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May 29, 2007
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Would you like to get us started?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what you want me to start with.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Maybe talk a little bit about the golf course.
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay, well, golf course is really good. We'll start off with that. Paul Latshaw and his crew has done a really nice job with the golf course. I sort of expect that. I think that they certainly have the talent and have produced a good golf course every year, so there's no reason why they wouldn't continue to do so. And they've had a good opportunity to do that.
We've made a couple of changes on the golf course, which I'm always tweaking the golf course. You know I can't leave things alone. And the only things that really have been -- that we've done this year which are really fairly minor, is that we made the bunkers at the first hole sort of really fit in with the character of the rest of the bunkers on the golf course. We felt that we needed to bring the drainage up, we needed to get them -- the third bunker was way out of play and we moved it back into play down the left side, a little further left and down the hole a little bit.
And in an effort to basically try to just encourage the fellows to play the strategy of the golf course.
The eighth hole was then more for the members. Members' tees were always sort of a mess there, so we said we'd just get the members' tees in good shape, and as we did that we enlarged the back tee, and it adds maybe three yards to the hole, so it's not a big deal, but it gives the players a little more space to play from.
And the 15th hole, which is a pretty good change, which we've been thinking about for years, 15 with equipment has become a very short par 5, actually almost par 4 length, as a matter of fact there's a lot of par 4s that have been that length, I think it was 501 or 503, and I didn't want to make it a par 4. I just didn't think it fit to me to be a par 4 type hole. And so we decided to go back, and we had bleachers behind the tee so we took the bleachers out and moved them across the creek and moved the tee back a little bit, and in an effort to more or less put the driver back in the golfers' hands, right now most of the guys have been hitting 3-wood up to the top of the hill and playing an iron into the green. Now they feel like they have to take a driver to get to the top of the hill before they play into the green, and with it being one of the probably narrowest driving holes on the golf course, it's going to be exciting.
And with the new bleachers that we put back there behind the tee it's going to be really neat. People are going to find it to be a popular spot because they've got the tee shot at 15, they've got 14, and they'll be around to turn backwards and look up 18, so it's a nice situation there. There was a rest station behind that which we have eliminated and took out, and we haven't permanently relocated that yet, but we have temporary over to the left of 18 now to replace that.
Outside of that, we haven't done much with the golf course. The bunkers which have been in -- was a bit of a controversial issue last year. What is the TOUR version of this? Let me see. I never remember the word. Oh, we're rough-raking the bunkers now, we're not furrowing them.
What we did is last year, as you may recall, the couple of days or the weekend before the tournament was when the idea of furrowing the bunkers came along, and that went through the TOUR process, the TOUR approved the process, as a matter of fact the TOUR encouraged the process, and so this year we said, okay, what are we going to do to make it more consistent? Last year we ended up having the rake that we had for the crew, and we couldn't get a rake that size because it was too heavy for the everyday rake, so we had a different size rake and the teeth were not the same size, so we eliminated one of the teeth -- every other tooth on the rake, which left probably a little bigger furrow than we wanted, but that's really all we had.
This year we're consistent with the size, and we really -- I don't think the players are going to find it to be a big hazard. Actually it looks about like what the bunkers looked on the TOUR for 30 years until we developed the Accuform rake, which is what most of the places have used for the most -- we developed that here, and most of them have used it for the last 20 years, which makes the bunkers very smooth, and we went back basically to the rake that used to be used on the TOUR, and in fact most golf courses would use anyway. It puts a little ripple in the sand. Can you get a bad lie? Yeah, you'd be pretty hard pressed, though.
I went out on Saturday with that, and I got in six bunkers, one was a long bunker shot and the other five I hit within a foot. I said, well, if I can't do that I think it's going to be pretty easy for those guys. I don't think that'll be an issue this year, frankly.
Q. Do you mind retracing the origins, just a little history lesson, on your vision for this place, just from the very beginning, acquiring the land, why you thought Dublin was it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Boy, you're really asking me to go back. You're really testing me to see whether this old body and mind can remember things like that? 1966 I sat at The Masters with Ivor Young, and we sat there and said, wouldn't that be kind of neat to be able to bring back something to Columbus that was similar to what it was at Augusta. We thought Augusta had just done a great service to the game of golf and thought that their tournament was great and certainly would be a good model to work after.
And so I asked Ivor to start looking for some land. We found about 11 sites around the area. We looked at two or three of them, and actually first came up -- one of them that came up, came up here. It was not very big. I think it was like 250 acres or something. Maybe 150 acres, the first piece was. And it was a place that I used to come up here as a kid and hunt. I never shot anything but I hunted. I looked a lot (laughter).
