlins and Genies.

Q. Come on.

JACK NICKLAUS: No. I told when I was in here in the press room the other day, I said that I thought I found something in my golf swing that was helping me. I didn't know how I would use it or how I would respond or when I would start playing well. I felt like I was starting to hit the ball an on the face of the club. What I did, I was playing on Saturday, I guess it was. And I was coming in the last two holes. I was really unhappy with what I was doing with it. I was hitting it all over the world. I hit all over the world in practice just as well as I hit in tournaments, so I spread it around. But anyway, I finally got -- I said I need to get on top of the golf ball a little bit more. I need to be able to stay on the ball. And I just started analyzing -- my shoulder turn has been-- I have been trying to flatten my shoulder turn. As a result, I take my shoulder off the ball. My shoulder is going in a different plane than my arms are going. I basically try to point my left shoulder at the golf ball and try to take the hands out of the backswing, because before, if I wasn't keeping -- my shoulder was going to turn like this. I had to take a different backswing with my hands halfway back, that gives me four, five different planes to try and control. And the game is not that difficult. It really isn't. I mean, I see all these guys out there hitting the ball straight. Why can't I hit it straight? I figure if I can get them on plane, I start putting my left shoulder on the ball, keeping it all in one piece and all of a sudden everything -- I started hitting it more solidly. And yesterday, on the golf course, I hit a lot of good shots, but bad ones too. When I got finished, I was ticked off with myself. I went to the practice range, made sure I took my hands out of it. Made sure that it was arms pulling everything back with my shoulder going in that plane. I had started hitting the ball well on the practice tee and I continued that today.

Q. Jack, you talked about conditions. Were the conditions any easier today and did they put water on the greens?

JACK NICKLAUS: Steve, the golf course on Tuesday, I thought was-- I thought 75 would be an awfully good score on Tuesday. They softened the golf course up a little bit for Wednesday, and I thought it was very playable Wednesday. And it played about the same today. I thought the golf course was fine. Tough, which I think it should be, but I thought it was fine.

Q. Let us expand on the Barbara thing of 22 years --

JACK NICKLAUS: I am missing you.

Q. Let us expand on Barbara's comment that you are 22 years old. Let us make Arnold 32. With nobody out there dominating right now, do you think you guys can come in looking at the names on the board and dominate this tour and dominate these tournaments?

JACK NICKLAUS: If we are 22 and 32?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: I think that any player who has been dominant in his time would be dominant today. I don't care what sport you are playing; what game you are playing, an athlete who has been dominant will probably be dominant at any time. May not be as dominant because of the number of players, but there are very good -- if you brought Byron Nelsons, Ben Hogans, if you brought Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, I think all these players would have been dominant players. They may not have been-- there may have been 4, 5 dominant players rather than one or two dominant players, but they certainly would have been there. I certainly feel that Arnie and I would probably fall in the same category.

Q. Jack, is one strong round today enough to wipe the last six tournaments out of your mind?

JACK NICKLAUS: Last "36" tournaments, yeah, yeah.

Q. How do you explain shooting your best round of the year in a major championship where everybody is saying how difficult the conditions are?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think most of my golf that I have played -- excluding the Mercedes where I use the driver a lot, but the last couple of tournaments that I have played well in, last year, that is the only tournament I played in decently last year was the Senior Open at Cherry Hills. It was a U.S. Open-type golf course but U.S. Open-type golf course where you don't use many drivers. I used four drivers today, I'd say? None on the back nine. Had I started the round over again, I probably would have used one or two less drivers on the front nine. I probably wouldn't have used it at 1 and I might not have used it at 7 - if I knew that I was going to play my 3-wood as well as I did the back 9. But I think that my game has been a kind of game that where you get a golf person that I know that-- that I am not -- let us back up. Power is always my game when I was younger. I don't have the power anymore to play a golf course the way I used to play it. I have to play it differently. When I get to the golf course that doesn't require power - and this golf course does not require power - then it sort of evens me out with -- mentally. That is basically all I have to say about it.

Q. Too follow-up on those comments, Greg Norman said here yesterday that he thought a course like Oakmont where essentially you have the driver in your bag on 11, 12 holes out there, is somehow wrong for a national championship; it takes away part of the overall game. He was fairly critical about that. How do you feel about players who look at it --

JACK NICKLAUS: I am thinking. Well, if you go look at any of the U.S. Open golf courses and U.S. Open goes to-- they are all the same. They are all older golf courses that the USGA has brought the-- brought the rough in, the golf course has been such that it takes a driver out of your hand. That is just the way the U.S. Opens are played. British Open is the same game. Greg shouldn't be too critical because of the British Open. I am sure he uses a lot of 1-irons, 3-irons and 2-irons and 3-woods off the tees of the British Open. That is the way the game is played. The game doesn't have to be played with a driver every hole. And I frankly like that. I happen to like golf courses where you use a driver too, but I think that this is what it is. So you play what it is. I don't have a problem with it. I think you would have different types of winners if you had newer golf courses. I don't think patience would be as important.

Q. Jack, in addition to the courses, is it also the fact that you still can-- you get up for these championships like Cherry Hills and here; is that possibly the reason why your game elevates for these occasions?

