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May 10, 2000

Byron Nelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Mr. Nelson for joining us in the interview room. Good to have you, and maybe you should just talk a little bit about the tournament this week and the courses.

Q. Have you heard much input from the players about the changes on the TPC?

BYRON NELSON: I've heard a little bit. Yesterday, I was involved in several different things yesterday so I didn't get to talk to a lot of them. But every one of them that I saw that made mention of it, they liked it better than I expected them to, not that there was anything wrong with it, but we golf pros, and I'm one of them, sometimes doesn't like change. You get set on the golf course, the way it's going to be and you go and it's not exactly the same way. But the interest has been good and the TOUR people have completely okayed everything that's been done. They like it. And, of course, we do, and that makes us feel good. And when you have someone like Jay Marsh doing your work, well you just don't find many mistakes because he loves this place. He did it originally, and so he's very fond of the place. And he realized that when he did it the first time, that there's some mistakes -- I say mistakes, things that he would preferred to be not exactly like they were. But you realize that what he did, along with my friend, Steve Barley and Bob Gibbons, the Worthington people that did all the dirt work, that they built the golf course in 12 months, and we played a tournament on it. And everybody says, including Jay said, it's never been done before in history. So there were a few things that were all right, but like the 15th hole, it didn't turn out just right, and then the 10th green and the tee done over. But all in all, I think that the improvements, it's our intention to continually -- continually, continuously, I'm an uneducated boy, I play golf for a living -- we intend to do minor work on it for about three years, and, of course, the tree program will be finished in about three years, and that's what -- that's what will make the big difference over a long period of time. And Jay has done a fantastic job with the help of the rest of us where to put the trees, because you had to be careful, you put a small tree that some day ten years from now, it's going to be over the green. But he's done a great job of that, and I'm very pleased with it.

Q. Do you have any feel for how it will or won't impact scoring this week? Do you expect much difference?

BYRON NELSON: I've been trying to figure that out in my own mind, and the fact that -- the fact that I don't play hardly any and when I hit the ball so short, what makes me think that there's going to be a big change -- I don't think it's going to be -- some of the things have made it a little easier in a way because it's a better direction. The 10th hole is the same length, a little different bunker going to the right and a better green. So the 10th was certainly a big improvement, but it certainly will not play any harder than it did, except the design of the hole, the bunkering and the green is better. Because the left side of the green originally when we did have some floods it was subject to getting underwater, but that's all been raised and taken care of. No. 6, the tree -- well, we got a new tree on No. 1 that I don't think will affect the play very much. It won't add any score. Taking the Nelson tree down on the right, that filled in kind of a hole down toward the bunker there on the right. And then No. 6, adding the length that we did to 6 to make 6 play basically a little harder, because I'd say we probably added 25 yards maybe to the 6th tee, and we took out some trees. Before, where the tee they used, if you hit a good drive at all, you're out past all the trouble entirely. The hole just kind of opened up. The thing that we tried to did in this, I say we because I've been involved with Jay, but the thing that he tried to do is that wide open spaces, to not close them in, but to make them more like 6, when you get past the trees, why, it's open. No. 3, if you hit past water and go around that fairway, why, there's nothing down there except a little small bunker on the left. And things like that, those are the main things that -- that's the type of thing that we tend to do with trees. And maybe a little more bunker change by a little more -- they all have improved the changes; they have added to the bunkers. In other words, the bunker at 18th, a big bunker on the left and a big bunker on the right. Now there's some little bunkers spread around on the right and left; it just sets the hole up so much better to look at. And I don't think it will play any harder just because of that. So I'm saying in a roundabout way that if it would average, for the tournament total, tournament total, considering wind conditions that could vary a lot, maybe a total of three strokes in the tournament, three, four strokes per round only because it was not our particular desire to make the course a lot harder, but to make it more interesting. Make it just look more like a hole when you talk up to the tee, there's the hole. So he's accomplished that. And the peculiar thing about the eye, the way the eye fools you, we had a lot of dirt to use because of building -- building a new parking lot as well, we had a lot of dirt. So on the 17th hole, we used a lot of dirt on the 17th hole, but none of it is within the cart path. It was all outside the cart path. But there was kind of an open, flat area down on 17 down there and a lot of beautiful stuff on the right, the water come up there, the mountains; and down on the left just nothing, not an attractive place at all. And you put those big mountains in there and roll them in there like that, and, of course, they curve outside the cart path clear up to back before the green, to back where the cart path is and it just sets that green up it. Just looked like an entirely different hole inside the cart path. So these are the type of things that were done and everybody likes.

Q. How do you think a couple of the newer restrictions that have come out as far as the no cell phones, the pagers that have obviously gotten out of hand, how do you think that affects the image of the way that people feel about golf by banning those types of things?