Anyway, the -- we looked at it and I liked the terrain because I remembered the terrain walking around as a kid, and then we just started expanding on that, and we ended up with 1,260 acres or something like that ultimately. And that was about from 1966 until we started the golf course in the early '70s. We did that in a public offering with the Ohio Company. We did a $9 million offering, of which most of it was due to the infrastructure and the area around this.
We got $2.4 million to build the golf course. I think that was spent fairly early on. Of course then because the $2.4 million -- I think we actually did the golf course for $2.5 or $2.6, but we didn't have money for the clubhouse, so it was a couple years before we built a clubhouse. We opened the golf course in May of '74. We had a Pro-Am -- we thought of having the tournament in '75. We had a Pro-Am here in '75. '76 was the first Memorial Tournament. I could give you more. That's pretty much in a nutshell.
Q. Let me pick up there. How difficult was it then to get a tournament on the PGA TOUR?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I brought -- Joe Dye came out here with me when the golf course was just cleared, and of course he liked the property. The holes were visible from just looking at it from a -- looking through the dirt and the trees, and we sort of -- Joe and I really worked out and developed the idea of what the tournament would be, how it could be, we developed the idea of the Captain's Club, honoring players of the past. I mean, all that was done before the golf course was even done.
And Joe said, I think you need, like, every other tournament to try to get on the TOUR. The TOUR was full, so you need to pay your dues a little bit. So the Ohio Kings Island Open, in Cincinnati, which was at Kings Island, I think we did two years down there before we transferred the event up here. That was the fore runner. That was the way he justified us having the ability to move into a prime date.
Q. Well, now Tiger today is speaking about his event in D.C.. Annika Sorenstam has a tournament being played this week with her name on it. I don't know what is totally involved with that. I guess the point is what is the interest or the reasons for great players having their own golf tournament?
JACK NICKLAUS: I suppose they just like the game.
Q. Is it that simple?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that's about it. They love the game they've played and they want to give back a little something to that game in a way of having an event to see if they can do something the way they felt like something should be done.
Other times I think it's probably a promotional thing. I have no idea. Tiger's position, I don't think Tiger financially has any real reason to do something like that other than I think that Tiger wants to have the event -- probably as good an event as he can have. I haven't talked to him about it, so I don't really know.
Q. Well, he's using it to raise money for his foundation and he wants to build a learning center on the east coast of the United States, which will be somewhere in the D.C. area. That's the connection.
JACK NICKLAUS: Then I think that's very nice, and I think that's great. The Children's Hospital has been the recipient of our benefit from day one. Columbus Children's Hospital saved my daughter's life when she was less than a year old, and we felt very strong about that, and so we wanted them to be our recipient of what we did here. There may be personal reasons in doing different things. Barbara and I have always been very heavily involved in what happens with kids and try to do things involved with kids. So for the Memorial to do that and the money we've raised here for the hospital, and the hospital has been very kind to us in having a Memorial wing there and so forth and so on, so I think it's worked very well. The girls here in town have been our volunteers and helped us with the tournament and so forth. It's a community gathering.
Q. Are you looking forward to the Pro-Am tomorrow, and what can we expect out of you?
JACK NICKLAUS: No (laughter), and probably about 80. That's a pretty quick question, isn't it? I'm being facetious. I don't play much golf anymore. Actually, I came up here this weekend just because I wanted to play the golf course, and I played it. I played two days, I shot 79, 83. That's about my game. I played it from the back. If I play from the front tees I can shoot par or close.
I just don't play anymore, and so to put my golf game out for public display is not necessarily something I want to do. But, you know, we'll do that tomorrow. I enjoy going around. It'll be fun. I'll have a good time with -- there will be a lot of people here that have been friends of mine for a long time, and they'll see my half a swing that I've got left, and that will be about it. They'll watch me for about two shots, and say, geez, wasn't it nice to see Jack out here. Then they'll go watch somebody play golf.
Q. Can you draw any parallels with an eye toward history of the big three of your era and the big three today with Woods, Mickelson and Singh? Are they doing some of the same things, dominating their era?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have no idea what they're doing today because I really don't pay that much attention to it. I know Arnold and Gary and I, we were doing something almost every week together. If we weren't playing a tournament, we were playing a TV match, we were playing an exhibition, we were doing promotions of different things. We spent a lot of time doing things together.
