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April 9, 2005

Jack Nicklaus


BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to have Jack Nicklaus with us for what may very well be his last round at The Augusta National. Jack had a 77 and a 76, and that probably won't make the cut, as we all know, but Jack was nice enough to come down to visit with us, and so with that, I'd open it for questions.

JACK NICKLAUS: What do you mean I won't make the cut, Billy? That will get me -- it will get me right to the flats (laughter).


JACK NICKLAUS: It was the cut I expected.

BILLY MORRIS: A different cut.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about just the emotional feelings at the end?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was pretty good all day until I got to the 18th fairway, the 9th fairway, and I just knew it was my last time of playing here. I hit a really good drive and I had a hanging lie, I had a horrible lie, went just over that first ridge, and I'm hanging down that thing, and I took a little 6-iron and knocked it down about four feet, and I sort of lost it coming up to the green. I could never get it back to hit my putt. I would have liked to have finished with a birdie.

That's sort of been my -- only trouble is, it wasn't the 18th hole. It was nice to birdie the 18th hole, never the 9th hole. But that's sort of an attempt at humor.

Anyway, I finished today, started out, I was 4-over par after five holes today. Finished up with 4-over for the round is probably pretty decent for me. Probably about as good as I'm going to play on this golf course with the conditions and the length it is.

I played more 3-woods, 4-woods, 5-woods -- I don't know, if I hid my 6 and 7 in the bag, I would have played them, too. I don't know how in the world I would ever be able to compete doing that.

You know, it's two kind of things. It's great and it's fun to play in the Masters, but it's certainly no fun to play that way. It's no fun to go out there and hack it around and struggle to try to figure out some way to shoot, break 80. That's never been the way I've operated, and I don't believe that I should be out there. I came back this year because Hootie had really asked me. He says, "Jack, you have to come back one more time."

And I said, "Well, if I'm playing golf, I'll consider it." And I was playing golf, so I came back. So, anyway, I've come back and played. I'll come back again to come to the Masters dinner. I'll come maybe play the par 3; I think I can reach most of those greens, I think I told you, even with clubs that are reasonable

But I don't think I'll venture on the golf course again for a tournament round. I may come up and play a round of golf on Tuesday or Monday or something like that, but I don't think I'll play in the tournament again. Unless I can gain ten-mile-an-hour more clubhead speed, then I'm not coming back; how is that? I don't think that's going to happen.

Q. Did you find yourself as you were walking around sort of taking it in, every moment, looking at every hole?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really do that. That's not me. I was trying to shoot a good score and trying to make the cut is what I was trying to do out there today, and when it was quite obvious that about -- oh, I felt like even going to the back nine, if I'd shot about 30, I guess about 33 on the back nine, I could have made the cut.

That's at least what I felt. I bogeyed the 1st hole and bogeyed the 3rd hole, and it was quite obvious at that point in time that I was going to have to birdie just about in from there, and I wasn't -- I wasn't looking at many short irons to do that.

Q. You weren't real definitive with us about whether this was or was not going to be your last.

JACK NICKLAUS: I have the ability to come back. I mean, Billy Casper came back after how many years did he miss? He just wanted to come back and he wanted to play one more round.

I don't think I will do that. But if I certainly have the -- I have the right to do that. But I think that, you know, it is certainly no fun hitting a bunch of fairway woods, I promise you.

Q. The fans were probably ambiguous, too, about whether this was the last round or not. In some way, don't you think that they might want to feel that they are seeing this momentous occasion, rather than --

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know how you phrase that, but I'm not really too worried about that. You know, everybody says, "Gee, Jack, don't quit, we want to see you play." I say, "That's great, you come out and you watch me hit it into the 2nd green and tee off the 3rd tee." "Gee, I saw Jack play," but it took them six minutes to see me hit those two shots.

You know, this is not a celebrity walk-around. This is a golf tournament. It's a major golf championship, and if you're going to play in this championship, you should be competitive and you should be able to be able to compete with who is out there.

I think it's fine to go ahead and, you know, say good-bye and so forth and so on, but I think you say good-bye when you think you can still play a little bit. You know, I think I can play a little bit, but I can't play well enough to be playing. My best judgment is that, you know, if they want to say good-bye, they had to hurry up today, okay (laughter).

Q. When did you decide between the beginning of this week and this weekend that this was going to be your last?

JACK NICKLAUS: I thought last year was last. I had no intention of coming back this year, none whatsoever. Actually, even though Hootie had asked me, he says, "Jack, you need to come back one more time," just for exactly what you're asking for.

