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May 8, 2007
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
JAMES CRAMER: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to welcome everyone to the 2007 PLAYERS Championship. Thank Mr. Nicklaus for joining us this afternoon. Mr. Nicklaus is here to attend tonight's Past Champions Dinner and will be speaking tonight on behalf of the players. Given that, we wanted to make him available for you to answer questions.
We also have Jack Peter, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame, who will be making a special announcement.
And as you know, Mr. Nicklaus is captain of the United States Presidents Cup team.
And we have Mike Bodney, Senior Vice President of The Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal.
At this time I'd like to introduce Jack Peter to make a special announcement.
JACK PETER: Thank you, James. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to be here today to make another very special announcement on behalf of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Many of you know that since 2003 we've opened up several major expositions, which feature various members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Among those, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. And I couldn't be more proud to be here with Mr. Nicklaus, who will become the subject of our next featured exhibit. It will open next Monday and will be on display for one year.
The content of the exhibit is going to touch on a number of story lines. Obviously we're going to talk about Mr. Nicklaus's storied golf career. We're going to touch on some things such as his philanthropic efforts, his devotion to his family, his devotion to being a sportsman. We're going to talk a bit about fly fishing in the exhibit. So we're going to tell you some things that you might not already know.
I don't have to tell this group how enormously successful Mr. Nicklaus has been and what this means to the World Golf Hall of Fame. On behalf of the 200 volunteers, our staff and the fans of the game all over the world, I'd like to take this moment to thank Mr. Nicklaus for working with the Hall of Fame and becoming part of our kitchen cabinet of advisors. Thank you.
JAMES CRAMER: Before we take questions for Mr. Nicklaus, I'd like to ask Mr. Bodney to give us a brief update on this year's Presidents Cup.
MIKE BODNEY: Good afternoon, everybody. I hope everyone is having a good time at THE PLAYERS Championship. It's been a pretty good week so far. And I think from a weather perspective and everything else, it's going to be a lot better.
In regards to Montreal, The Presidents Cup in Montreal is going very, very well. We've had a tremendous uptake from the Canadian public and the corporate sectors. As some of you may know, the golf course has been totally redesigned by Rees Jones. And from -- I haven't played it yet, not that that would make any difference, but it is, from all the reports I've had from our rules officials and field staff and agronomy people that have been up there, it's really pretty good.
We're expecting to exceed everything that we've ever done before at the Presidents Cup. Montreal has really, really embraced the event. The club has really embraced the event. And talking to the players and everything and to Captain Nicklaus and Captain Player, we're expecting to have a really terrific week up there.
Anything specific you'd like to know you can ask me during the Q & A, but we're really looking forward to this and I hope to see you all up there, as well.
JAMES CRAMER: Why don't we begin with a question for Captain Nicklaus. I'll go ahead and ask the first one, if I could.
Jack, as the only three-time champion of THE PLAYERS Championship and the winner of the inaugural event, you've seen this event grow from its infancy. Perhaps you could start by commenting on what you've seen out there and how you've seen this tournament grow in prestige over the years.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, THE PLAYERS Championship is always, from its inception -- Joe Dye was the original, sort of his idea to start with and I guess he was Commissioner through the first tournament and then Deane took over.
The first few tournaments were in a variety of places, and I won in Atlanta and then I won in Inverrary, and I won at Sawgrass across the street. And then I think that Deane came along and sort of felt like the tournament, if it wanted to grow in the stature and have a permanent location, and one that would allow the tournament to really grow and do what they wanted it to do as a PLAYERS Championship, and that's when they built this facility over here.
And now you've built even a bigger facility, haven't you? Just a little bit, I think. It's come a long way.
I'm proud to have been three-time champion of it. I didn't realize I was the only three-time champion. Anyway, it was a long time ago. That was almost 29 years ago was my last win. So I'll let you all open to whatever you want to talk about.
Q. I remember reading when you won this at Sawgrass you kind of came off the green and said words to the effect that you've hardly ever felt so uncomfortable winning a tournament in your life because of the cold and the wind that day. In light of the weather problems, how much do you think being in May will help us?
JACK NICKLAUS: It will help. I remember that comment because I looked at Deane and I said, Deane, and I didn't mean it probably the way it came out, of course I probably never did sometimes, but I said, Deane, this was the most unenjoyable win I've ever had (laughter). I think I shot 1-over par to win. The wind blew like the devil. It was cold. It was a miserable week of weather. It was a matter of who survived it, and I was the one who survived it.