I don't think the guys today do that. I think that's a press thing that you guys have created if you wish to create it, and I think it's -- that you're just taking the three perceived best players in the game today and calling it that.
If we hadn't been the big three that we had, you wouldn't know what to call it.
Q. What about they're winning at a rate that could be likened to your era?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Tiger is winning at that rate. I think Phil has obviously gotten his game back of recent days. He's played very well lately.
Vijay has had a good year this year. We're delighted to have them all here. I think that the last time they played together was probably, what, Augusta maybe? I don't know. Maybe they might have played like Wachovia maybe.
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, sure, they played THE PLAYERS Championship, sure.
Phil hasn't won here, but Phil has come close here. I think the other two -- obviously Tiger has won here three times and Vijay has won here once, I guess. But there's a lot of other guys playing, too. We've got a pretty darn good field this year. We've got an excellent field, and I think we've got -- have an excellent tournament, and I think we'll -- hopefully at the end of the week, maybe you can write something about your big three.
Q. I remember last year when you talked about furrowing the bunkers it was to try to make the bunkers more of a hazard than it had been in the past. Now when you talk about rough raking the bunkers and say it shouldn't be much of an issue, I guess my question is then why do it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Why do it? It'll be an issue. In other words, all I've ever wanted -- bunkers I think are meant to be a hazard, okay? Why have them otherwise? If they're meant to be perfect playing conditions, I suppose we ought to put them right next to the cup.
The whole idea is that you put them out there to direct play around the golf course for a directional or for a penal aspect if you wish to challenge that area. That's the same thing as a water hazard or anything else, a water hazard being a little bit more final than a bunker. But the whole idea of the bunker and why I did the furrowing this year or the rough raking, and the rough raking will still do the same thing, it'll be a place you don't want to be.
It's not necessarily that I want to create a hazard that's that penal, I just want them to say, I'm really not sure I really want to be in there because a lot of times guys will say, okay, it's like the 18th hole here. They look at the water hazard on one side and they've got bunkers on the other side. They say, well, obviously I don't want to be in the water so I'm going to make sure I tug the right side, and if I put it in the bunker it's no big deal. They whip out the driver and put it in the bunker and knock it on the green.
Well, if they put the ball in the bunker this week on the right side, they could get a decent lie or they might not get a good lie. So they're going to say, hey, I'm not so sure I want to be in there, maybe I ought to play this hole the way it's designed, maybe I ought to take a 3-wood or 5-wood or 2-iron and put it down there in play and play the way the hole is designed.
I'm trying to get them to play the golf course the way it was designed. With today's golf equipment, the only thing that I know that you try to bring the really, really long hitter and the average length hitter more closely together is to take the driver out of their hands on certain occasions on the golf course. That way you get the guy who's a shorter hitter to be able to compete with a longer hitter. If you let them just stand there and wail away at it all day long, then the long hitter definitely has a tremendous advantage, particularly with the grooves that we have today. You heard me go through the spiel about 110 top driving accuracy of the guys a couple of years ago. They obviously felt the rough was just as good as that. Well, I don't want the bunker to be part of that.
I want them to think about that bunker and say, okay, I might hug that more than the water, but I really don't want to be in there so maybe it might be prudent for me to play a 3-wood off and put it in position. That's what we're trying to do. The rough raking will do that, okay?
But the furrows, the TOUR was not -- the players were not happy with being totally penalized in the furrowed bunker. Now, if you look at the statistics from last year, the TOUR average was something like 46 and a half percent of getting up-and-down. There were like 41 and a half percent or something like that here, so it really wasn't that much different. 21 of the Top 30 exceeded their own average for the year, were better. Carl Pettersson won the tournament, hit one bunker all week. I don't know whether that was a fairway bunker or a green side bunker. I suspect it was a green side bunker. Phil Mickelson played a couple of phenomenal shots out of the bunkers here last year. I remember the 6th hole. I remember him playing a shot out of a bunker on the 6th hole and he was sitting down in one of the furrows. Can you play it? Yeah, you can play it but you've really got to be good and you've got to be a little bit more precise. That's all we're trying to do.
It's not necessarily saying it's not a recoverable area, but it's a place you don't want to be.
Q. When you were talking about it at first you made it sound like even you could get out of those bunkers.
JACK NICKLAUS: I was talking about the green sides. The green side bunkers are not a big issue. The fairway bunkers are really the strategy of the golf course. The green side bunkers are only maybe par 5s where you might stand back at the -- the 5th hole. I really don't think you want to put it in the bunker anyplace, I don't care where the bunkers are. The 7th hole, a lot of guys aim for that front bunker because it's not a very difficult bunker shot if you can get a decent lie.