BYRON NELSON: Well, I don't know. I'll answer it that way, I don't know. But I think it definitely is not a place for the cell phones and outside, so-called -- you know you have various noise that go on out there all the time because of people and everything else. But, whenever you are getting just ready to play a shot and somebody is standing by the tee and you're right here and you're swinging and that cell phone goes off, it's going to affect anybody in the world. I know they confiscate them -- I've been told this, I didn't see this, but I didn't think that they were confiscating them from people that came in at the Masters, and, of course, they gave it back to them. But I think that during the tournament, I think they -- I heard that they were confiscating 500 or something like that and I imagine that many people there would be -- maybe more. But I think that it's a good thing. I don't think players -- the regular noise that people make, this, that and the other stuff, I don't think influences them very much or bothers them very much, unless it's somebody yelling or something. That doesn't happen very much. That happens very little here. We have wonderful galleries here. We have no problem with those type of things at all. And I'm very grateful to it. And I've written articles in the paper hoping that people will continue to be good, pleasant galleries, as they always have been. And I think we're doing well, real well on that. So it's the unusual things that bother a player. Anything you're kind of expecting and you hear a lot of, it doesn't bother you very much, but something that's happening that you're not accustomed to, it bothers you. Even if you miss one shot sometime, maybe you miss one shot sometime for something like that. Suppose you come down to the 17th or 18th hole and you're playing for second, third place, maybe not win the tournament, you lose one stroke, it may cost you $100,000 or $200,000. So it's a problem to some degree that I guess most -- it seems like that so men walk around them with those things tied on them anymore. I don't even know how to turn my wife's computer on. And I'm not going to learn, either (laugh).

Q. You said last week that you thought this was the best field you've ever had. I wonder if you still feel that way losing a couple players like Ernie Els and Fred Couples. Is it still a strong field?

BYRON NELSON: Oh, absolutely. Those things happen. Unfortunately, they do. When players are out there and playing, things happen to them all of the sudden. But of course, to a degree, I'd have to say that that does weaken your field when you lose somebody like that, but still, excluding those, still have the best field we've ever had. And the thing about the field, you know, we have a great, great desire, me, the Salesmanship Club and the Four Seasons and The Sports Club here, all of us have a great desire to have this tournament as good as it can be. Any meetings that we have, why it's what can we do better, and when we have a meeting with the TOUR people, tell us what don't you like. These are the things we need to try to work on, these are the things we don't like or don't have. So naturally last year, we raised the TOUR -- raised the tournament $500,000 and we raised another $500,000 this year; so we've gone from 3 million to 4 million in two years. And you sometimes wonder where it's going to stop, but I think that we're getting close to topping it. What we desire to do is, I feel, and our committee and everybody that's interested in golf understands this, that golf is becoming world -- is not becoming, but is worldwide anymore. You know, Sweden and Italy and, well, all over, all over, Asia. And these various countries and companies too, have the monies to put up to get the players from all around the world, the top players. So they have a circle now of all around the world. And for instance, just to show you an idea, Mark O'Meara is very friendly with our tournament, a very good friend of mine. He's not playing in our tournament. And I had a wonderful letter from him that had been sent to the Club and then I got it yesterday. And he told me, he says, you know, "I'm not going to be at your tournament and I'll tell you why. I love the tournament," and he had some nice things to say about me. But he said, "I had an opportunity to go to Hong Kong and they were taking my whole family, my children and all of us over there," and that stuff, and he said, "I know that you'll understand and said I'll be there again next year because I love the tournament and I love what you people do." So this is something back that didn't happen when I played. Only time you go out of the States to play is to go to the British Open or once in awhile some little tournament down in Mexico. So it's worldwide. The thing that's in your mind and what you read and what I know of the players, a lot of them are not going to play more than 15 or 16 tournaments in this country, because it's to play worldwide, there's a lot of worldwide players that are playing now. So we are working, starting -- when I say "we," I'm talking about the Salesmanship Club and everybody that's involved in this tournament, are wanting to have this tournament in the top echelon of tournaments other than the major championships, in the field, the stature of the tournament, the golf Tours, the facilities. You can't improve on the facilities we have here. So that's what why, that's one of the reasons why we are working so hard to really raise the quality of our own tournament so that we can be in the top echelon. So whenever the players go around the world, we want them to still play the Byron Nelson tournament or GTE Byron Nelson. I think that pretty well states to you the way I feel and the way our committees feel. See, we have an unusual situation here, I'm sure you know. But USAA owns this place, and Four Seasons is a great hotel, and then The Sports Club. So we have got the Salesmanship Club people, the Four Seasons club people and USAA people and GTE. We have four different groups that we have to have coordinate together, and we've not -- we're not having any problem with it, but you can't just say, well, I'm going to go do this. We've got to go to them, or if they want something they have got to come, and then we've got to get all those four people together. So that does -- it's a wonderful thing, but yet it does create time sometimes. All those type of people are busy, but it's been working great, though.

Q. Mr. Nelson, there was a story in the Dallas paper today about how you called Justin Leonard and talked to him about his game and so forth. I wonder if you could go over that for us?

