August 16, 2005
TODD BUDNICK: Well, we thank Captain Nicklaus and assistant Captain Sluman for assisting us here today. It's been a big week. We had the team selected on Sunday and you picked your captain's choices yesterday. Why don't we start there and a little bit of assessment of your team.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've got the best assistant captain so far (laughter). Jeff did a great job in South Africa, and I talked to Jeff last winter and I said, "I'd like to have you again but I don't want to put you in that position again and give you a chance to make the team."
So anyway, when it became obvious a week or so ago that you weren't going to make it, I said, "okay, then, Jeff, let's go ahead and get this thing done." So I gave him a call and selected Jeff to be my assistant. He did such a great job, knows all the guys better than I do even though I think I know all the guys pretty well and worked well with them and worked well with me, and his wife Linda and my wife Barbara, the two of them together, they can take care of things. They do a pretty good job. We're delighted to do that again.
As it relates to our team, what I tried to do was we had the ten guys that were already picked, or earned their right on the team, and what I tried to do was tried to figure out who could I get the best out of, and I said I looked at No. 11, it was Justin, and Justin won two tournaments this year, runner up at the PGA last year, and then I tried to compare that with Freddie and him, the two of them had the best records in the major championships this year, in spite of Justin's missing the cut at Baltusrol, except for Tiger, of all the players. So he had a lot of justification. So I tried to figure out what about any of the young guys, and I looked at No. 12 on the list which was Zach, and then No. 13 I think was Chad, and 14 I think was probably Purdy, and 15 I think was Ogilvie if I'm not mistaken, and Bart Bryant was 17th and Freddie was 18th.
I looked at the other records, and Jeff and I talked about it, and we both conferred that Justin deserved to be on the team, should be on the team, and frankly we both liked Zach Johnson a lot, and we liked Chad Campbell a lot and we liked the other guys. We had to try to figure out who was going to be the best to fit with what we have and what we need for The Presidents Cup matches, and Freddie had a good year as far as well, actually pretty darn good year as far as the majors, and all the tournaments that had strong fields he did very well in all the tournaments with strong fields this year.
His record at RTJ individually I think is 6 and 1. That's definitely a factor. Freddie is an honorary member there. Do you know that? He gets to play his home course. He has his own locker. That's a pretty good deal.
Anyway, that's how we came up with what we did. I think neither Zach or Chad or the next two guys had won a tournament this year. Zach who played very well at Baltusrol hadn't made a cut in the PGA prior to this, but still, he was the next guy on the list. So I called Zach and talked to him, and I said, "you know, Zach, I hate to call with bad news, but I wanted to call you." I said, "unfortunately I'm not going to pick you for the team." I think I had to go with what I think was the 12 best players in the U.S. in the world, and Freddie was ranked 7th on the World Rankings of U.S. players, and he said he didn't have any problem and supported it as a matter of fact. I said, what I would like to have is if somebody gets hurt, I want him to be our first alternate, so if something does happen I want you to be ready to play if you can. Zach said, "I'll be ready." That's how we covered our bases. I talked this over with Jeff and that's where we ended up.
TODD BUDNICK: We had a terrific competition two years ago at Fancourt and we ended up sharing the title there. We're returning to U.S. soil at Robert Trent Jones where the U.S. has never lost. Is that a distinct advantage for your team this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: I hope it's a distinct advantage in our head. I don't know if it's going to be an advantage once we get playing. If they believe they can win there then I think we probably have an advantage from our standpoint of having our guys feel that way.
I know that the golf course has been changed considerably. I really don't even know the golf course there. We went around it in May and we got to see what, 12 or 13 holes is about all I ever saw of it.
But if the guys feel like that's an advantage to them because they've won there before, that's great. I like to have them go in there with a positive mind.
We did have great matches in South Africa. I think I've said many times, I think it was the greatest event that I've ever been involved with, individually or team or anything, because it was just so great for the game of golf and so great for South Africa and the comraderie that was shown amongst all the players, and the two teams, they got along great, it was played in the right way. Gary was a great captain on the other side, Ian Baker Finch did a great job with the guys, and it was a very, very compatible week, which is really what the thing is supposed to be anyway, a good will event where you enjoy the competition and go for bragging rights. All 24 players had bragging rights last time. That was good.
Q. Do you think it'll make a difference to play these things in September instead of December as it was in Melbourne in late November?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the U.S. team will be better then, but I assume the foreign the rest of the world. Is that what we're calling them? International team?
