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June 1, 2004

Jack Nicklaus


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Mr. Nicklaus, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center. First of all, we'd like to start out with introducing Mr. Mark Woodward. He's the president of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America. He'd like to make a quick announcement and then we'll go into Mr. Nicklaus' normal interview.

MARK WOODWARD: Thank you very much. First of all, I'd like to thank you for allowing me to be here representing GCSAA. Secondly, I'd like to say that the state of Ohio has a very fond place in our hearts because our country club was founded in 1996. It's quite an honor to be here with you. As you know, your alma mater has a great program and produces quite a few quality superintendents.

The real reason I'm here today is, each year the GCSAA presents its highest honor to an individual in recognition of their contributions to the game of golf, and you certainly epitomize the essence of that aware. It's my pleasure to announce that the 2005 Old Tom Morris Award will be presented to you at our conference in 2005 in Orlando in February. And on behalf of the 21,000 members of the GCSAA we'd like to congratulate you and thank you for all your contributions and thank you for all you've done for the game of golf.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you very much.

MARK WOODWARD: I'd like to present you with a book. It's called Keepers of the Greens. It's a book about the history of golf course management. I know you'd like to take this for your personal library, and I congratulate you on behalf of all of our members.

JACK NICKLAUS: It's a very nice honor. Maybe I can read some of this and maybe Mr. Latshaw will help me understand this (laughter). We were invited to do that last year and have a date almost a year in advance, early in advance. We're looking forward to that very much, but they wanted to make the announcement here, so again, I appreciate that very much.

What do you want to talk about?

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Why don't we begin with some of the golf course.

JACK NICKLAUS: There really wasn't much done to the golf course this year, as it relates to the playability of the golf course. As you may know, I'm sure most of you know, we retained the services of Paul Latshaw, Jr. He came from Oak Hill during this last year. We've had some problems during the summertime here of our greens and not getting them to where they need to be, and we had some issues with the golf course. Mike McBride has done a great job here for 18 years, but it was time we needed to make a change.

I brought Mike into my organization down in Florida, and Mike has done my renovation, he's doing a renovation to The Abbey this year and several other golf courses and he's also consulting and so forth, so Mike has moved on with our organization, and Paul has come into here.

First thing Paul did was look around and looked at our light situation and immediately about 500 or 600 trees disappeared, big ones, which opened up not only light but air into our golf course. The ability to be able to get light for 10, 11 hours a day rather than four or five hours a day or six hours a day in some cases to most of the greens made a tremendous difference in Paul's ability to grow grass.

Our fairways were heavily thatched. They're still fairly thatched, but it's had three aerifications to this point and we have plans for four more this summer. I think that's why we haven't had a fast golf course here. The fairways have been like a sponge, and you've got grass growing like peat moss and it holds water every time it rains. That just happened over time and it just needed to get done, and Paul is working on that right now. As a matter of fact, I would suspect the golf course dries out about ten times faster than it did.

Our turf conditions are greatly improved this year. Even though we've always had good turf conditions here, I think the turf conditions are lasting conditions, the turf conditions I want throughout the year, not just the tournament.

We have a couple of bunker changes, nothing real radical. We did nothing at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. 7, the second bunker on the left was a little shallow last year. I felt like I wanted to have -- if a guy was trying to cut the corner at 7, I didn't want them to hit the bunker and be able to hit the green. The first bunker on the left you're actually penalized because you cannot play it down to where the first guy played his shot to and you'll have a longer shot into the green.

Let's see, 8 changed. 9, not changed. 10, not changed. The front bunker in front of 11 was a fairly easy bunker shot if you missed the green. We deepened it about two feet, which means the ball is going to come out lower and it's going to be harder to stop.

12, 13, 14, didn't do anything. 15, 16, 17, didn't do anything. You will notice the big tree on the front right of the 7th green is not a light casualty but a casualty that I felt like was probably favoring a good player too much. You couldn't get inside of the hole. That was my one tree to get out of the golf course from a playability standpoint, so you can't play from the right now and actually have a closer pin placement to the right bunker now because of that.