And I looked at Deane, and it was like -- I must have took a pin and just broke his balloon. And I always remember that remark, because I didn't mean to do it that way. I meant from the standpoint of having to work hard -- of course, I've always felt like -- I look back at some of the Masters wins. The one I set the record in '64 -- or '65, and I came back in '66 and shot 17 shots higher or something like that.
I mean, it was like the first one was real easy. The second one was really tough because you really had to work at it. And that's what we had to do there. It was a real test.
And to get back to whatever your question was -- what was the question?
Q. This tournament will thrive better in May?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think we've felt that March was a tough time for this tournament. You're sitting here two weeks before The Masters and generally bad weather, the golf course was never really in the condition you wanted it. You always want to try to find a fast golf course if you can. I think a fast golf course produces a better champion, and you weren't getting that.
I think that -- and I don't really know what they've done to the golf course, but I'm told that they've put a lot of -- they've sand-capped the fairways, put a lot of extra drainage, to make sure that they could control the moisture level of the golf course. If you could control the moisture level of your golf course, you could have a fast golf tournament. And if you have the wind like you're seeing out there now, you'll have some high scores.
Of course a fast golf course to me is always -- doesn't eliminate the average-length hitter, which I think is great. I think a lot of the tournaments we've had length has become such a major factor in the game of golf today when you get a soft golf course, even though a soft golf course is a lot easier, there's a lot of guys just can't get there.
So the ability to have a golf course that will test you on a day-to-day basis and control the moisture levels and allow you to get the greens at the firmness you want to have them, and I think May is a far better month for that for this tournament.
Q. What did you think of the 17th the first time you saw it?
JACK NICKLAUS: You knew you were in trouble when you got on the tee. No matter what -- you knew sooner or later it was going to get you. And it was going to get you good, probably. When you're playing at noon on Sunday at the 17th hole, you knew you weren't much of a factor and you could care less if you hit it in the water. You didn't want to hit it in at 6:00 on Saturday or Sunday.
It's probably -- I know it's exciting, adds a lot to the tournament, but maybe almost a little bit too much at times because it really becomes such a big factor in the golf tournament, where a guy has played great all week and all of a sudden he can make a 6 or 7 pretty quickly there, and all of a sudden he's gone from 1st to back into about 10th.
Q. Tiger was saying that he didn't think it was a good fit for the 17th hole of a championship.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, where would he like to have it (laughter)? I don't know --
Q. He said 8 would be one thing, but 17?
JACK NICKLAUS: 8, it wouldn't have all the controversy it has. I think that what makes an exciting and great hole -- and I think it is a great hole. Frankly, I think it's a terrific hole -- is that it is in a position where it creates the controversy. That's the whole idea of it. That's what it's for. You just wonder whether a tournament should be determined by that much of a thing at that point in time.
And there's such a big focus on it. Of course the galleries there, and I don't know how the gallery is today, it's been probably 20 years since I played here, the gallery in the old days used to be pretty rough. I imagine they're a little rougher.
Q. They've grown up.
JACK NICKLAUS: They've probably grown up, that's right.
Q. Tiger is about to become a father for the first time. I wonder if you could reflect on how that affected you, particularly in your golf game. Did it make much of a difference to you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not really. I think that -- I've never known not being a father, I suppose. Jackie was born, I think, a week or so after I won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.
Steve was born, I think, Thursday after I won The Masters. So I really -- obviously Barbara being expecting really didn't affect my game too much. Maybe I thought, let's get this thing over with so I can get home. And I want to get over it the right way.
Nan was born in May of '65. And I played an exhibition that day with Bob Hope and Jim Garner. They were at my house. My wife said she was on the way to the hospital -- that's a great story. You'll like that story. It's in the book, but we played and I came home. Those of you who haven't heard the story, it's a cute story, and I'll just go off for a minute.
We played the exhibition, and we got back to the house and she said, Jack, fix the fire. I said, I'll be up in a minute. And she said Jack, do you want to cook the steaks? I said, I haven't fixed the fire. So she fixed the steaks. And she called and said, the steaks are ready. I said, Barbara, I haven't -- no, come on.
So I had Hope and Garner and a few guys helping, and this was the inaugural event that led to the Memorial event, it was for the American Cancer Society in Columbus.
We were sitting down at dinner, and it was about 9:30 and Barbara excused herself. I didn't think much about it. I didn't think anything about it. We kept on talking.
After about a half hour, I said, where in the world did Barbara go? It was a few minutes after 10:00, and I went back in the bedroom. I said, what are you doing? She said, I've got my bag packed. I've called the doctor. I said, would you -- she said, would you like me to take a taxi so you can stay with your friends, or would you like to take me to the hospital? And I said, no, Barbara, I think I'll take you to the hospital.