The International team, they'll like that, too, because what's happened before is the guys go home, and I think Justin's wife had a baby the last time just before a couple months before we went and he really hadn't played much golf, and I think a couple of the guys hadn't played much golf, and I'm sure some of the international guys had the same situation. This is really at the end of your golfing season when you're still playing golf, and I think it's a better timed event for better golf.
Q. Pretty good last time, though.
JACK NICKLAUS: Pretty good last time?
Q. Fred was talking about this might be sort of a last hurrah type of thing for him. That wasn't a factor?
JACK NICKLAUS: That wasn't a factor for my picking him. How old is he? 45?
Q. 20 years younger than you.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Freddie probably has a little golf left in him. I think when I was 45 I didn't really think much about what was going to happen in the future in relation to golf. It was just sort of why I was even playing, I wasn't too sure about that time, and then all of a sudden The Masters came along in '86, and it was like, oh, this is why I've been playing (laughter).
Q. Who do you see playing with each other, Jack?
JACK NICKLAUS: Haven't thought about it. Jeff and I will sit down. Last time we went down there I think we sort of tried to match up teams the best we could, as much as we were fooling around with it. The guys will come to Jeff and they'll come to me and say, "hey, we'd like to play together." Last time Tiger came to me with Charles Howell and said "we'd like to play together," so I played them all four matches together.
They'll tell me what they want to do, and they might say, hey, I want you to play with so and so, and they'll say that's fine. They'll be fine, whatever we do.
Q. You mentioned that you picked Fred because of the fit with what you had on the team to begin with?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I tried to pick what I thought were the 12 best players, who I thought and Freddie has ranked 7th in the world amongst U.S. players. So if you take the top 12 U.S. players in the World Ranking, I've got the top 12 U.S. players?
Q. So he wasn't picked for any kind of fit reason, as well?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, he was picked for fit that he had done well at RTJ, he had played well this year, he had been telling me all year long that he really wants to make the team. And when a guy tells you it's like Fred Funk did a year ago. Fred told me, "I'll row to Africa. I want to be on that team and I want to get there." When a guy is that enthusiastic I said I don't really care what 12 guys I have, I just want 12 guys that want to play. I want the same thing this time. If I've got 12 guys that want to play, then we'll do fine. They've all been very enthusiastic about it.
Q. Kind of going back here, Jack, but from your perspective as someone who's been regarded as one of the greatest clutch putters of all time, what was your take on what you saw over the last two holes with Ernie and Tiger?
JACK NICKLAUS: They were unbelievable, the putts that both of them made. Down there you're talking about? Tiger actually made
Q. Seemed like Ernie had about ten feet?
JACK NICKLAUS: First hole they both holed really nice putts.
JEFF SLUMAN: Ernie holed on the second one about an eight footer.
JACK NICKLAUS: And Tiger had about a five footer. And the first hole was 18, they didn't do anything there. Then the two putts they holed at the next hole
JEFF SLUMAN: A good way to end.
JACK NICKLAUS: If you let anything go beyond that. I don't care if we had five hours of daylight, we should have stopped?
Q. What was that like for you watching it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Watching it?
Q. Yeah, nervous?
JACK NICKLAUS: Of course I was nervous. I want our guys to do well. I may be wrong about this but I don't think there was a person on our team after Tiger made his putt that wanted to see Ernie miss his.
Q. Earlier in the week you didn't like that arrangement to begin with?
JACK NICKLAUS: It was called the captains' agreement but the captains were never asked about it. We were told what the rules were. And since that time, this time they've come to Gary and me and said, "Jack, this is what we'd like to do, this is what we'd like to" and we agreed to it this time is what it is. It'll be a tie if it's a tie. They thought that result was very popular and they thought it was right for the game of golf and right for that event. And to share the honors of being the winning team.
This time we've all agreed what it is. It is what it is.
Q. Considering that it's goodwill and it's played in good spirit, we've covered all that, if Ernie had missed that putt, the last one
JACK NICKLAUS: We'd have taken it?
Q. What could that have done to someone's career?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think a whole lot, I don't think it would affect Ernie Els' career very much. Had it been somebody else who might have been a little bit more fragile, it could have, but I think Ernie has won enough and is successful enough and has made some putts and missed some putts that I don't think it would have affected his career, but he didn't, he made the putt, so we don't need to worry about it.
I feel like when you take an international team championship and all 12 players are playing the last day and you finish in a tie and the rules were that you pick one player to represent your team, that's a lot of pressure on that one player.
Now, both Tiger and Ernie are big boys, and they're both used to that kind of pressure and they both respond well to it. But it's a team championship, and I sort of feel Jeff and I talked, we didn't know how to end it as a team, but it should have been a team. Does that mean you pick four guys, you pick eight guys? You pick all 12 guys? I don't know?