18 was sort of substantial. I don't know if we did three bunkers or four bunkers. Four. Beyond the other bunkers, what happened last year, we had several guys drive the ball over the last bunker, which was 305 yards into the wind the first round. I think you heard me talk about that. People will still do it, but at least they can do it if they hit it straight. That's fine, I don't have an objection to that. Before, they just hit it up onto the hill and past the bunkers. We put four bunkers and made them deep enough to where they should penalize you. Hopefully they shouldn't be able to knock it on the green from there. If you play the hazard design, which is between the hazard and the bunkers and you hit the bunker, the bunker shot is not terrible. It's a middle iron, probably 6 or 7-iron, but the bunkers you can get out of. The more you challenge a hole and the more you go up a hole, the more severe the bunkers get and the more the penalty for not trying to play with strategy. So that was what was done.

You'll see some trees on the golf course, major trees. The one to the left of 18, trees to the back and left of 2, 3, major oak tree on 4, off to the woods on 5, a lot of trees. 6 looks exactly the same. 7, a lot of trees back behind it. 8, tons of trees. 9, a lot of trees. All through the golf course you see places opened up for air and light. What it is going to do is add to agronomic conditions but also affect the play.

I came in Tuesday and played nine holes, played the backside. The wind was blowing pretty hard left to right and into our face at 12, and I hit a shot over there and as it got over the green all of a sudden it got hit by wind and into the water. I haven't seen that ever. As a matter of fact, I hit six balls and couldn't get one of them on the green. I said, wow, this is going to be a tougher hole.

At any rate, I think the wind is going to affect the ball more on the golf course, more than it normally would. That's what we did to the golf course.

Q. With what you're trying to do to the fairways and how they'll be affected in the future, is that going to, do you think, decrease the advantage that the big hitters have and open it up for the guys who don't hit it as far, or are the big hitters --

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think they're all big hitters, Bob. This golf course is not an extremely long golf course. The golf course is only 7,200 yards. That, today, isn't a long golf course. And actually, the golf course plays mostly downhill anyway. I think the game is a more pleasant game played downhill. It's not a long playing golf course to start with, so length is not an issue. I don't think that makes any difference whether it's slow or fast from a big hitters' standpoint.

The fairways have got a fair amount of pitch in them and we're not getting the advantage of the pitch because the ball never runs. If you remember when we played here in the Ryder Cup in 87, the balls hit in the fairway would run through the fairways and you really have to shape a shot to keep the ball in the fairway, and I think that's what golf should be. I don't think somebody should be able to hit any tee shot out there, right, left or any shot you want to hit, and it hits in the fairway and stops and because you can hit the ball long doesn't make any difference, you've only got 8, 9 or wedge to the green. I don't think length is the issue on this golf course. I can lengthen this golf course if I want to. I don't really believe that's what I want to do with the golf course. What I want to do is make it so you have to play golf shots and make it so when you're hitting the first hole you have the fairway pitching right to left.

I'd like to add a couple bunkers on 1, because ultimately, I think guys will try to drive over that stuff, and maybe they have tried, I don't know, it's not much of a hit, but I want to put the ball in the fairway and you're going to have to shape the ball left to right to play golf. Same thing with 18.

No. 2 has always got a great pitch left to right, and if that fairway is soft you can throw it down the right side of the fairway anywhere and the ball just goes on and stops and it's fine. If the fairways are fast now you're going to have to think. You have to set the ball in the fairway somewhere to keep it on the right side of the fairway and also it's going to be pitching towards that creek all the time. You're going to have to think about the club you're going to play. It's not that you have to play driver.

Until we change the golf ball, I don't know how far out, 20 years maybe, but anyway, until they do that, you're going to be taking driver out of people's hands on occasion to make them play shots into the fairways, and I think that's what this golf course has always been about. The golf course has gotten soft, and I think that the greens could never dry out because we didn't have air movement, and the fairways were too mushy. I don't think it'll be as good as it will be next year. I think it'll be good next year.

Q. You alluded to you have 300 or 400 more yards you could add. Where would you add it?

JACK NICKLAUS: I would add at No. 1, No. 2. I'd have to make some adjustments but I could add. I don't think I would add to 2. I could add to 3. I don't think it's an issue at 3. 5, I don't think I need to go back because I'm limited by the creek.

6, I could get another 20 yards if I wanted to pretty easily. It's fairly easy to construct. I don't think I could get much more at 7, a lot more at 8 if I wanted. The 9th hole, one of our plans this summer or next summer probably, our irrigation lake has gotten very silty over time and needs to be cleaned out. As we clean that out, all that area behind the 9th tee, I'm going to move it back and lower it, the 9th tee, and create a gallery mound between No. 8 so you don't have the interference with No. 9. I want the gallery to look down at the tee at 9.