JACK NICKLAUS: I am sure that is part of it. Sure, that I get more interested and more excited when I get to a major championship, sure, particularly the U.S. Open, whether it be Senior or regular or whatever. Sure, my game elevates to that-- my mental game elevates too. I get sharper from that standpoint, but she is right about taking the driver out though. I think I am correct about that for myself. My own standpoint where I know-- see the USGA usually takes par fives out of the game. They have actually left one in here, actually left two of them - 4 and 9. They are both left in the game at Oakmont. That is traditionally what we play at Oakmont. But most of the time when we get a par 5 that is reachable, they take it out of play and make it a par 4. And they have not done that here, but that is generally what happened. That is why we play 71 and 70. Power is not a factor.

Q. This was kind of looked as if it was down memory lane with you and Arnold. What were your realistic goals and how surprised are you by what happened today?

JACK NICKLAUS: I am not surprised. That is what I have been trying to do all week and all year. But the word is not surprised. I suppose probably I am amazed that I was able to do what I did today. But I don't know, I don't know what the right word is. But I get sort of-- when I get to a major championship and I get my concentration, I have always felt that I still can be competitive. I have played absolute rubbish for two or three years with an odd exception, and I just don't think that is my golf game. I don't think my golf game is that bad or should be that bad. So it doesn't surprise me when I play a good round of golf. It is because it is what I have been trying to do. I think I am quite capable of doing that. It will surprise me probably if I keep my game together for four days. That will be the hardest thing for me to do simply because I haven't done it for a long time. But you know, we will see. I will just do my best. That is all I can do.

Q. Jack, you talk about the driver off the tee. But what about the approach shots today; was it a lot of bumping and run coming into the greens?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was occasional. The ball went a long way, 95 degrees, whatever, it was today, the ball did go a long way, and usually was one club less coming into the green. In other words, if you are playing a level shot, 175 yards instead of-- I would normally play a 5-iron. I probably played a 6-iron because of those weather conditions. Going down hill, 175 yards, I might go to a seven or eight iron. I mean, and landing is short a lot of those holes. A lot of that happens here at Oakmont when it is playing this way. When they get rain, then the golf course changes like that. And you got to play a golf course totally different.

Q. Jack, can you talk about what making a final putt like that on first round would mean going into round 2 and maybe address something what happened to Curtis Strange out there by double bogeying the last hole; is there any moment there that he will be thinking about and whether you will be thinking about round two?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think I am very fortunate to be able to get that putt going into the hole. I'd like to get any shot I can get. I am sure Curtis obviously is very unhappy with his finish, but when he looks back on it, he starts tomorrow, he says I shot 70. I will look at it; I shot 69. I would rather shoot 69 than 70 and 68 than 69. But you know, that is a pretty decent round of golf on this golf course, but I don't worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. I will go out and just play my best. I will probably try to get off to a nice even start if I can, and see what I can make out of it. Be patient. I will probably be a little nervous because I haven't been there for awhile. So... I will just do what I can.

Q. Jack, did you hit-- you hit 11 out of 14 fairways; is that right and maybe two --

JACK NICKLAUS: I went through it, whatever I said. I don't know. I didn't-- I don't think I hit that many fairways I missed more than that. This golf course, you roll in the edge of the rough a lot. But I don't really know. I missed 1 -- 2 fairways the front 9. I missed 2 fairways the back nine; both by like that (indicating three inches); essentially not missing the fairway.

Q. Jack, will you be surprised if you are still leading at the end of today?


Q. How is the gallery's response to your surge on the back 9; do you still feed off that, does that affect you at all?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really-- I never have fed off of it; not early in a tournament. I think it is nice and the gallery was good today. They were terrific, but I am trying to figure out how to hit a golf shot. I am never really bothered with the outskirts. My concentration was on what I was doing, and I think probably the only place that I fed off of a little bit was probably coming down the stretch at Baltusrol in '80, and that was almost dangerous going from the greens to the tees, and it was wild, but obviously, I couldn't avoid that. I mean, being that it was right in the middle of it. But I try to keep myself fairly level if I can. I get too excited, I have a hard time playing.

Q. Did you feel like a 22-year-old today?


Q. Feel like a 22-year-old?

JACK NICKLAUS: I always feel like a 22-year-old. I just don't always play like one.

Q. How would you assess this round in terms of your career; is it just another one, has this got a place --

JACK NICKLAUS: It's a pretty special round, pretty special round. But it is only one round in a tournament, let us -- let us just see what can happen, you know, as the week goes on, the putt at 18 may turn out to be a very, very special putt, we will see.

LES UNGER: We hope there are more rounds like this.

Q. How has your comfort zone with the putter changed in the last 20 years; do you feel about as well, or how --

JACK NICKLAUS: I feel much different. I don't feel much different with a putter. I think that my putting is-- when I get in sort of the zone of making putts, I am not much different than what I was. I don't think I am probably as aggressive at times. I have never been a totally aggressive putter. I have been fairly much a conservative putter, but I don't think I am quite as aggressive -- I don't really like to putt as many 4 and 5 footers as I used to. I have had enough of those, you know, if you can minimize those you can try to do the best you can with it.

LES UNGER: Thanks a lot.


End of FastScripts....

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