Q. This is something pretty obvious, but what was the most pressure you ever faced over any putt, major, Ryder Cup, anything?
JACK NICKLAUS: Me? Never thought about it. The most pressure I ever faced over a putt? Probably playing my son Gary when he had me one down someplace (laughter). Gary said, I don't know what it is, if it's five feet, 25 feet, dad always makes it the last hole. That's pressure, when your kids are going to whip you. I never thought about it.
Most pressure putt? I suppose if you go back to it, probably the five footer I holed in 69 at Birkdale in the Ryder Cup. That was a team thing that I was the last match in. That's probably the most nervous I've been over the putt that I had to make?
Q. The only reason I ask, I wonder if there was anyway that you could relate to what you felt in 69 as a player and what you could have imagined Ernie and Tiger in that situation of one guy playing for 12.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I could imagine that. We were still within the regular matches, but they were out of the regular matches. They were on their own. Yeah, I think that's a lot Tiger said I don't think I've ever felt that much pressure over a putt.
JEFF SLUMAN: He was physically exhausted by the end of that.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the guys feel that way, sure, more so than in an individual event.
Q. Media Day at the Presidents Cup, both you and Gary were pretty much a consensus The International team at the time would have been the favorite. Obviously things have changed considerably. Do you still consider that to be the case, and if not so, why?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think The International team probably on paper, the Top 20 we're not playing the Top 20, we're playing the Top 12, but you take the Top 20 best players internationally and the Top 20 best players U.S., I think there's probably more good players internationally than there is U.S.
As we've gone down picking the 12, I think probably we have probably a strong U.S. team as I think we could have had.
I don't think we missed anybody except you, Jeff. I think I'm in the right spot. Wouldn't you think we have the 12 best players?
JEFF SLUMAN: Absolutely. They're all ready to go and excited to play.
JACK NICKLAUS: I wouldn't have thought that was going to happen in May. I would have thought we might have Davis end up missing the team or Furyk or somebody would end up missing the team that really should have been there, and if I look at it, I don't think we missed anybody at this point. I think we got the 12 best U.S. players, which helps us a lot from the U.S. standpoint.
Gary, again, has got I think he had more players to choose from. I mean, I'm sure he'd like to have Nicky Price on the team, I'm sure Elkington could have been on the team and Allenby, they've got a lot of very, very good players who are not on The International team. If somebody slipped on his list so that the person who would have filled in would probably have been equally as strong, and I don't think we had them on the U.S. list, yet.
That's why I said those four young guys I talked about, they're going to get there and they're going to be very, very strong players. There's more behind them. But today I think we have the 12 best?
Q. So at the end of the day you think you're a favorite to win now?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I still think The International team is probably a little bit stronger than we are. I think I would rather go in there I would rather have them go in there without a big head. I'd rather have the other team have a big head. Let's go in there and say, "hey, we might be on our home soil but we might have to work real hard to win this." I like to keep them a little hungry.
Then "Ernie is hurt, Ernie is not going to play, we should walk away with this." That's not going to happen. I don't want that to happen. I don't want them to feel that way. Does that make sense?
Q. Gary Player went down the list a little bit to take Trevor Immelman, 25 years old. This will be Tiger's eighth U.S. team and he's been the youngest player on seven of those eight. Is it sort of a closed shop, old boys' network on these teams? Why are we sort of having a generational gap?
JACK NICKLAUS: We have a qualifying system. It's whoever qualifies. I didn't play my first Ryder Cup until I was 27 or 29. I mean, Tiger has played for eight U.S. teams before I ever played one.
Q. These things happen, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup. Wouldn't Sean O'Hair, for instance, be an investment in the future to get him into a spot now so he can be ready for the next one? It seems like we keep going for guys that are late in their
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm going to go for the 12 best players that I think at that time I can have. I mean, I'll let the next captain select for experience. Right now I want to have the best team that I can have, and I think that's what I did.
I said I was unhappy not unhappy, but I was hoping that some of those young guys would have come through and earned their spot on the team, but I don't think that if you look back at the records, I don't think they did. They had a good shot at it, but I don't think they quite got there.
Q. You remarked about the five foot putt to beat your son, and Gary has been known to be a little competitive, too. Does that filter down to your squads at the level that these guys are at, how competitive you and Gary were and still are?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think so. I don't think there's a question that that's how we all lived our lives and played our events. We all wanted to win, and that was when you want to win and when you that's what you're out there to do, and you make that happen, that's what it's all about. That's the fun of it. The fun of it is being competitive.