I went back in the room, that house just disappeared like that. We decided in going to the hospital that if it was a boy, it was going to be named Robert James, after Hope and Garner. And anyway, that didn't happen, it happened to be Nan, and she was born at 12:15. It was about two hours later. My daughter came back and had her fourth, and she named him Robert James.
Q. In terms of your own preparation, how much in terms of your family responsibilities did it take away from preparation? Did you feel it ever did?
JACK NICKLAUS: You can't practice all day long. I think that my preparation -- I never was a guy who spent a lot of time just beating balls, because I don't think you accomplish anything by beating balls. Early in the year you need to put some mileage. As the year goes on, you really start to get ready for tournaments, you condense what you do in a couple, three hours, and then go to the golf course or whatever you're going to do. You get your work done and prepare.
You've got plenty of time for a family and plenty of time to play golf. That's not a big deal. And now, I mean, I don't play golf anymore. I'm trying to figure out what to do with a day. I'm traveling all over the world doing golf courses, but I'm trying to figure out how to fill a day.
I have 20 grandkids now. We had another grandkid Saturday. So, you know -- Tiger will do just fine. That was what you were driving at.
Q. Do you think your record of 18 majors as a father is safe?
JACK NICKLAUS: As a father? Yeah, I think that's in probably pretty good shape (laughter).
Q. As this tournament has grown in notoriety and field strength and prominence, there's been a running debate on what it would take to consider it a major championship. Do you think there's something that can push it over the edge, and would you feel having three more majors on your resumé would be a fair thing?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, I don't know. I mean, obviously I think I'm sitting in the place where the people here would like to have it be a major championship. But how many majors can you have? I don't know. I felt like they've done a great job here. The players like it. Could it be the tournament or could it replace another tournament? That's possible, too. Don't know which one. You guys have to pick that one.
It has all the makings of it. I don't know whether you'd want to do that or not. I think it's -- every tournament that Tim seems to come up with has the makings of that, too. The tournament championship, with the FedExCup thing, that leads up to the same situation. I mean, how much money do you need to put up for a tournament before it's a major championship? What did they play for, about $8 million this week?
JAMES CRAMER: Nine.
JACK NICKLAUS: Upped it another million. I don't know how many more million you have to go before you get that status. The FedEx thing, that's $10 million first prize?
JAMES CRAMER: Yes.
JACK NICKLAUS: You're trying to figure out how to get a guy to play in the fall. That $10 million ought to get him there. I don't know how to answer your question, really. I personally think four majors is enough.
It's just like -- it's like the game of golf, we keep changing the golf ball, and all the golf courses we played for years are no longer -- it doesn't make any difference, because the records all have changed because the courses have all changed. We're not playing the same golf course. We're not playing the same game anymore.
How do you compare my game with Tiger's game? You really can't. The more similarity Tiger plays as close to the same equipment I played as anybody. He plays a set of forged blades and it's basically the same equipment. He plays with a driver, but maybe he'd be better off with a wood driver sometimes -- that's not bad. You know what I'm talking about. Sometimes the drivers go so far -- the wood driver didn't go much farther. You could keep them in play much easier.
And last week, I mean, he was swinging beautifully last week. But he still had some errant shots, but so did everybody else.
I don't even know what your question was. I think it's awfully difficult to answer it, because every tournament that seems to come along today that the TOUR has initiated has been significant. The Match Play tournament, should that be one? Should one of the other four year-end tournaments -- I don't know.
But the tournament here is -- the tournament is what it is, and it's THE PLAYERS Championship. It's the best event of our TOUR. And yeah, I think it's a heck of an event. And I think May makes it better, even.
Q. I know it's probably been a while, but could you give us a scouting report as a player and an architect on Oakmont?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I haven't been there since last time I played there, what, '94? But Oakmont, I have no idea what they've done to it. I guess they've taken down a lot of trees. I don't know what that does. I guess it gives it a totally different look.
Oakmont is a golf course that used to have pretty good length, but I don't know whether -- have they added length to it?
Q. Of course.
JACK NICKLAUS: Have they?
JACK NICKLAUS: Ruined that one, too.
Q. Trying to keep up, you know.
JACK NICKLAUS: And actually I think -- with what the golf ball does, they've had to add 30 yards, other than the par-3s. Of course, I guess they added a lot to a par-3, there, didn't they?
JACK NICKLAUS: A little short one, 5-iron. Don't think it won't be. They'll play some kind of iron there. But anyway, I don't know where the game ends and where it doesn't.
Oakmont is a wonderful golf course; I enjoyed Oakmont a lot. The greens are obviously the key part to Oakmont. It's the part you've really got to watch. If the greens get firm and fast it becomes a pretty darned good test of golf.