The 11th hole, I don't think the bunkers are that big a -- to get it in that front left bunker, you really -- you've got to -- it's a heck of a lot easier to hit the green than that bunker.
And I think that 15, either one of the green side bunkers are okay, but a lot of guys there are playing -- would be very upset putting it in those bunkers because that's a hole that really is fairly accessible in two, and that would be a missed shot, not a place you'd be aiming for.
I don't think our par 5 bunkers really fall too much in that category, so it's more the tee shot -- it's more the tee shot bunkers I'm concerned about.
Q. You've got a strong reputation of international players this week, and there's a bunch every week it seems like on TOUR. There's a thought that the stronger the PGA TOUR gets with international players, that it's going to hurt Europe and Australia and some of these other Tours and they aren't going to be able to stick around. Any thoughts on that, and was that ever an issue during your prime years?
JACK NICKLAUS: What it really means is the game is becoming a global game. It's becoming -- well, first of all, we've come full circle. I mean, British Isles dominated the game the turn of the last century, early part of the last century. The British players, when they came here, I think Ouimet was sort of the change of that guard in 1913.
And from that period of time, the United States then coming along with along with the Jones and the Hagens and the Sneads and the Nelsons and Hogans, the U.S. dominated the game for quite a while.
And then the game -- I think when the European Tour really became a European Tour, more and more players started coming from Australia and other places, when those tours started producing good players, the game became more significant outside. Now I think what you're seeing happen, too, is that the PGA TOUR has seen that we are no longer a U.S. game and that we are a world game.
I think Tim has been very successful in being able to really create another level of tournaments at the top of the PGA TOUR, and those tournaments are really geared to a large degree to attract international players, the world tournaments and of course the major tournaments and the year-end tournaments, are all geared to a large degree to bring in all the best players to play in those events.
And in doing so, are they going to hurt some other Tours? Probably. But they're probably also going to hurt our own TOUR, too. I mean, if you look at the guys, the top players, and I think this is always the issue that you've always got to watch out for, is that the top players are going to play maybe 15 tournaments a year is probably what they play. That's about what Tiger plays, they might play 20 tournaments. I think most of your players from overseas will play more than the 12 or 15. They'll probably play those tournaments here that revolve in that sort of a world-U.S. Tour is what it is, but they'll go back and support their own Tour to some level. You see the Europeans go back, they play Wentworth last week, they'll go back and play when the British Open goes they'll play there. The European Tour I don't think will suffer a lot, but probably they'll see some of their players playing more events here. You'll have the same thing with Australia and Africa and Japan. You're seeing more and more of those players playing an our Tour. But they still go back and support their own tours. But that's been the case for a long time. It's been that way for quite a while, and it's becoming more so that way with the coming of these new world tournaments.
Q. Is it truly a global game if all the big global events are in the U.S.?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's where most of the sponsors are for the money. I think that what's going to happen is that you're going to find that as the international players become stronger, as events -- I think Tim and I talked this morning about it, he said that he thinks we need to have more of the international move into that. He asked me an awful lot of places where we're doing golf courses around the world that might be able to house in the future what's going on. Not today, but within the next five or six years he sees that happening more and the necessity to do so. If you look at the match play this year, there were 64 players, only 22 of them were U.S. players. You're pretty blind if you don't see that the game is a global game. So if you're going to play a global game, you've got to play globally.
So the U.S. Tour will probably -- the European Tour saw that quite a while ago. They started doing that, and you see them, they play through South Africa, they play through Asia, they play Australia, they play quite a few places other than Europe in their cold season. So they've truly become a global Tour, also. And I think that the result of the players they're having has been reflected in the Ryder Cup and I think it reflects in the Presidents Cup, too.
Q. Sounds like you're saying the European Tour is a global Tour because of where they go. The U.S. is a global Tour because of who they get.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, if you look at Europe, Europe doesn't have any warm weather. Maybe the south of Spain in --
Q. They don't get any good weather in July, do they?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think they do. I think 4th of July summer happens, doesn't it? Maybe not the 3rd or the 5th, but it happens (laughter).
Anyway, I think that the U.S. Tour, we have a lot of warm places. We don't play in the northern part of the United States in the wintertime obviously, we play in the southern part of the United States.