The fun for me playing with my kids is to go out there and they ought to be able to whip the old man now any time they play. They don't whip him very often. They don't play very often, but they don't whip him very often when we play. It's always bragging rights.
I play in the Lost Tree Pro Am, which all the kids play in, and as soon as we walk off the golf course, "what did you do? How did you shoot?" I got them again the last two years. That's sort of what we do.
Q. Gary also went on at pretty fair length today about the general tone of the matches. It's clear he wasn't much of a fan of what some of the recent Ryder Cups had become as far as fans interacting. I was just wondering what you thought about that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I did not hear what Gary said, but I'm assuming you're talking about the spirit of the matches and how the game should be played, and I talked about that earlier. I think our guys have played they played the matches in South Africa in the right spirit, and I think that Captain Player and his guys, Jeff and myself, we want them to play it in the right spirit, and I think that I don't think the fans want them to come and see it and enjoy it and be part of it, but we don't think they need to be in the middle of it.
Q. You may have first brought this up in '98, but could you ever see a day of a tri match or somehow involving Presidents Cup Ryder Cup, or do you think they're better off on their own?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it's probably a moot point. The PGA of America owns one event and the PGA TOUR owns the next event, and who's going to give up their event, or you just have one one year and one the next. You've heard me talk about that, where you play a king of the hill type of thing. Right now I don't want to talk about that. Right now I'm interested in this year's Presidents Cup.
For some reason, the not wanting to go to an event has seemed to pass. When we had the trip to South Africa prior to that, even when I went to Australia, I had a team that really wasn't very excited about going, and they played like it and that's what they told me afterwards. They said we didn't give you a really good job, captain, we didn't really care about being there. I said, "I'm sorry, I did not pick that up." I guess because I was so enthusiastic about being there, I didn't pick it up.
And then in South Africa, I said, I told them all, "if you don't want to go, don't go." All I want is 12 guys who want to go and want to play, and we'll make a team out of it. You know, they all were very enthusiastic and they all gave me 100 percent.
I mean, Phil, who had a horrible time down in South Africa, lost five matches and never scored a point, he could have taken that team down with him, and he didn't. He did exactly the opposite. He was there at every meeting, he was there following the guys after he finished his match or whatever it was, encouraging and so forth. He was probably my most valuable player, and the reason he was my most valuable player is he could have gone the other direction. He didn't. He chose to do the right thing. I was very proud of him for that. I think that those matches helped him a lot towards what his next year was.
You know, this year, I've had nothing but enthusiasm, you too (looking at Jeff). I got a call from Tiger yesterday and from Davis today, and they're enthusiastic about wanting to play. So as long as they're enthusiastic about wanting to play, then that other issue is a moot point, so it doesn't mean anything.
We were trying to figure out at one time how do you keep these matches alive and keep all of them alive? I don't think we have that problem right now.
Q. One of the things that was brought up last year after the Ryder Cup, they made the point that since The Presidents Cup had come along, they had only won two Ryder Cups, and they were intimating that having to play matches every year was taking a lot out of them.
JACK NICKLAUS: Can be. I don't disagree with that at all. I think that's probably a very valid point, and it's very difficult to keep getting up year after year after year after year when the other team only has to get up every other year?
Q. But it's just golf for one week, isn't it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, so is every other tournament, just playing golf for one week. You keep just playing golf for a week, pretty soon you're going to find out you're not going to play very well. They run into each other, and all of a sudden what happened. I went through that in my career several times, where I was playing well, and then all of a sudden, I just sort of "I don't want to go but I'll go. I'm going fishing next week." Pretty soon you find yourself where you can't play and then you have to go back to work.
Q. What took Dana Quigley so long to figure it out?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think he's figured it out yet. He's still playing every week, isn't he? He missed one, didn't he? Well, he never played before.
Q. Right, the regular Tour.
JACK NICKLAUS: Here's a guy who just absolutely loves to play golf. More power to him. He plays very well.
Q. Your safest record might be six Australian Open titles. What are the U.S. players missing out on by
JACK NICKLAUS: I hadn't looked at it that way. No, it's not, because Gary Player won seven.
Q. What are the U.S. players missing out on by not playing in Australia, South Africa, Europe, more frequently than they do?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I enjoyed playing those places. I look forward every year to going to Australia. I probably played down there 20, 25 times. I look forward to it because I look forward to other things. I look forward to going to the Great Barrier Reef. It was a time of year when we didn't play much here, before they had the silly season. I enjoyed the match play over in London. I didn't play that much, but I played it enough to lose enough times. I won once, but I played enough times to lose, different events, I enjoyed those things.