BYRON NELSON: Well, yes, I can tell you. I tell you, I, of course, like everyone else, Justin Leonard is a good man and a fine player, good player. But I have watched golf probably more -- matter of fact, I was accused by a couple of big writers recently of being a golf buff, and I guess I am, because I go to about -- I make at least eights appearances a year. And for a man my age, and to have a little problems getting around that you can see, why, that shows a dedication that I have to the game, and also the fun that I have in the game. So in watching, I do not watch play -- and when I watch play, I do not watch the tournament to critique or criticize anybody's game, because the good players are going to be play good, the good players are going to play bad and the bad players are going to play good. The good players are going to miss shots -- the only difference between a good player and a bad player is the bad player just misses more shots than the good player, that's all. But having known Justin and liking him the way I do and his family and all about him, there's some players you're a little more interested in because you understand them, you know them, you're friends with them. So I had observed what he -- and he hasn't been, as all of you know, he hasn't been playing well enough to suit him, and rightly so, because he has a lot of talent. And I think matter of fact, Golf Digest, I believe did a big article on his takeaway, his practice swing. And so I found in watching that almost could tell that his shot would not be as good as he'd like it to be because -- and it had to do with I'd say his position, not so much his position but his waggle, that waggle he does this, you know, does this a little more than anybody, moves the club from front-to-back when he's practicing, just before he hits a shot. And because I've seen that and saw him doing it before every shot -- and I didn't teach him to do that. I'm not saying that. I had nothing to do with that. But I have never taught him; had a couple sessions with him, some brief sessions along with Randy Smith. So I saw when he -- I'm a firm believer that the good players have a good rhythm from the very start to the finish. Some a little faster than others. Nick Price has got a great rhythm. He swings this fast, and some others are slower. We have certain built-in rhythms. Justin has a fine built-in rhythm. But as you know, you stand here, I won't get up and show you, but here's your stance; and when he does this, well, recently when he started doing that, when he did this, he moved a little bit with his feet and legs as he did that first waggle; that's what it's called, a first waggle. But recently, he has gotten to where he'll do this waggle and he does it with his arms and shoulder and he doesn't move his -- doesn't carry with his feet and legs. In other words, he does this, and then all of the sudden he comes back then and he wants to go and then he has to start with the feet and legs, too. That's a hard rhythm to maintain. And he doesn't do it all the time. But most of the time, almost invariably, I knew from watching that after I saw him do it a lot of times that that was causing some of his inconsistency. And when I went -- I'd been wanting to talk to him about it for quite a while, and finally just made up my mind I wanted to talk to him. Of course, I don't call him, I call Randy Smith because that's the man I could talk to. And I called Randy Smith, said I'd like to talk to him and so forth, and he said great and I went over and talked to him. He understood exactly what I was talking about and agreed 100% on it. Whether or not he plays worse or better, that's to be seen. You always wonder when you do that to somebody. But I know this in playing golf a long time myself, and see, I played and then pretty soon after I played, then I played a lot of exhibitions, and then I did television, watching golf for 14 years with ABC, 15, 17 tournaments a year. So I've seen a lot of golf and enjoyed all of it. You gradually learn these things if you don't know them yourself. You gradually learn. I can remember, now this sounds like most of us because it's not -- because it's a matter of observation, not a matter of being critical. Back in the days when I started doing television when Jack first came out on the TOUR -- and see, I started doing radio and television work in about 1960, and I went under contract with ABC in 1963 and Nicklaus won the PGA Championship over at DAC, and I was with them until 1977. I'd go out and watch the players, I'd watch them doing the television, watching them and Nicklaus I found one little thing that I could tell when Nicklaus would -- almost invariably was going to win because the way he set the club at the top of his backswing. Now that sounds like -- but when you see him just doing this and doing this and all of the sudden he doesn't do that same thing, does it a little different. And what it was, he took the club -- took always when he played great, of course he'd set the club, almost a slight hesitation, club set, and then he'd move down. And when he finished -- of course, he was such a good player that he finished second or third or fourth, even for him he didn't play well. You understand what I'm saying, and he'd get up here and the club, just when you start down, just a touch, I'm exaggerating, just a faint touch, a drop here, but when he had that little bit of drop, he would miss a few shots; so he might not win. But when he didn't do that back in the days when he was coming on Tour, he did it practically every time. Those are the things that I've observed over a period of many years of observation. I love to still watch him play. That's why I say I don't pick up anything -- I don't watch the TOUR to say, he could do this, he could do this, because that wouldn't be any fun. That would not be any fun because they all swing different. Now, Hal Sutton has been swinging so great and his swing is just perfect. You can see a difference when you know somebody. I knew Hal Sutton before he -- talked to him before he won the National Amateur; that's how long I've known him. But you can see it's a different, smoother rhythm.

Q. Can you talk briefly why it's important not only that this tournament attracts the best players in the world, but it's also become historically a showcase for some of the best young players going back to Woods, when they were younger, Leonard Garcia last year, is that important to you?

BYRON NELSON: Yes. I think one reason I'll take a little credit for that because the fact that I think the notoriety that goes with my name has helped some of the younger players. But we cater hard and look at hard to get the younger players because that's where -- that's where your future is. The older players are already established, they are going to come or they are not. We are very pleased with the fact that the young players all love to come to this tournament. And, of course, Garcia came here, the first pro tournament he played in and finished 3rd and he was the happiest kid you saw: "Well, I'll be back next year." Well, he is.

End of FastScripts….

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