I mean, I think that you have to give Tim a chance. You know, he's doing, I think, a terrific job for the TOUR. He's really trying to -- he's working very hard to keep a lot of sponsors happy. He's working very hard to keep a lot of players happy. He's trying to figure out what is best for the TOUR and how to work it and how to expand it over time, and he's -- I'm sure he's not hesitant to have blinders on in relationship to what you're talking about. So I think time will tell and give him a chance to do so.
That's the only answer I have. I don't have another answer other than you're trying to say a global Tour shouldn't be all U.S. I think he agrees with that, too.
Q. Fair or unfair, warranted or unwarranted, do you feel like the path -- the road that Tiger has to shatter your majors record is an easier road than he's been able to take versus what you had to do to get to the mark that you got to?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know whether it's an easier road or not. I think that -- I did not have a focus on that when I was growing up. That was never a focus to me until after I was over ten tournaments, and somebody even pointed it out to me that I had won ten.
But Tiger had, I think, a tougher road in a lot of ways from the standpoint that he -- from day one, that's what his goal was, was to surpass my record, and he's been -- the press has had that from day one. That's a lot of pressure on a guy for a long time. You look at it from that standpoint, I think maybe he had a tougher way.
If you look at it from the standpoint of the competition, I'm not sure what the answer to that is. I've said several times and I've said lately, I don't know whether -- there was a level of competition when I played, and I'd say some of the time I might have been just a little bit above that. And the guys today are either at the same level we were and Tiger is up here (indicating high up), or the guys today -- I had Trevino, Palmer, Player, Watson, guys that won a lot of major championships, I don't know whether the guys today would maybe be a notch below that and Tiger was up here at this notch. We don't know that, but there's no way you'll ever know that. There's no way to compare it. All you know is that Tiger is dominating what's going on. And when he plays and when he's playing well, he is really difficult to beat.
We have seen a lot of guys not be able to finish tournaments when he's playing. Is that pushing themselves beyond the level of what they are or are they trying to reach a level that they can't attain? We don't know the answer to that. We can sit there and do all kinds of things and say that the guys today can't finish and Tiger is the only guy that can play, or we can say that the guys today are really, really good and Tiger is just way above them.
I just don't know how to answer your question because I don't think -- we never will have an answer for that incidentally.
Q. I guess you could also argue that the purses are so much now that these guys aren't relying on making the money where in your era everybody was trying to make a buck and the money wasn't going around as much as it is now.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we didn't play golf to make a living. We played golf to create a record so we could go make a living. The guys today make a living playing golf. I mean, the prize money that they play for nowadays, they don't have to do other stuff to make a living. So it's a big difference from that standpoint, but that wouldn't have any difference in relation to how they play golf.
I think that there is a tendency for guys, I think -- and it was the same in our era, that guys really are satisfied with being in the Top 5 or 10 on the Money List, they have a really nice living, they enjoy their family, they enjoy spending time at home, they don't need to push it out and play 35, 40 tournaments a year. There are some guys that will do that, and there's some guys that fall in that category. We had some guys that fell in that category, too.
But I think that's human nature. I think that's the way some people are built. Some people say I don't care about being the best player in the world. This is where I make my living, I do very well and I'm really good at it. Do I have to be the best? No. Do I have to sacrifice all this to be the best? Maybe not. Some of them will, some of them won't. Tiger does.
I think if you asked the guys on the TOUR and find out who probably has the best work ethic, you'll probably look and find that it's Tiger, Phil and then Vijay. You're talking about your three top players probably have the best work ethic. Are there other guys that have a good work ethic? Sure. Maybe some of them don't have quite as much talent as some of the other guys, but that's a question that -- and plus the fact that the game is so different. I mean, the equipment we're playing today, the courses we're playing, the conditions were playing are so different. It's at a totally different -- not only a different era but a different game.
So to answer your question, there is no answer. It's all guessing from all of us. But I know one thing. Tiger is one hell of a player (laughter).
Q. From an architectural standpoint, what makes Oakmont so special, and what about '62 do you remember most, just about the tournament itself?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, coming into Oakmont in '62, I had finished second and fourth the two previous years. I felt like I had a really, really good opportunity in both of those years as an amateur to win the Open. I didn't finish in either one of those.
I came into Oakmont having three seconds my first year on the TOUR and finishing second the week prior to the U.S. Open, having a putt at the last hole to tie, which was a long putt, about 35 feet, but I missed it.