I said, "Hootie, you know, that's hard to do, to play, if you haven't been playing golf." I had not played any golf this spring, and when I started spending time with Steve the last month playing golf, that's what we really did a lot of. I didn't play a lot of golf, but I played in the last couple weeks up to this tournament, I played a half dozen rounds of golf. That's a lot for me.

I felt, well, you know, if I'm going to ever come back, I suppose I've got as good a chance of not embarrassing myself this year as any other year, because every year I wait, the harder it's going to be to break 80.

So I just said, I'll just go suck it up and get it over with. That's sort of the way I looked at it.

Q. At the beginning of the week you said you were not sure --

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not positive ever of anything. Arnold changed his mind about how many times (laughter)? I mean, didn't he? Yeah, I have the right to change my mind. And I said if I get ten miles an hour more of clubhead speed, I'll be back. I swing at about 107, 108 right now, which isn't all that terrible, but if I can get it up to 118, I'll be back, but I don't think that's going to happen.

And when they shorten the holes another 30 yards, and that ain't going to happen, either.

Q. When you did get emotional on 9, what was going through your mind?

JACK NICKLAUS: That this was going to be the last time I was going to walk up the fairway. I just said, you know -- obviously, I had made up my mind. This is just too tough for me. I just cannot do that this. Jackie, he's with me, and he says, "Oh, come on dad, let's make another birdie. Come on dad, let's make another birdie."

What I was really trying to do on 9 was trying to see if, knowing it was the last hole I was going to play, I wanted to hit two really good shots and see if I could get the ball up on the green and not walk away with a bogey; I could have walked away with a birdie and I didn't. My short putts were pretty good all week, but, you know, I didn't get it in the hole. That really wasn't on my mind, frankly. When I got the ball close to the hole is when birdie popped into my mind.

It was really getting the round over with, getting here and enjoying it, enjoying the moment, saying good-bye and do it properly. I don't know what proper is, but do it properly and do it where you can enjoy it, the people enjoy it, the people know you're saying good-bye. Just do it without making a fool out of yourself.

Q. How difficult is it to separate the personal and the emotional with the professional side when you're coming to this point?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, I pretty well -- if you've seen about how much golf I've played in the last year how I've pretty well separated what it is. I don't really consider myself a tournament golfer anymore. I had a couple of things I wanted to do, and the British Open will be the last thing I want to do from a tournament standpoint.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to play golf. I love to play golf. There's a lot of golf courses, I mean, send me out to Hawaii in January every year or February or whatever it is and give me a golf course that's about 6,400 yards long, which is about what we play out there, and I can enjoy that. I can have fun. I can reach most of those par 4s.

But to go back and play against, you know, the likes of Tiger and Ernie and Vijay and what have you or Phil, whatever you have, you try to play against those guys, I can't do that. I might have an odd golf course where I might be able to compete a little bit, but I'm not a golfer anymore. They are playing every week. They are young. I'm an old man trying to figure out some way to get out of the way.

Q. If this is your last Masters, other than winning six times, what would be a short paragraph describing the Masters experience of the four decades?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that, you know, my two favorite places in the game of golf are Augusta National and St. Andrews, and I'm going to hit both of them this year.

The experience of having been a young kid and qualifying and playing here at 19 years old, putted about the same way I did then today; and going through the experience of growing with the tournament and growing into the ability to win; living through the, I don't know, the 25 years of competition that I had an opportunity to win, or more; having played a great number of really good rounds; having a great number of memorable experiences on this golf course and this tournament.

You know, it's a treasure for me, and I'll miss that greatly.

Q. You mentioned the British Open in each of your last two responses. Does going there and having Steve on the bag there bring you to closure?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I would think pretty much. I think that's pretty much what I'm doing. I had early in the year, Steve and Jack told me who was caddying where; it wasn't me, I didn't tell them. They came to me. Steve and Jack came to me and says, "Dad, we thought about it, and if Jackie is going to take the Masters," Steve says, "I'm taking the British Open."

I said, "Okay. Do I have anything to say about it?" They said no.

But that's what we had planned and that's what we're doing.

Q. When you were tearing up on 9, Jay Haas came to you. What did he say?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, he was standing there, and finally he turned to me and he started tearing up with me and he says, "Oh, cut it out, will ya"? He says, "I've got to putt this."

I says, "I know you do, but I want you to make it."

Jay is a nice guy. He's a wonderful guy to play with.

Q. Have you ever teared up on the golf course before?

JACK NICKLAUS: Too many times. Most of the times that I win coming up the 18th fairway, and not when I'm usually tied, but if I've got a two- or three-shot lead, I think I've done it pretty much every time. It's kind of nice to know that you are human and you can do that.