Just by lowering the hole and slipping it back you get a better relationship to the water, and the separation of 8 and 9 will get a little more yardage on the hole playability-wise but also a lot more people will be able to see, but something has to happen at the same time.

10, I can get yardage if I want it. 11, I can get more but I don't need it. 12, I can put yardage. 13, I don't have much more room. 14, we don't really have room, but 14 is the type of hole that you don't want it.

15, I can probably get 20, 25 yards pretty easily and I'm thinking about that.

Q. Take it over the other side of the cart path?

JACK NICKLAUS: The bleachers sit back there between the back tee and the cart path and I'd just take the bleachers and move them back and have a walkway underneath the bleachers. I could get 20 yards there, and I might do that only because it's starting to be where guys hit a 3-wood or 1-iron up there to play to the end of the fairway, and I like the idea of the hole being reachable. I like the hole being a potential bogey or potential eagle. I think that puts some excitement into the golf tournament.

Q. But they should hit driver there then, right?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think most of the guys do, even where it is now, probably 85, 90 percent of the guys hit driver. It's just staying with the times, but it's not really adding length to the golf course. Augusta two years ago when they did it there, I went out and played the golf course and I couldn't play any of it. Two years later the golf ball is going so much further. I'm playing the same clubs I did at 64. That's ridiculous.

16, I don't need to lengthen, it's a hard enough hole. 17, I don't need to lengthen. 18, I don't have any room for length. For 15 years a lot of guys have hit 2-iron or 3-wood or 4-wood or whatever off that tee to play into position for the second shot, and that's the way I want the hole to play.

Q. It's there and you've obviously given it thought?

JACK NICKLAUS: There's a couple places we might add yardage only because we might make the hole play like it was meant to play, but I don't want to add yardage to make the golf hole ridiculously long because it ruins it for some golfers. That's my feeling.

Q. From what you just said, do you think Augusta took the wrong tact in trying to make its course more difficult?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I think Augusta -- as it turned out, Augusta probably now is right back about where they were when they started from the standpoint of how the golf ball and equipment and what they adjusted to it. In other words, when they first did the adjustments at Augusta, I think they made the golf course too much for the long hitter, and two years later when the golf ball is going another 20, 25 yards further, all of a sudden I think Augusta has really adjusted itself to equipment. They got ahead of the curve, and the golf equipment, again, two years caught up with them again to where they almost could have gotten behind the curve again, not really accomplishing what they wanted to accomplish. Guys can now drive the ball past where they wanted to drive the golf ball. I know if I can drive the ball where I played most of my life at age 64, what happens to the guys who are 25 years old, where do they drive it? They drive it 50 yards by me. The golf course doesn't really play that much longer, but Augusta has tightened it down in the long areas. I think what they did turned out to be very good.

Q. Do you think that the driver of the ball is the more key ingredient to distance?

JACK NICKLAUS: The driver what?

Q. The driver of the golf ball --

JACK NICKLAUS: What do I think is the key in gradient? The golf ball. You can do whatever you want with golf clubs. You can take them to whatever max limit you want to take them. You can always control it with the golf ball. It's the one thing that everybody plays.

Q. Well, supposedly the newest latest driver becomes available to the public today, which is the Taylor Made driver that allows people to change weight in the club. I don't know if you're familiar with it.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not familiar with Taylor Made. I don't stay up with that.

Q. What I mean is, do you think that's a significant factor in what's going on, the technology?

JACK NICKLAUS: You're the first that's told me about it. I really don't know anything about it. I have no idea what you're talking about. The driver of the golf ball, you don't have to play driver. You can hit driver, 3-wood, 4-wood, 5-wood, whatever you want to play, off of the tee, and you really need to play to a distance depending on who you are and what area you want to play in to play a golf course. I just don't think a golf course should be back -- we just keep going back to where we have a fairway that's 400 yards long and if you can hit it 300, it's okay; 330, it's okay; 350, it's okay. It just becomes gorilla ball. You hit it as far as you can hit it. I think that a golf course -- that's what they first started to do at Augusta, but then what happened with the golf ball, since the golf ball has continued to advance, all of a sudden the playing areas they were trying to get to that were so far out there now are not for everybody.