I went to Oakmont with sort of blinders on, saying that I love USGA events, I love the setup of the golf course, I had played Oakmont in practice and I liked Oakmont, and I felt like that was my week. I had no idea -- it sounds sort of stupid, but I'm a 22-year-old kid, wouldn't have any idea that I was in Arnold Palmer's backyard. It wouldn't have ever entered my mind. It only entered my mind that this was what I wanted to do, and I felt like that was going to be my week and I played it that way.
I had a good week of putting. I didn't make a lot of putts, but I only three-putted one in 90 holes. But I obviously made enough. I remember I got a comment on the 17th hole of the last round, I had a putt for a par after I sort of drove it up by the green and sort of fluffed a chip shot, pitched it about five feet by, and I got a note from Bobby Jones that said I came right out of my chair when you hit that putt. I whapped it downhill, one of those, about five feet.
It was kind of a -- and then of course I got -- Arnold couldn't have treated me nicer during the week. We played the first two rounds together, and then of course the playoff. It sort of started a rivalry, as you might say, in our competition.
Oakmont is a good golf course, a tough golf course. It's a golf course that I have no idea what they've done to it this time. I know that they've lengthened some stuff on it, and I hate to see them lengthen it beyond because, like, Oakmont was the kind of golf course that you really didn't need to try to take a driver out of their hands. The golf course in its very nature took the driver out of your hands a lot of the ways it's played. So I didn't think that length was going to be all that major of a factor, but I'm sure they've added some length. The only conversation I get is the 8th hole, which is --
JACK NICKLAUS: That I don't understand, but that was already a 1-iron or a 3-wood. It was already one of the toughest par 3s you'd ever want to play, and I think they added 50 yards to it?
Q. 36 effectively, 252 to 288.
JACK NICKLAUS: It wasn't 252 when I played it. It was 230-something. I thought that was pretty long.
I think Oakmont has always produced a good champion.
Q. Was '62 that you touched on, that was kind of the beginning of everything with you and Arnold. I know you're not thinking that at the time, but how special in the end -- I know you said you didn't know it was Arnold's backyard, but how special was that victory? Was that the spring board for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I mean, it's my first win. That's pretty special. How special is your first win? And how special is it if it's a U.S. Open? I don't think I have to say more than that right there. It obviously set my career up.
Q. Do you remember Arnold's kind of -- I think he made the turn at the end, last round, Arnold was up two or three and he stubbed one at 9 and --
JACK NICKLAUS: I wasn't playing with him. I have no idea what he did at that particular time. I don't even remember what I shot the last round. I don't think I shot but 71 maybe. Maybe I didn't. Maybe I shot 69, I don't remember.
Q. A lot has been made of the Oakmont greens. How do they relate to other U.S. Open greens? Do they weigh more on your mind?
JACK NICKLAUS: They're a tough set of greens.
JACK NICKLAUS: Not necessarily faster, they're just a lot pitchier.
Q. When you think about this tournament, how much of the popularity and the prestige of this event with the fans and players is tied to you directly and your presence here, and how much is the course and everything else around it? Because for instance, unfortunately, the Byron Nelson this year was going on without its host. How much of this event is you and how much is everything else that's been created around you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I'd like to think the event can stand on its own two feet without me. Obviously I think it's -- it would be kind of stupid to say that I haven't been an integral part of the event. But I think that the structure of the event -- it is The Memorial Tournament, it does honor the players of the past, our Captain's Club has been supportive of what we've done. They've been our guiding light in terms of what we've done with the direction of the tournament. It is set in place that I can be here or I don't have to be here, from that standpoint.
From a personal standpoint I hope I'm around for a long time to enjoy it. But the -- I think today it's probably still hard to separate me from the tournament, but I think as time goes on and you look at The Masters, you look at the Bobby Jones was synonymous with Augusta no matter what happened there, and The Masters really has lived beyond Jones, even though his -- what's the right word? Even though his legacy is there and will always be there and mine will always be here.
Q. Have you thought about that much ever?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really want to think too much about it, thank you, right now (laughter). I'm getting old enough as it is, I don't want to think too much about that. That's not necessary for people to walk around every day and think about it.
Q. But are there things you've done along the years to purposely make sure this event doesn't just have to be about you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think I went through that just five minutes ago with you. Everything I just said is what we did. It's not the Jack Nicklaus Open, it's The Memorial Tournament. I don't see that my name needs to be involved in the tournament, period, I would certainly hope it isn't. But I think that's the way -- this is the way we've tried to structure it, tried to create a golf course -- and these players come back here every year, they don't come back and say, gee, I want to go to Jack's tournament because it's Jack's tournament. They say I want to go to The Memorial Tournament because it's a great golf course and we're treated well and it's a great event.