Even back two or three Opens ago, I remember Ballesteros was close to the lead -- I don't remember who won that year.
Q. Larry Nelson.
JACK NICKLAUS: He was playing irons off of almost every tee then. And that was even -- what year was that, '70 something?
JACK NICKLAUS: '83. Yeah. But, you know, it's a good golf course, no question about that.
Q. You think Johnny Miller's 63 will stand?
JACK NICKLAUS: At Oakmont? Yeah, I think it probably has a pretty good shot until somebody shoots better. And I don't think anybody ever has.
Q. Where does that round rank in Open history?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it ranks pretty high. I don't think there's any question. He was done before I teed off, I remember that. The golf course was -- they've had all kinds of rumors of what happened at the golf course, the sprinklers got stuck on or whatever it was, so the golf course was extra wet. And we didn't know that in the afternoon, because the golf course played its normal way.
But I don't care if the sprinklers were stuck on or the holes were six inches wide, that's a heck of a round of golf (laughter).
Q. Do you have any idea exactly what you're going to loan to the Hall of Fame? And do you have a lot of memorabilia --
JACK NICKLAUS: That's what Jack was asking me. I'm sure I'll give a ball and glove.
Q. Do you have more than --
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have anything.
Q. Maybe stuff that's on display at your own place?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's all in the museum. The museum in Columbus has everything I have. And I just got back from Asia, and I went to Japan, Korea and China, and you know how many gifts you get in Japan, Korea and China. They were no longer off the airplane than they were on the way to the museum. I don't have a place for it. I don't think the museum does, either.
Basically it's a storage house for whatever you have. Significant stuff, which is stuff really they're interested in, I don't know how big a display it will be. I have no idea, but they'll get whatever they want. The museum will give them whatever they want to loan them for a year, I'm sure of that. They'll get complete cooperation from that.
Q. I'm curious, there was -- if you had a lot of extra stuff or if there was something in particular the Hall wanted?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not involved in it. I think that Steve Auch at the museum --
JACK PETER: We've spent a lot of time with Steve at this point from the Nicklaus museum. He's been down to the Hall of Fame and we're mapping out the square footage, and really where we're starting are the creative and story lines, exactly what we want to tell. Once those are flushed out we will determine which artifacts we need to transfer to support the story lines.
But we're just not there yet. We should be there by the end of the summer.
Q. Share your thoughts on the evolution of the size of the purse.
JACK NICKLAUS: Evolution of what?
Q. Evolution of the size of the purse, the value from when you first started playing to what it's evolved to today.
JACK NICKLAUS: It's gone like this (indicating). Actually it's probably gone like this (indicating). Of course I think all sports are -- have gotten a little bit out of hand today. There's only one group of people that pay for it, and that's the fans. And I think that to go to a baseball game today, I mean, what does it cost to go to a baseball game? If you want to take a couple of kids, it costs four or five hundred bucks to go to a baseball game.
Q. For good seats, sure.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, what does it cost, seriously? Costs a lot of money. It's no longer going down for a nice afternoon for a reasonable price. Every sport's that way. And golf took a long time to catch up. Golf was behind for a long time.
I think it's nice to see it catch up in a lot of ways. I don't know whether it's good or whether it's bad. I think in some ways you're having to try to figure how you get the guys to play. You had the same problem when I played, how to get us to play at the end of the year.
You have a TOUR Championship that you put in a $10 million first prize, and it's basically how much are you going to have to put there so the guys will come and play at that time the year. A lot of guys want to go watch football games. They don't really care about that.
The evolution of the prize money is a big factor in the game, but it's -- it was never a factor when most of the guys -- the older guys played. We always felt like -- and there's a lot of guys today that that falls in that same category, and I think Tiger is one of them. He doesn't care whether the purse is $10 million or $100,000 or $20,000. It's the game, the competition, who you're playing against and what the game is.
And that's what I always felt. But I never played golf except when I played skins games, which the whole factor was the money. You played for the game and the love of the game and to win. And that was what we played for and the love of that sport and the competition.
So the evolution of prize money is great to a certain degree, but I don't want it to come back and bite the game. I want it to be so that it's -- that the game continues to grow and the guys play the game for the game and don't play it for they have to take that prize check home. And as a matter of fact, it is a game, and it's a wonderful game.
Q. As an outside observer, does the FedExCup interest you at all, and do you wish you had something like that back in your day?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know much about it to say anything about it, to be very honest with you. I think that I haven't really had much discussion on it. All I know is you've got -- what, you've got four tournaments -- is the fourth --
JAMES CRAMER: It's the entire season, with the fourth tournament the playoffs.