You want to play the ball maybe 240 off the tee to maybe 280. That's where you want to play to to play into the right area of the green. Second of all, you may want to play from maybe 260 to 300. That's the way you control the game, if you're not going to control it with the golf ball, and you can control it about the -- you can control it by forcing them to play to an area. Does that take a driver out of a lot of guys' hands? Yes. But what is a driver today? A driver -- let's take a driver. Define a driver. It's how far a golf ball goes. An average drive ten years ago was 265 yards probably. The average drive today is probably 290 or 295. So what you do is say, I'm defining my drive as a 265-yard shot, not what the driver is capable of going. Do you understand where I'm coming from?

Q. You're forcing people to hit the ball to specific areas of the golf course.

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, that's what Augusta did and that's what we're trying to do here.

Q. Speaking of Augusta, your comments about Sunday about maybe it being your last Masters, how does that pertain to how you feel physically? Kind of update us.

JACK NICKLAUS: I feel good physically. I really feel very good. Playing last week, I was asked in the pressroom, I suppose a flippant answer I suppose a little bit, which I have a tendency to do, but they said how much longer are you going to play tournament golf, and I said probably about ten days. Actually it was 1, was the answer, because that was last Wednesday. I was hoping to play through this Sunday, I just didn't add it up. This will probably be my last week of playing what I consider tournament golf. I think it's my eighth or ninth event this year, something like that. I've played a reasonable amount of golf this year. Although it seems like I played none, I played a reasonable amount of golf.

I look at the game and I say, do I want to play golf? Yeah, I love to play golf. Do I love to play competitive golf? Sure, there's nothing I like doing better, nothing I like more. But I don't think I'm competitive anymore. I said I'd play as long as I'm competitive and as long as I enjoy it and I think they sort of go hand in hand. I don't enjoy preparing for a golf tournament. I don't enjoy preparing my game and concentrating on doing that, and obviously there's no excuse for not being prepared. Obviously the only excuse is if you don't have interest, and I don't really have a lot of interest in wanting to do that. When I prepare and work hard and do it, I can play reasonably well, but I'm not really competitive anymore. You say what is competitive. Everybody has got a different standard for themselves as far as being competitive. My competitive is, if I can walk out with these kids and beat them. That's what I call competitive, or even seniors, go out and beat them. I don't expect to beat these guys? Do I this week? Absolutely. That's my goal. I'm going to beat as many of them as I can and hopefully beat them all. I don't think that's a realistic goal, but it's something that I would shoot for.

If I can't do that on the Senior Tour, where I go out and have a good tournament, I really don't plan on playing that much at all. I went out and placed 6th and I really only had three or four holes to go to win the golf tournament, but I really had a good time. I played decent. I putted just horrible at Augusta and I played two weeks later at that BMW tournament and I missed the cut. I shot 3-under par, never missed a fairway in two days, never hit a bunker shot and I hit one chip shot and I hit a par 5 in two, so you know how I putted. I putted atrociously. Last week was the same. I hit the ball very well last week, played well. I couldn't put it in a bushel basket.

Yesterday I gathered the troops, I got Jim Flick and Jackie and Steve and Mike Milaska, and everybody went out there -- I said you've got to teach somebody how to hit the ball in a bushel basket, and Jackie picked up a thing with my putting. I couldn't hit it within 18 inches of the hole. Why? I made a change yesterday and now I'm pretty sure that I can, and I think I'll putt pretty well this week. I'll enjoy that, but I don't really have any desire to go do that.

Q. What about Augusta?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. I don't know what I'll do at Augusta. I will play some more golf, but I'm not going to go try to prepare my game and keep my game for a year. I may pick out Augusta next year to play. I'll probably play Memorial here again sometime. I might play next year. I might go play 2005 at St. Andrews, but I might not. I don't know what I'm going to do. After this week I'm going to concentrate on fishing and I'm not going to concentrate on another golf tournament. If I decide I want to go play one, I'll go play one, but I'll just have fun with it. I'm not going to spend my time preparing to play golf.

Q. Is that just sort of your post-round depression of this might be my last Masters when you said that?

JACK NICKLAUS: Not really. I really had very little intention of playing this year, and I think I said after the Tradition last year, when I finished 10th and I thought I had a pretty good tournament and I finished 10th, that it was time to hang up my spikes.

I don't think it's a reaction. It's been eight years since I won a golf tournament. I think it's -- I mean, everything comes to an end somewhere, you know, and I think it's -- I enjoy my golf course design, I think I'm far better at that than I am at playing right now. I enjoy the competition -- of all the places I want to go and a lot of the work I'm doing, I've got a lot of great streams and flats and so forth to finish, and frankly I can do that better than I can play golf right now, and I enjoy it and I don't have to worry about preparing for it because that's not my livelihood or something. I haven't spent very much time with my grandkids. I'm home watching baseball games and stuff like that, but I haven't spent time with them. I've played golf all my life. I don't need to play golf anymore. Not that I don't enjoy it, I love it, but it's just I've had enough.