The difference, too, was that we played golf then to make a name so we could go make a living, and the guys today play golf for a living; big difference.
The guys today don't need to go to those places to make a living, and they don't need to make a name to support their endorsement contracts in those parts of the world, and that's what we had to do. I mean, I had Australian golf club contracts, Australian clothing contracts, and part of that contract was I needed to go down there and play as part of I didn't have to go every year, but I had to go there and play two weeks and so forth. That was part of my deal. That was part of how you made a living.
The guys today, they collect a million bucks for winning a golf tournament, you don't have to go do a heck of a lot more the rest of that year. It's just a different deal.
Q. Two non Presidents Cup things. Did you happen to see the end of the PGA? Have you read that Phil went out and tapped your little plaque out on the 18th fairway?
JACK NICKLAUS: I did hear that. I was actually working on a course in Sarasota.
Q. What's your take on him doing that?
JACK NICKLAUS: On the plaque? That would be a take the attention off of what's going on, try to just sort of relax himself so he can play a shot. I've done, similar type things to that, but that just happened to be very handy, it was right there. It's right where I played my third shot and he was playing his second (laughter)?
Q. And since you are in Ohio and some of us did go to your alma mater, what's going on at the Ohio State golf course?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was down there today. We finished up all the greens. We were not going to change the greens and then we felt like all the things we were doing, we were going to tear up half the greens anyway, so we convinced them to do all the greens, so we probably put three or four new greens on the golf course. We tried to bring the rest of them back, bring contours to them. I tried to call MacKenzie and he never answered the phone, so I had to do the best I could. I've done lots of renovations, and guys say, "gee, we had such and such a golf course, I want to make sure we do it how he would have done it." I say, "how in the world am I going to know how he wants it done? He never calls back." I'm trying to figure out our own best MacKenzie imitation is what we're doing. We've got some wild bunkers down there. They're beautiful. It's going to be a heck of a golf course. It already was a good golf course, but it's going to be a heck of a golf course now. If you're going to find a better collegiate golf course in the country, you're going to look a long way?
Q. Were there any old drawings?
JACK NICKLAUS: MacKenzie died five years before we started. I tried not to change the greens, but there was two or three holes on the golf course, the 4th hole was a short par 5, and I really wanted to put some length on it because they're really playing it like a driver and an 8 iron, so I put some length on it and wrapped it around the lake that was off to the right, so I had to do a new green there. And the 4th hole we switched to a par 4, which used to be a short par 5. So I wanted to do a new green there for the par 5 hole.
The 16th, we moved it off the road. Where the greens were too severe, we just did a couple of those things. It's going to be very nice.
Q. It opens in the spring?
JACK NICKLAUS: Uh huh?
Q. What's a wild bunker?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, all kinds of fingers and all kinds of slopes and moving floors and not the conventional bunker you're going to look at here, which is a couple little fingers to walk in on and the rest of it is sand. They're wild. Native grasses, all the same things that the good doctor might have done but didn't do.
I think Perry Maxwell did the golf course and he was one of the guys that worked for MacKenzie at the time, so we did a lot of research on what Perry's work did because that's the way MacKenzie did things. Russell was one of the guys at Royal Melbourne. So we went back to try to utilize the information. We had to put it back into the golf course because it really wasn't there. That's what we did.
Q. How many trips have you made?
JACK NICKLAUS: I've been out there half a dozen times, I suppose.
Q. In comparison to most projects, is that a lot for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, that's about the right number. I generally visit from six to ten times during a project because you've got different phases. I can't sit out there and I'm not a guy to sit there. I really design a lot like I play golf. I visualize what I do, what I've done, and I really when I see a piece of ground, I see something there, then I visualize how he would play it and how I think somebody should do to try to play it, how it would fit in there, and I would get a two shot penalty for slow play. I want to try to make a decision.
I try to put a hole in there the same way, and then we try to tweak it from that position. Generally speaking, your first impression is pretty good. We tweak it three or four times. It usually takes three, four, five times each place to be able to get the golf course the way you want it. Of course a lot depends on the guys I've got working and the operators. I've got a kid doing the bunkers by the name of Steve Page, and this kid is terrific. He's a wizard doing things. They haven't even started the hand work down there and they look like they've been sculptured out of MacKenzie's page 12 out of his latest book.
TODD BUDNICK: We want to thank Jack and Jeff for taking the time with us today, and good luck at the matches this year. Thank you.
End of FastScripts.