JACK NICKLAUS: It's the four tournaments, is it elimination. How many play in the last tournament?
JAMES CRAMER: 30.
JACK NICKLAUS: So it is an elimination. It gets down to where you're doing that. Would I have liked that? Sure. Once the PGA Championship was over, as far as I was concerned, the year was over. And now that they've created this, the PGA Championship is not the end of the year. The World Series is the end of the year.
You've got another season ending event, The TOUR Championship. And you had to figure out, several guys were skipping it at the end of the year. And I don't think they wanted that to happen. They wanted everybody to play it.
Would I like to have had it? Sure, we would have liked to have had it, particularly the prize. It would have been a lot better than my -- 150 -- 144 was my largest regular TOUR tournament win. It's amazing. I thought that was a lot of money.
We played the -- the first year we played on TOUR, it was 1962 and we had nine tournaments that year, $50,000 or better for a total purse. And your $20,000 tournaments were $2,800 first prize. We got to $50,000 with a $9,000 first prize, man, everybody showed up (laughter). They were chewing at the bit to go play those $50,000 tournaments. It's all relevant.
And so I think that, yeah, would we have loved to have it? Of course we would have loved to have it. Even if you had the creativity that I think Tim is going through today, Tim is creating ways for getting the guys to play and creating ways for new excitement, creating new ways to bring sponsors into the game, creating new ways for you guys to want to write about it.
All these things are good for the game. And maybe it's not so much the prize money gets the players' attention as it does get your attention. You have to sit and write long and hard about who is going to get that $10 million at the end of the year, and that's okay. And if we'd have done it, our first prize would have been -- we might have gone up to $15,000 or $20,000 (laughter).
No, if we had thought that way back in that time, I think a season-ending tournament with a first prize, it would get to -- you'd probably have $250,000 when we played. It would have been proportionally to what we are doing today, maybe a half million.
When we had the first World Series of Golf, that was in 1962 and we had a $50,000 first prize -- I mean, wow. We had the first $100,000 tournament that year, which was the Thunderbird, and that was a $20,000 first prize. That was our biggest tournament all year. And we had the World Series, and I don't mind -- this has probably been, in my book, anyway, so I'll go ahead and tell you, that's one of the reasons they eliminated prize sharing.
And McCormack had all three of us, Palmer and Player and Nicklaus. So he devised -- he was part of the structure of that deal. When we played that deal, all three of us split the money. It didn't make any difference to us what the money was. All three of us wanted to win, so it didn't make any difference there.
But after that they said we shouldn't be splitting money, shouldn't be sharing, having an interest in another player, isn't that the way we have it now? That was the genesis of that. As purses started getting bigger, the players were looking at each other and saying, should we share?
Back ten years before I started playing you had five or six guys who traveled the TOUR and they pooled their money. At the end of the year one guy would make $15,000 and another guy made $5,000 and they split it. That's what they did in those days. But they had to, that's the way they made a living. It wasn't about an amount of money, it was being able to make a living. So today it's a little different story.
Q. We know that you and Gary Player are very fond of one another. And so what is it like going up against somebody that you're that fond of in The Presidents Cup, and are you guys going to be captains forever or what?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't think the TOUR will do that. I think they'll select somebody else next time around. But I think Gary and I would be captains as long as you'd like us to be captains. We certainly did not expect to be captains this time. And Tim came back and said, would you guys do it again? And we said, sure, we'll do it again, we'd love to do it.
I think the event we played in South Africa was probably the most rewarding and best golf event I've ever been involved in. It was absolutely fantastic, second only to what we had in Washington, which was, again, fantastic. The guys were terrific.
I love to see the guys come together as a team. They don't do that ever. And to be able to -- we've had one stroke basically difference between the international team and the U.S. team in two events. I don't know how many holes it is, a couple thousand, three thousand, however many holes it was. But anyway, there's been very little difference.
And I'm sure that Gary is obviously as good a friend as I've got in the game. I think to have the respect that I have for him and I know the way he'll handle things and has handled things the last two Presidents Cups, I'm sure that will happen again. So we'll have a good match, a good team.
I think it's nice to be a part of something that is -- that several million dollars is not tied to, only from the standpoint of what you'll raise for charity and what you'll do with that, that's fine. That's great. But this is -- the guys are playing for bragging rights. And I think it's kind of fun to watch them play for bragging rights sometimes. It's kind of neat. It's a nice event.
JAMES CRAMER: With that, I know you have an important engagement, Mr. Nicklaus. Mike Bodney, thank you. Mr. Peters, thank you.
End of FastScripts