Q. I may have misheard you, Jack. Did you say that you kind of lost interest in preparing?

JACK NICKLAUS: When I get to a tournament -- like this week, I'm excited about playing this week, but I haven't prepared for it. The only way I prepared was I played last week. I went last week out of respect for the people I did the golf course for, for the Gahm family. If I hadn't have done that golf course, I wouldn't have been there last week, but I knew and respect them, and knowing that I probably wouldn't go back to Valhalla again, that's why I went to play. I knew I would be forced to practice if I didn't go last week. Is that ridiculous? I'll force myself to go play someplace so I'm prepared to play at the Memorial tournament. I've used tournaments to prepare myself for the majors all my life, but I didn't make it like a mandatory commitment that you have to do this because you're not going to do it if you don't. That's sort of crazy.

Q. When did you start losing interest in the preparation aspect?

JACK NICKLAUS: Actually, I could probably prepare this year because my body is really good, but a couple of years ago my back was bad and I wasn't able to do much. Actually, my back is pretty good right now. I hurt -- all these guys hurt. They hurt when they're 30 years old, not 60 years old. But I don't have the desire.

The week before The Masters I went fishing for four days, and after The Masters, between that and BMW I played nine holes of golf. And since the BMW until I got to Valhalla I opened up a golf course and played another nine. That's nothing. I never hit practice balls. Is that preparation? No. If I want to prepare -- I obviously have the desire when I get up in the morning, well, I need to go to the office, I need to get this done, so I'll go to the golf course and get my golf done first. I'd spend five or six hours at the golf course and I'd still have time at the office. Now I get up in the morning and I think I'll just go to the office, I don't have anything else to do (laughter). When you don't really want to go out there and do it, you don't have the desire to do it, it's just tough to do it.

Q. So why play in tournaments then?

JACK NICKLAUS: I enjoy the tournament part of it. I enjoy trying to -- if you're not prepared and you're going to beat your head against the wall, why do that?

I've been that way for a couple years and I keep playing tournaments and I know I'm not prepared to play them, but yet I play. Why am I doing that? That's ridiculous. There's no excuse for not being prepared, so if I'm not going to play, don't play. Don't be an idiot like that. It's stupid.

Q. In the past you've always left the impression with us that you would play here indefinitely.

JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't say indefinitely. I'll play here as long as I can play and I can contribute to the tournament. This would be the one place I would play. I may play here one more year or ten more years. I don't know what I'll do. If I'm going to play someplace, this is where I'll play.

Q. Earlier you said I might play here next year, and I'm wondering --

JACK NICKLAUS: That's exactly what I said.

Q. Are you starting to look at this tournament and you look at the other tournaments, that if I can't be competitive --

JACK NICKLAUS: Did I say that?

Q. If you can't be competitive do you want to play here?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I said I'll look at this tournament differently than I will anything else, but I would look at this tournament as a host and if I can contribute, and I wouldn't necessarily look -- any other tournament I'd say as long as I can be competitive.

Q. Can you contribute to this tournament in other ways than you can at other tournaments, as more than a competitor?

JACK NICKLAUS: I think so. I think that's why I would consider that.

Q. In virtually every other professional sport the decision to retire is made for the athlete, they just can't play anymore, they're cut or whatever --

JACK NICKLAUS: It would be nice if they made it for us, too.

Q. Golf is kind of a blessing, but is it almost a curse that you can keep playing and playing?

JACK NICKLAUS: In many ways it is. Actually, the golf ball has been a curse, I think, because without the golf ball and without the equipment and doing what it's done -- we should have been done 20 years ago, and most guys -- I looked at the equipment as a mixed blessing. It was a blessing for a lot of fellows, and actually it allowed senior golf to become a viable enterprise, I suppose, but what it did is it kept a lot of guys in the game long beyond their really useful athletic ability.