Q. On 9, you gave Jackie the ball and it looked like you held it for a minute. Did you say something?

JACK NICKLAUS: I said, "Keep the ball, keep the glove. I don't want to see it on eBay tomorrow" (laughter). I think I'll keep that for my own museum.

He was doing that.

Q. Where will you watch the final round?

JACK NICKLAUS: I probably won't even watch it. I'll probably be fishing.

Q. In Florida?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not going to tell you where because I really don't want to have anybody else on the flat.

But no, my plans are, you know, if I was actually going, I never dreamed that I would make the cut, so I told somebody I would be down maybe late this afternoon and fish Sunday and Monday and get rid of all that and then go back to work on Tuesday.

Q. You alluded to kind of protecting the integrity of the championship, and yesterday there was a score in triple figures. Just kind of curious, what's your take on the best way to handle the past champions playing and still preserve --

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I certainly am not criticizing anybody in any way, shape or form, any of the guys that have played because they have earned the right to do so.

What would be nice, you have the par 3 event, but have an event on Tuesday or Wednesday where the champions play and that gives the fans a chance to see them, a chance to say something to them. Let them play from a tee they can play from and just have -- just part of the practice round, nothing special, no prizes, no nothing. Just let them play as a group and let the people say thanks for being here, thanks for coming, hey, I want to play the course one more time. They can play in a place they are not going to embarrass themselves, play a team thing, do something. That's what I would -- if I would come back and play, I'd welcome something like that to come up here on Tuesday afternoon or Monday or Wednesday or whatever day it might be and just go out and play with the guys and say, hey, thanks to everybody, Love being here, let the people say something to you, whatever it is. I think you'd find Arnold would come back and do that and I think the other guys would play, too. I think it would be a nice thing to do.

Now, whether they want to do that, I don't know; they have the par 3 event which is adding an event to an event. I don't think the par 3 adds a lot to the tournament as it relates to playing the golf tournament. It's a nice event. I think the people enjoy it so forth and so on. That would be a nice event and people enjoy it and so forth. It would be something that you could do with your past champions.

I think they would get their -- I don't know what the right word would be, get their ego fulfilled with a day of that. I certainly would. It would be enough for me. And it would certainly allow us to come back and play the golf course, enjoy the golf course under the conditions of how everybody is going to see it during the week.

Q. Have you ever had discussions with --

JACK NICKLAUS: No. First time. You asked me a question and that's my opinion. If anybody likes it, they can use it. If they don't like it, you can just forget it.

Q. Did the experience of contending here at age 58 mean as much to you as any of the six victories?

JACK NICKLAUS: No. I enjoyed that. I played very well that year. That was the year right before, about eight months before I had my hip replaced, so I played basically on one leg and I sort of felt like if I got my hip replaced, if I did that well on one leg, I'd do quite well on two, but I never quite did. But I enjoyed that, that was fun. Steve caddied for me that year.

Walking down the 15th fairway, I hit a good drive at 15 and I turned to Steve and I said, "Steve, I'm sitting almost the same position identical that I did in '86." I know that's a pretty big thing to ask to make the same kind of finish, but if I make the same kind of finish, I think I'll have a chance to win the golf tournament. I'm not sure what I did, I birdied 15 but didn't eagle it and parred the rest of them and made a bogey, I don't know what I did. I had a ball. I have a blast any time I can be competitive. Sure, that's what it's all about.

Q. Why not replace the par 3 tournament with the seniors?

JACK NICKLAUS: It's not my tournament. It's not my tournament. You just asked me what I thought. I think the par 3 tournament is fine. I think that that would be fine, too. That would be something that I think would -- he asked me to solve a problem and that's the way would I solve it, but it's not my tournament.

BILLY MORRIS: Jack and his family are heading back to Florida this afternoon.


BILLY MORRIS: That's what you told me (laughter).

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, we are.

BILLY MORRIS: Couple more questions.

Q. How was it finishing on 9, and can you just walk through that response because that's when you seem to get a little -- just finishing on 9 instead of No. 18, and could you walk through when you were walking?

JACK NICKLAUS: Actually, I wanted to walk over to the 18th green, but they wouldn't let me; my ball was on 9 green (laughter).

Well, obviously I'd have loved to have finished on 18, but I didn't. You know, walk you through it, I thought I walked you through that once. I don't know. I got a little emotional, I suppose, from my standpoint, but I'm a little bit that way anyway.

Q. Arnold said he would like to be an honorary starter somewhere down the line.

JACK NICKLAUS: I have no interest in that whatsoever.

BILLY MORRIS: Jack, on behalf of all of us who love golf and those of us who have a piece of this tournament, thank you for all you've given to this game and for the people who love it. Good luck, best wishes.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thanks, Billy.

End of FastScripts.

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