Q. Could you tell us about Kyle Reifers and your decision to give him an exemption this week?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know Kyle very well. I had lunch with him yesterday. I've met him on a couple of occasions, but the Captain's Club does the exemptions. I have nothing to do with that, zero. I set that up a long time ago for exactly that reason (laughter). I mean, I get 100 letters every year from players wanting an exemption to the golf tournament, and they go right to these gentlemen sitting in the back of the room here who make the selection of who the exemptions are, and thank goodness you guys do that. I appreciate that very much.
Q. I believe in the past you've been --
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, excuse me. But we're delighted to have him here. How's that? I'm sorry.
Q. I believe in the past you have cited the golf ball as maybe the culprit with regards to making some of the grand old courses obsolete. This year the buzz word seems to be maybe, again, the U-grooves and the USGA is going to possibly look at that. Do you think those clubs should be banned and the U-grooves with the ability of the players to get the ball to check, how would that play into the setup of the course?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that the grooves are an issue, they've always been an issue. When we talked a minute ago with the driving -- two years ago when the Top 5 were not in the top 110 of driving accuracy and they were the top players, it didn't make any difference. So obviously it was more important then to hit the ball long than it was to hit it straight. Grooves will obviously play a thing.
I mean, I see television and I watch the guys playing out of rough like this and I see the ball go, shooooom. I say, God, there's no way in the world we could ever do that. I guess I could do it today because I could get those clubs. I still don't play with those clubs. I play with V grooves and I have all my life just because I like the flight of a golf ball. I personally have never liked the flight of what a U groove does because it's square grooves or whatever you want to call them.
Out of the rough I like to be able to take the ball and play my trajectory and throw it up softly. Sure, the way they do it today, they've tried to combat the effective what they do, they get them harder than they could get them, with all the technical ways they can dry out greens today, to where you almost need them. Do they have an advantage with them around the green? Probably so.
I think the U grooves are about that much of a problem (indicating one inch), and I think regardless of what the USGA is saying, I still think that the ball is 85 to 90 percent of the problem and would solve 85 to 90 percent of our problems. And then I know that the USGA and the PGA TOUR and the R & A are working on golf balls that go shorter all the time. They are going through that to try and test the manufacturers who are making them to find out what results they get back from that kind of a situation.
Now, if they thought -- of course they're going through U grooves all the time, they're going through the trampoline effect of drivers. Obviously if they took a driver and made it smaller, the size of the face would make it smaller and you couldn't have the trampoline effect that you have today. All those things are factors. But I would say the U groove is probably about that much, the driver is about that much and the ball is about that much. That's my own opinion. That's opinion from observation.
We have had the USGA here last year and spoke to our Captain's Club and gave us a great presentation. They felt that it was probably 80 percent grooves and head and a small part ball. They do far more research than I do. I don't do research, but I've played the game and seen it played for too many years, and I see what's happened. That's my feeling.
That doesn't mean I'm right, but the -- and frankly, I really don't care if they play exactly the same equipment today forever. The only thing that I care about is the game itself and the historical and great golf courses that we have around the world that we play that have become non-championship golf courses, or if they want to keep them championship golf courses, the amount of money that is spent to bring them to a new level, and what it does on a daily basis to the members of those people that play the golf courses on a daily basis, and how it separates the professional game of golf from the average golfer.
The whole idea of the USGA and the R & A and everybody playing the same equipment, they couldn't be further apart. That's the problem. In an effort to do that, it's become -- they've become like this (indicating close together) rather than like this.
Q. Have you ever had to lobby players to play your tournament? Do you still lobby?
JACK NICKLAUS: Never have asked a player to play. We've been here 32 years, 33 years? Never asked a player to player in 32 years.
Q. One thing about the Masters that --
JACK NICKLAUS: In other words, to expound on that, I've always felt like if a guy -- if we produce a tournament, if we produce the purse, the golf course, the event, handle the players and the players want to come, they'll come. If they don't come, they'll have their own reason for not doing it, and if they do come, then they'll come here because of what we provided for them.
Q. Last year as I recall you didn't have Tiger for sure. Is it true that the ratings were down?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have no idea. I don't read ratings. I have no idea what they were.
Q. Do you think if affects --
JACK NICKLAUS: Do I think Tiger affects the game?