Most guys, and I sort of thought what I would do, and I didn't have any idea when I left pharmacy like my dad was, and my dad talked me out of that and into using my golf for other things, I thought that I would probably be a golf professional and probably be a club pro and do what most of the guys did just prior to my age. I never thought about senior golf. I never dreamed about that. One of the reasons I got involved in golf course design at a fairly young age, it was something I was interested in and something to allow me to stay in the game, and I had it as a hobby 10, 12 years. I worked with Jay Morrish and Bob Cupp worked for me. It was kind of a hobby. I said, guys, this hobby is consuming you and consuming everything else, and you'd better make this thing a business, otherwise you're not going to be able to afford your hobby. So we did. Actually it was really nice for me but it kept me from going to a club job, allowed me to do something else in my life. A lot of guys with senior golf don't have anything to do beyond that time.

It's also been a curse the other way. Most sports you play to a certain age, you basically lose your usefulness or your competitive ability and you sort of move off and do something else in life, and I suppose for a vast majority it's been a blessing that they can play because it's kept the guys in the game. It's been great for them. My design has been great for me that way. I enjoyed my senior golf a lot. I didn't play a lot of senior golf but I enjoyed it. I won a few tournaments and was fairly competitive and so forth and so on, but it's kind of which is which. You just don't know.

You see a tennis player, they're playing senior tennis at 35, right? I think it is. Physical conditioning has kept baseball players into their early 40s now, but not 60.

Q. You won The Masters at 46. I believe you said, "If I was smart I would just walk away from the game right now."

JACK NICKLAUS: I probably should have.

Q. Is that realistic, and do you ever regret not --

JACK NICKLAUS: No, the last 18 years I've had a ball. I consider the last couple playing golf has been great, up until the time I had my hip done. After my hip, I haven't played much good golf. I played a few decent tournaments. I finished 6th at The Masters in 1998, and that was just six months before I had my hip done. From a lot of standpoints you would say, all right, bye-bye, but I couldn't do that. I enjoy playing golf too much. There's too much competition left in me.

Q. 10 or 12 years ago, one of the great quotes, "Everybody has always wanted to play like Nicklaus. Now they can" --

JACK NICKLAUS: Now they really can (laughter).

Q. You said, I don't want to just shoot a couple 80s and wave at the crowd as a ceremony. Do you feel you're getting ceremonial now?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, but I'm getting close to it. When I shot 85 at Augusta last year I was embarrassed with that. Frankly, if I had shot decently at Augusta or played decently there, I probably wouldn't have gone back this year. I played decently this year. If I could have putted a lick I would have made the cut. That would have been a pretty good way to finish, so maybe -- I might go back again. I don't know what I'm going to do. If I'm going to go back, I'm going to have to prepare myself to do that.

Q. They're obviously going to want to have you back one more year to have your day.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not interested in that. I had my day. That's sort of how I look at it.

Q. When was your day? When would you say you had your day?

JACK NICKLAUS: Between ages 23 and 46 I had my day (laughter). I think Arnold enjoyed very much what happened with him last year, but I think that Arnold was consumed by the media and the television coverage. I don't think Arnold really wanted to be the center of attention as much as happened last year. You didn't even know there was a golf tournament happening until Sunday when Arnold was gone. It was a very nice tribute to Arnold and I think it was very fitting. I have no objection to it, none whatsoever, and Hootie called me on Saturday and said, he made a comment, "Jack, please come back. Our fans want to say goodbye." I said, Hootie, why don't you say goodbye to Hogan, Snead, Nelson. It's become a media/press/television thing.

Frankly, I've had my day at Augusta. I think if you had Arnold script that thing, I don't think Arnold would have scripted it that way, too. It's certainly not Arnold's fault. The fault is right out here in the television because that's what people want, and that's fine, but I don't really want to do that. If I happen to go and they give me -- I'd rather go back on Wednesday and play the par 3 and say goodbye there, frankly. You understand what I'm saying?

Q. So after all this, is it fair to say you really don't have a plan on a farewell?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, and I really don't want one.

Q. I was just curious, in 2000 when it was assumed that the Open would return to St. Andrews in 06 and not 05 and you thought that was your last one and you stopped on the Swilken Bridge, you looked like you really did not want to do that and pose for the cameras then. Do you remember that?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was because I missed the cut. I was ticked off. That's exactly right. Plus my wife said, "You need to go back again." She said, "If I knew you were going to miss the cut I never would have let you dress that way." (Laughter). Absolute truth. It was the same color pants as I'm wearing and a yellow shirt and I looked like a balloon. I was over 200 pounds then.

Q. 2005 St. Andrews?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. I said something to Peter Dawson. I said Peter, it's a shame that you're going to play in 2006. Obviously in 2006 I'll be too old to play. He said, "Would you come back in 2005 if they changed it before we announced it?" I said, "Well, I'd certainly consider it." Next time I read in the paper it was 2005, which I thought was a very nice gesture on the R & A's part. They did that so I could do that. I almost feel like if I'm able to do so, I would go back in 2005 at St. Andrews because they did that. I love that golf tournament. I love St. Andrews and I love going there. I don't want to go there and just stumble around, though.

Q. You talked about equipment and you talked about the ball. There was some discussion over the last couple weeks about the broomstick putter and the fact that some people think that that should be declared illegal because -- for whatever reason. What's your take on that?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have a take on it. I pay little attention. It's the hardest thing I've ever seen to use. I could care less.

Q. Have you tried the belly putter?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah, and I'm like -- I look like Zorro trying to hit it. I don't care what kind of grip I use.

Q. So really your focus is still on the ball?

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. You've got to have limits on golf equipment, I don't think there's any question about that. There's only so much they can -- five, six years ago Callaway was talking about testing, which is so sophisticated there, and they were saying that they felt like they could probably -- if they took the driver and didn't have any restrictions, they could probably get another 6 to 12 yards is the max. Since that time we've gotten another 30 yards in the game, and they haven't been able to go beyond what their restriction was. So it's not in the golf club, it's in the golf ball. That's where it's happening. They said we can probably get 6 to 12 more yards out of our driver, but we're not -- not legally, but we could make it, unless we have some kind of different technology. Most of that stuff maxed out, and the only way you're going to control distance beyond that is the golf ball. I have no issue with the maxing out of the golf club because you can only go so far.

Look what's happened with their X last year and then Callaway comes out with the Black. I have no golf ball affiliation whatsoever, so I'm playing the best ball I can play. Am I taking advantage of it? Absolutely, everybody else takes advantage of it. So I'm playing that golf ball. That golf ball allowed me to go back to Augusta and be in play. Same exact driver I used two years ago that I couldn't hardly get it to the top of the hill. I was hitting driver, 4-wood, driver, 3-wood, and I played driver and 6-iron and 8-iron this year. That's a big difference.

Q. Do you think it's easier for you to accept the idea of not playing much more tournament golf than it is for maybe fans and media who are so used to seeing you year after year?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, people are wonderful, and they want you to continue to play. They want you to be part of what's going on because they're used to seeing you and they've enjoyed watching you and they just don't want their heroes to ever die. Obviously watching Arnold this year, they didn't want Arnold to leave. They love to watch him play. That's why it was a very big experience at Augusta.

I look at it a little bit that way but I look at it another way, in that somebody came to me the other day, he said don't stop playing Augusta, we loved watching you play this year. I said, "how much did you watch me play?" He said, "we saw you come down into the second green and we saw you tee off on No. 3." Now, that's wonderful. Now, for them to see that five minutes of me hitting that shot, it took me six months to prepare and work my tail off to make that happen so I could be respectable and not embarrass myself going out there.

I've done that for the last few years because people didn't want me to stop playing and I felt like I had enough ego that I thought I might be able to compete a little bit. There's a certain point in time where I've got to be realistic with myself and say, gee, it's nice, you've watched me the last couple years, but I can't keep doing this because my body won't allow it to happen.

Next year I'm 65 years old. 65-year-olds shouldn't be out there competing with kids. That's just the way I think about it.

Q. Could you talk about the honorees tomorrow a little bit, maybe tell us do you have a favorite story?

JACK NICKLAUS: Let's start with Joyce Weathers. I obviously never saw her hit a golf shot, but I do know that I met her I don't know how long it was, seven, eight years ago before she passed away. I met her at the British Open, she was about 91 or 92 years old. I obviously didn't know her but she was obviously a very good player. I'm not going to answer much about that.

Obviously Trevino, I've played with Trevino for 40 years, close to it, and I think he's brought an awful lot to the game of golf. I think that his -- I sort of call it lighthearted serious golf. Trevino has always -- that's his way of keeping loose, keeping lighthearted about things. He's the only guy that can get away with it and he can say anything to anybody and everybody laughs, but Trevino was probably serious about what he said, but everybody thought he was kidding.

He's a piece of work and you know it. But respect, I respect him greatly. I think where he's come from, what he's done with himself and what he's done with his life has been fantastic, the way he's -- Trevino and Hogan are the two best ball strikers I've ever seen, I'm not sure which one is better. Trevino can play more shots than anybody I've ever seen. Hogan I didn't play that much with, but Trevino I played a lot with, and what a competitor. He's just been great for the game of golf. He's been terrific.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about Tiger and Butch, and I'm just curious when you were in your prime how important the role of the teacher was and just what your thoughts are on that at the highest level.

JACK NICKLAUS: I could never put down the value that Jack Grout had to me, but I really didn't run to Jack Grout every five minutes for a golf lesson, and today the kids, they're out there watching the guys warm up. I want to play golf, I don't want to get a lesson right before I tee off. I don't know how the guys do it. They're used to that, that's the way they've grown up.

Jack Grout, I'd see him almost every day that I was home and I was playing golf. If I didn't go out to the golf course he'd call me and say when are you coming out, and I would say I'm coming out about 1:00 o'clock, and he'd say I'll be there. We'd go out and practice and we'd just talk. We might talk about his kids, my kids, how Jackie's game is, how's Aaron's game, anything, and finally he would say let's widen that stance out a little bit. That's all he would say.

It was really more of a relationship. A good teacher is a relationship, not a teacher. In other words, Jack Grout may not have been -- I may have been in the right place at the right time with Jack Grout and Jack Grout may have been in the right place at the right time with me. The two of us just got along great together.

It's not that Jack Grout probably taught me that much, it's that he showed interest in me and he spent time with me and he encouraged me and he was there for me, and that's like being another father. When your dad is there for you, it's something that encourages you and makes you want to do things better, and that's the way Jack Grout was.

Now, the kids today, I mean, you may have a guy that's teaching 20 guys, and he's going up and down the range talking to these 20 guys. How much real feeling and concern could he have for each one? Sure, he's trying to help each one, but that guy is getting paid by each one of them.

From the time I was 11 years old Jack Grout would never accept a dime, and my dad would come home, I remember him coming home and I was in group lessons and it cost us $45 bucks for the summer or something like that, and I'd come home and I'd have 45 cents for a bucket of balls I think it was, and I'd have these 20 buckets of balls and my dad would say, hey, aren't we a little heavy on hitting golf balls? He was more kidding than anything. Pretty soon I'd hit 20 balls and he'd charge me for 10. Pretty soon there wasn't a bill at all. He wanted to be part of my life and part of me. So that's the type of relationship we had.

I have no idea what Tiger's and Butch's relationship is, not a clue. I have no idea, nor do I want to guess about what it was. I feel like a teacher is somebody who takes an interest in -- like a high school coach. Your high school coach, kids who play high school ball, no matter what sport they play, they know what their coach was, how much time he spent and what he did. To me that's what coaching is. Grout was fabulous, and today I think -- I just don't know.

Frankly, could I have gotten along without Jack Grout teaching me how to play golf? For about 360 days a year, probably yes. But for those other five days, the little comments he would make to me -- usually I took the fall off and a couple months off and we'd take a couple days at the beginning of the year, okay, let's start off with the grip, right from the start, just like a beginner, and we did that every year. Maybe a week we'd spend doing that.

After that I'd come see him 50 times but we'd only really talk about -- he'd only maybe offer one or two things the rest of the year. I think most good players really can do most of it themselves, and I think that -- I would be guessing, totally guessing if I said I think that Tiger probably would prefer to do most things himself because what you have from electronic things today, he can see everything by pictures. We didn't have that in those days. You can have a little camera and see everything you want in the swing. He really probably knows himself better because he feels better than anyone else. There's a few days a year it probably wouldn't hurt anybody to have a little comment.

Q. Of all four U.S. Open titles that you have won over the years in your career, which one was the most special to you?

JACK NICKLAUS: 62, 67, 72 and 80. Those are the special ones.

Q. Your recollections of winning --

JACK NICKLAUS: I can't answer that. They're all special. How could you possibly pick one over another one?

Q. How about the one in 62, your recollections of that?

JACK NICKLAUS: My recollections of 62? I was in Arnold's hometown and won. I played the first two rounds with him and obviously the last round of the playoff. I was a young kid, won my first tournament, and that's what I did.

67, set the Open record, and then going to Pebble Beach in 72, and I won three times at Pebble Beach in a year, won 72 Crosby and then 72 Open, then the 73 Crosby all basically within 12 months and a week. Pebble has always been a special place to me. It was tough that year, tough golf course. And of course going back to Baltusrol and breaking my own record. They were all special.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Mr. Nicklaus, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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