Q. Your tournament.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it affects any tournament. I don't think it makes any difference what tournament you're playing if Tiger doesn't play. I think if Tiger skips The Masters or the British Open this year because he's having a baby, the ratings will be changed for sure. Tiger is a very popular player no matter where he's playing. I don't think it makes any difference.
Q. The observation I was going to make for whatever it's worth, is the Masters, I think, has continued -- if you look back all the great players from every era has won that tournament. How would that help you? Do you think you're close to that here with your tournament?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand what you're driving at.
Q. Well, my point is, I think that the Masters, there's a lot of reasons why The Masters is the Masters, but one very interesting thing is you can hardly name a great player of an era that hasn't won that golf tournament.
JACK NICKLAUS: We're pretty close to that here I would think if you look at our winners. That's part of a good tournament. Part of a good tournament is produce good winners. But also give it the ability to have a dark horse, as you might say, win, or an underdog, however you want to call it. If you have somebody who is not necessarily given the ability to be able to get there, that's -- see, that's the one criticism that I've had of recent years of Augusta is that I felt like the things they've done to the golf course have reduced the chances of getting a broad spectrum of players from the shorter hitter to the moderate hitter to the big hitter, giving them a chance to win. That's one of the reasons why I've lengthened some things here but I've resisted in lengthening everything here. I've tried to create a little bit more variety in that and keep my short holes, keep my -- the 3rd hole, the 14th hole here, the 9th hole are not very long holes, and they play -- and they give the -- and our par 5s are not extremely long. And they give the average hitting pro a good chance to play it rather than just the power hitter.
Now, Augusta has also started to narrow it in, too, with the power, so they're working in that direction. But I think it's still the stronger hitter that has a better chance at Augusta than the other guys.
Q. With respect to Tiger's effect on the game, do you think it's better for the game if he would have a rival who would measure up to him?
JACK NICKLAUS: I guess if somebody can play that well. That's all it amounts to. That was the thing I was going through earlier. I said, are all these guys down here and he is way up here, or are all these guys down here with the list of other good players that have ever played, and he's that far above them? We don't know the answer to that. We don't know if anybody can get to that level. Right now nobody is.
Q. There seems to be this feeling that Phil with Butch might be capable of getting to that level.
JACK NICKLAUS: (Shrugging shoulders) I guess you'll see. Phil is a very, very good player, been a good player for a lot of years. Phil went a long time before he won his first major. When he won his first major, then he learned how to do that, and he's won several since then. He is probably obviously the closest to that situation at the present time, and he's still young enough that he still has years to go in that.
Q. I mean, you remember --
JACK NICKLAUS: Is it good in the game to have more than one guy? Yes, of course it is.
Q. Because your rivalry with Arnold, more people got interested --
JACK NICKLAUS: When Arnold and Gary and I were playing, it was like if one of us didn't come to the tournament, the tournament was a total failure. Well, at least we had three of us they were talking about.
Today if Tiger doesn't come, they say it's a total failure. I mean, that's a pretty big burden to be put on one guy. Is that really fair? There's really an awful lot of good players that produce an awful lot of good tournaments out here, good golf.
Q. I guess that's a good question. A lot of tournament directors moan and complain about field sizes and who's in the field and Tiger is not there and it's a disaster. You've run this tournament or the Captain's Club for years and years and years. Is it that important that certain players come to your event? Can't you run a successful event and a good event without having a Tiger Woods or a Phil Mickelson in it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we can, but you guys won't let us (laughter). That's part of it. I mean, did we have a successful event last year? I think we had a great event last year. Tiger wasn't here because of his father, but Tiger supported us very well here. I certainly never have a complaint about Tiger. I'm just delighted that he wants to come and play here.
You know, can we have an event without a player? Sure, of course we can. Do I want to? No, I want to have all the best players here. That's what we all want to have. All tournaments want that. Why wouldn't they? I'm going to have a tournament next week and I'm going to put up whatever prize money we're going to play for and I don't want any of the Top 10 to come because I want to see if we can -- come on.
Q. My question is you said you don't look at ratings. You have the same sponsors of the event --
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't. I have no idea what our ratings were last year. My guess is they were probably down because Tiger wasn't here, but I have no idea what they were, and I have no idea how that related to the rest of the TOUR and golf last year. I just don't have a clue. Morgan Stanley might (laughter).
Q. But with everything you put into the event, the event was still successful, you still made a lot of money for charity, and you still did everything you wanted to do?
JACK NICKLAUS: Absolutely, absolutely, so we've just got to get you guys to write differently (laughter).
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Mr. Nicklaus, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts