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May 27, 2008
DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome the tournament host, Mr. Jack Nicklaus, in. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes this morning. Just open up with a few comments from you.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the first comment is always about the golf course here. And we didn't make any changes to the golf course last year, except for our continual drainage and erosion programs, which don't relate to the tournament, except that it will continue to allow us to, in case of rain, to continue to have a faster golf course.
I think we have put in about eight miles of drainage so far. About two and a half last year, two and three-quarters, something like that. And I was here in early May and the golf course was fast in early May. My goal has always been to have the golf course fast and I've been obviously disappointed through the middle years of the tournament where when we had had rain that the golf course just bogged down to a slow golf course. And never thought Muirfield Village played well that way.
So Paul Latshaw here, Paul has really done a great job and in opening up the golf course. Took out 7 or 800 trees here a couple years ago and three or four years ago. And with the drainage system going through the fairways, I watched a little bit of Oak Hill Sunday, and the Seniors, see how fast those fairways were running? That's in May in Rochester. Well, of course that's Paul, because that's where he was before this and he did all that up there.
So anyway, we're pleased with what the golf course is. The golf course is in great shape. And the golf course, the roughs are very consistent. Paul's done a great job with that. And of course we had a wet spring so obviously the grass has got a little bit more lush than probably you would normally get. But they are very consistent. And that's about it as it relates to the golf course.
Obviously I think we got a very good field. Obviously disappointed that we have lost a couple of guys due to injury, but you can't play if you're hurt. So you do the best you can. But I think we have got a great field. We have got -- I'm looking forward to the tournament. I think the weather forecast is supposed to -- this is supposed to be out of here today and we're lucky to get the rain that was forecast for yesterday and if we don't get much rain I think you're going to find a very fast golf course and a very demanding golf course, which produces the best tournament.
DOUG MILNE: Questions?
Q. Your golf course design business seems to take you, I heard your travels just, and I noticed the magazine with the one in Moscow or in Russia, how fulfilling is that and what kind of pace of life do you lead right now with that business?
JACK NICKLAUS: I used to play golf, you remember?
And I was away about 25 weeks a year. And I don't play golf any more. I mean obviously playing tournament golf. And when I used to go to those places, I used to be there for a week.
I got to figure out how to fill 25 weeks. For me to sit at home and go to the office for every morning -- I don't have enough work in my office. So people say, how do you keep that schedule up? I mean, in the last month I've made four international trips. And I just have been all over the world.
Frankly, I don't mind it. I kind of enjoy it. It's kind of fun. I go to a lot of different places and meet a lot of different people, have an opportunity to shape the face of the game, and its future outside the United States. It's given me an opportunity to do some things that gives me the opportunity to use some of the things I've learned through playing golf and through what I've seen and apply that to.
You can go to a country such as Russia, for instance, and you talked about that. They didn't play golf in Russia. They only had one golf course 20, 25 years ago that I turned down because I didn't want to be part of the communist regime. And when Russia changed and open its doors, I did a golf course that we finished up this last year and I've got two more in Moscow that we're doing for two different groups. The mayor of Moscow has come to us and asked us to be -- he wants to put 15 public golf courses around Moscow. And we're going to do the first three or four and then we're going to be a consultant to help bring in the other architects to do other golf courses.
Well, this is -- and they want to do in golf what they have done in tennis, as far as bringing their youth along and doing it at public facilities. Obviously the government is subsidizing it. We have got a couple projects, a couple golf courses supposedly, haven't been signed yet, but we're down to it, with the Olympics, I don't know what year they have it is, but they're doing that. And then last week I was in -- I guess two weeks ago or whatever it was, I was in St. Petersburg where we have got a couple of projects. So that's a lot of golf in Russia, which we never had any golf there. And all through the Eastern Bloc and places they haven't had golf.
So the opportunity to be able to go into those countries and do a golf course that when their youth grows up on it and plays it they will come out of there and they will come to the United States or come to Britain or come to Europe, and it won't be a big transition for them. They will have a good golf course that they can learn to develop their games on. So I get a big kick out of that. It's a lot of fun.
Q. Are you a statesman in a sense now?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know whether I'm a statesman or not, but I think that I go to a lot of states.
Q. When was the last municipal you built here, muni course?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we did Breckenridge. That was awhile back. We did the second and third nine. We did I did about two years ago in North Palm Beach, did that a few years ago.
Q. You did that for free, didn't you?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, no. I charged them a dollar. And I gave it back to them because it was too much.
I charged them for it, yeah.
But, let's see, we have done -- not many municipal golf courses being built anymore. Let's see. We have done -- well, of course Old Works is a golf course in Anaconda is essentially that. Let me see. And I know there's more than that. Just off the top of my head. But a lot of public access golf. A lot of places where -- it's like the course on the west cost of Florida, it's a totally public golf course, but it's not a municipal golf course, no, there's a lot of that kind of stuff. And let's get on to the tournament.
Q. One last thing, what particular cultural challenges do you face when you go to Russia or internationally?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, been to China a couple of weeks ago also. Obviously I don't speak the language. That's the hardest thing for me. Seems like every place you go the Americans are kind of lazy, you might say, because we don't try to speak other languages enough. But fortunately, most every place I've been, I don't have any problem. If I don't have an interpreter, then they speak English anyway. So that's the whole thing.
And the different cultures are kind of fun, because everybody's got different cultures. I mean, I don't drink at all and of course the last contract in Russia we signed, we signed some papers over there and that comes with vodka and I'm sitting there saying, oh, boy, that's not my style, I'm afraid.
Q. Straight vodka?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah. Straight vodka.
Q. Are they offended if you don't drink?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah. And I touched my lips and that's about it.
And, yuck. Those of you who like vodka, you wouldn't understand the way I say it, but I just don't happen to like it. But that's the way it is. It's just whatever the culture is. It's kind of fun to be involved in that.
Q. You mentioned a couple of people around here with injury. Just curious, I can't imagine you had to withdraw from a tournament with injury until maybe the '80s?
JACK NICKLAUS: I withdrew twice in my life. And both of the tournaments I started.
JACK NICKLAUS: Masters in '83 and I think it was '81 World Series of Golf. That's where they carried me off the practice tee before the fourth round. But that's the only two times I've ever withdrawn. I never entered a tournament and withdrew from it that I can recall. I don't think I ever got -- even maybe if I had the flu or something, I would play.
Q. Why do you think that was? What about your body that it didn't really break down until later?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, not my body didn't break down, I suppose, but if I was going to enter something I felt like I ought to play. That's just the way I felt.
Q. Anything in particular that you look forward to most about this week?
JACK NICKLAUS: I look forward to the Memorial Tournament every year. I look forward to putting on a good event for the Central Ohio area. I think that we look forward to presenting a golf course that the challenges are there and it sort of in a lot of ways we feel like sets the pace in many ways of what should happen in the world of golf. We try to stay ahead of what's going on. I know the TOUR's very progressive in what they do and I think rightfully so that they're the fairways of golf and we need to stay just ahead of them.
And I'm being facetious there. The TOUR does very well, stays on top of what's going on in the game. And I think that it's -- I love seeing the players come. I love seeing the young guys come along. A lot of guys -- I walked in the grill room yesterday and I'm just -- there's 20 guys sitting there; 10 of them I've never even seen before. And I just -- because the young people come along in the game every year. And I think that's great.
Obviously see a lot of old friends when I come back to Columbus. And there's a sense of pride of doing something to a game that gave you so much.
Q. Boo was in there yesterday. Boo Weekley?
JACK NICKLAUS: I said I didn't know 10 of them.
Q. Have you met him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Who?
Q. Boo Weekley?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I know Boo.
Q. What was your first impression?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, he was in there. But, no, I don't know. That's a general comment. I wouldn't say who I didn't know.
Q. I'm just curious with Boo, what your first encounter with him and your first impression was?
JACK NICKLAUS: Boo? I don't know, I met him several years ago. I don't know. Didn't have much of a -- I think he was on his best behavior when he saw me, so. Maybe that's what you meant.
If that's what you were driving at.
Q. Phil Mickelson's coming off a win, Sergio Garcia is coming off a win in his last start. Is this golf course one where it helps to come in hot maybe more than others?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I think that anytime you're playing well coming into an event, particularly a golf course that challenges you, you're going to be certainly in a lot better position and have a lot, you know, have a lot more confidence in what you're doing.
Phil played well last week; he won. And that's a good win for him. It gives him a lot of confidence. Sergio came off the PLAYERS Championship and so obviously it's going to give Sergio a lot of confidence. But I think that's the nature of it. I always said winning breeds winning. And that's part of why guys, if I had my druthers when I was younger, I probably would have played four tournaments a year. But also I know that playing four tournaments a year, you're not going to play very well because you're just not prepared. And you need to play events and play good events that challenge you, challenge your golfing skills and gets you ready to play anything.
Q. You mentioned the young players that you don't know. One of the story lines on the TOUR this year obviously is all the 20 -- I think there's nine guys in their 20s that have won tournaments. For a while that didn't happen. Tiger was --
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, Tiger was the only kid under 30 for a long time.
Q. Tiger's referred to these guys as kind of the next generation. Do you think Tiger's generation kind of got trampled by him for a while and --
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you can answer that question.
Q. -- and lost confidence or something? He wants to hear you say it.
JACK NICKLAUS: You want to put words in my mouth.
Q. I want to hear them come out of your mouth.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I think that -- I think it's great to see some young players come along and win. We didn't have any, any young players for a long time and particularly American young players. There were some international young players that won, but not any American young players. And we have a few now and that's going to be great.
Q. Do you think, is there any reason to think that Muirfield Village and the Memorial Tournament with the field you have might be tougher for a 20-something to win on than some of these other tournaments?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably. I think it probably is. I think it's a tougher golf course. It helps -- it helps you prepare yourself for what's going to happen on a weekly basis under difficult conditions.
Obviously we -- I don't like to get into the Major controversy thing, but we prepare it as close as we can to what you think you would have a Major Championship on. I think the TOUR has worked with us through the years to let us do that. And I think that they're tending to move more in that direction with a lot more of their tournaments.
A lot of the tournaments, for years it was just you just went ahead and played the golf course what was there and I remember one tournament which will remain nameless right now, most of you know which one it is, but I remember I went and they finally convinced me to go play it. And I shot 67 the first round and I think I was in 19th place and I shot 67 the next round and I was in 25th place and shot 67 the third round and I was in 35th place and shot 67 or 68 or 66 or something the fourth round and finished 45th.
You know, you don't find that on the tournaments much anymore because they really prepare the golf tournaments more for helping develop the golfers and have them become better players and I think that probably will make Major Championship golf easier for them, because you get more used to the conditions and things that if you saw the PLAYERS Championship a couple weeks ago, I think that they had that golf course in pretty difficult conditions. The greens were hard and fast and so forth. And it was very difficult for the TOUR to come along after doing that at their own golf tournament and ask everybody to have their greens at 10 when they were running around 14. They're going to have a hard time convincing anybody to do that.
So that's sort of what -- I think that's good for the game, for the players.
Q. Are you a fan of when they hold Majors at venues that host regular PGA TOUR stops? I mean, you won the Crosby and the U.S. Open at Pebble in '72. Wonder if you could sort of speak to that, whether maybe they somehow should or shouldn't and what your confidence level was?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think when you have a great golf course like Pebble Beach and you have the opportunity to use it for a Major Championship, I think that's fine. I won there in '72, I won there in '73, I won the Crosby. I won the U.S. Open in '72. So three times in a 12-month span. But I'm assuming you're talking about Torrey Pines.
JACK NICKLAUS: But the difference was that Pebble in June and Pebble in February are two different games. Or January. Whatever we played it. As I'm sure Torrey will be too.
Q. What does it do for you mentally confidence-wise? I know that's always been one of your favorite courses. Whatever the time of year, did that give you extra spring in your step having won there coming back six months later?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, but I would have had much spring in my step just because it's a U.S. Open and just because it's playing at the time that I played or played on a golf course that I liked.
Q. Furrowed bunkers again this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: We went to about halfway between what we were. I think that the first year we probably were a little severe. Probably the second year we were probably too light and this year we're somewhere in the middle. It's about the same exact same thing that basically I was at Birkdale last week and the rakes are almost identical to Birkdale. So I think it's pretty much the standard rake. It's just not a smooth surface.
And the intention is, as I've said in here many times, the intention is not to make it a penalty, but to have it in a player's mind that it could be a penalty. And so if you're going to hit the ball, you got to challenge a bunker and you're going to say, you know, well, if I hit in there what difference does it make, I'm just going to take my whatever club it is and knock it out and knock it on the green. The players don't worry about it.
But if you got it where you might not get a perfect lie -- and you can get a good lie in the bunkers the way we got them, but you can get a bad lie. And if that's the case, then you're going to think about whether you want to really challenge that bunker in a way that you wouldn't even consider. So it's just forcing the players to strategize, to play the strategy of the golf course.
I came up with it, the reason I did it was we just kept changing bunkers and lowering them and it didn't make that much difference. I always go through what they did at the Masters and there's two bunkers at the fifth hole at the Masters and, you know, you can't hardly shoot a gun out of them over the top, but -- they're so deep. And but Hootie saw that and didn't know if they could get out. And I said, Hootie, I promise you they're going to get out. There will be no problems. The first round Mickelson knocked it in the bunkers, knocked a 9-iron out of the bunker onto the green and made birdie. End of question there, end of subject.
So if you keep taking the bunkers and keep doing things to them, you just are destroying your membership. The membership can't play out of those bunkers. The membership is having a hard time playing, a hard time playing out of a lot of them over here. So I said basically let's not make the bunkers any tougher. Just one week a year rough it up a little bit. They call it rough raking it. And that's what we have done and that's -- I don't think they will find it to be much of a deal.
It certainly will not be a big deal around the greens. That's not where they have to worry. It's more in the fairways, because the fairway bunkers here have always been fairly easy to play out of because the guys will take whatever club they need and just pop it out of them because we just have them so perfect. And we'll just sort of rough rake them a little bit.
Q. No changes in the last year?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I haven't done anything on the golf course.
Q. Are you done?
JACK NICKLAUS: Am I done?
JACK NICKLAUS: You bet your bottom dollar I'm not. But I don't know what it is. I just don't have -- I haven't felt like there's anything I want to do. I look at the golf course and think about things that I might want to do in the future. I don't have any specific things at this point in time, but I think the golf course, I'll go through it hole by hole. I think I got a couple of holes I might want to strengthen a little bit, but by and large I think the golf course is pretty darn good.
And also, one of the things that we have done on the golf course which I think everything has gone: Length, length, length. And I tried -- and I do it with my own design, and every place else too, is I try to figure out, okay, now, if you have length and you can hit it accurately, then you ought to have an advantage. There's nothing wrong with that. That's, I think that's good. If you're a precise hitter, and you have holes that you need to put it in a precise area, you shouldn't be -- that shouldn't be negated by somebody who just eliminates the strategy. Just knock it over it. So you try to create a balance. You got some good short par-4s and some good short -- good long par-4s so you have a balance between that. The shorter hitter and longer hitter is sort of balanced.
I always think -- I've always loved -- my favorite holes are short par-4s and reachable par-5s. Always been that way. And we have tried to keep that balance here and there's some places here I could have lengthened beyond where I did and decided not to because I think the hole fits better with the short. 3 is one of those holes and I think that 9 is one of those holes, I think that 14 is one of those holes that you can really -- it's more precision than it is strength. And you want to take a run at 14, go ahead and take a run at it. The penalty is pretty good if you miss it. It's not a big run you can take at 3. But you try to restrict a lot of times the long hitter a little bit on a few holes so you let the average length player play the game. I think that's what I've tried to do.
Q. In terms of Scarlet, I don't know if you have watched how well that's stood up with the NCAA Regional compared to the other two locations. It seems a natural fit for maybe a U.S. Amateur. I wonder what you think of that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Scarlet's a good golf course. It's a tough golf course. It's what they wanted. And it's a strong golf course. But I don't know what they want to do with it. They could have anything they want. I guess The Open qualifier is there next week. See how the guys like it.
Q. You talked about 14, a couple weeks ago about practicing, preparing your driving for the U.S. Open there. Have you ever thought about maybe one day during the tournament moving it up, moving the tee up just a little bit to put the thought in their head to give it a crack?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't control the tees. The tees are controlled by the TOUR. Would I object to it if they put it up? Probably wouldn't if we would talk about it ahead of time so I could prepare the hole so it would play for that, as far as the occasional guy who stands back and whacks it today, but I haven't really -- I really haven't prepared and thought a whole lot about the second shot, that landing area up there as relates to receiving a tee shot. And I would bet there are going to be 10 players this week who will take a run at that. If they do, then I probably will prepare the fairway a little differently and probably -- meaning would I probably eliminate any rough that comes along the edge of it. So if you're going to take a run at it and you don't hit it where you're supposed to, you're probably going to get a little bit more -- the water will come into play a little bit more. But it's never been a big issue yet. But that would be what we would probably do.
I went out there, I used to practice from the ladies' tee and it was a perfect tee shot practice for me because it was left-to-right slope hitting up the left edge, and sort of working the ball I could run it up into the green there. And I thought that was good practice. And the guys today, I mean, you know, they could go back on 13 fairway and drive it up there they hit the ball so far today.
Q. How did you used to play Riviera number 10?
JACK NICKLAUS: I used to try to knock it on there with a 3-wood. That's what we used to play it with.
Q. You left yourself the option the last few years of actually playing in this tournament. Do you ever see taking advantage of that option?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I just said if I was ever going to play again it would be here. But if you would see me play, I don't think you would think that I would consider that much of an option. I went out and played here, I played Sunday was the first time I played since middle of March. And I played the back tees and I mean, I -- I broke 80 and it was only because I cheated a little bit.
Q. Do you miss that side of it? This building golf courses, does it give you any kind of a thrill that competition doesn't?
JACK NICKLAUS: Do I love competition? Sure I do. I mean, that was my life. Golf was my vehicle to it. Do I love to play golf? Absolutely I love to play golf. But I love to play golf when I can play golf. The way I play now, I don't really consider it golf. I suppose if I could, if I went out and worked at it, I could go play senior golf and do some things now. But I'm not going to -- if we had a tournament, I went to the members' tees here and played, I could play this golf course, probably break par most of the time. But I shot my age in middle of March at the Bear's Club, which was only second time in my life I ever shot my age. And --
Q. That was when?
JACK NICKLAUS: At the Bear's Club middle of March. I played, I had an outing with some people, I shot 68. So, but they couldn't understand that I didn't say anything and I got to the 18th green, had about a 10-footer for birdie and they couldn't understand why I'm playing this outing with these three guys and why I was so grinding over it.
I shot my age when I was 64 and I just, you know, but I hadn't played any since then, because I stopped playing at 65. And I didn't shoot 65 that year. So I did that. But then I think since that day I've played one round of golf. And so I just don't play.
But my competition comes actually from the golf courses and things that I do that to be able to see if I can create something and continue to create things and create different ways of playing the game, the variety that I think applies itself to not only the good player but applies itself to the average golfer and how they can have more enjoyment in the game but yet still have a golf course that can be a golf course that gets good recognition as far as a test.
Q. Would you be surprised to see -- Gary Player said right before the Masters when he was playing for 51 in a row that if you had taken care of yourself over the years physically he said he thought you could still contend and win on the regular PGA TOUR.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think I took pretty good care of myself. I just didn't -- I just don't do what Gary does.
Q. I think that's what he meant.
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I understand that. But do you know anybody who did what Gary did? No. Of course not. And I got tremendous admiration for Gary. You know that. Gary has been as good a friend as I've had in the game of golf forever. And he works very hard at what he's done. And he's had it very hard. He's slight of stature. He needed to do that to have any ability to compete against anybody.
He's a remarkable guy. But I just, it's -- would I have the ability to compete today if I had taken care of myself? No. We talked about how many times I have withdrawn, and I got hurt twice during the middle of a tournament and I would think you had to take care of some -- take care of yourself pretty good if you would only have to end up hurting yourself twice during your whole career. So that's pretty good.
Q. I know you were very much involved back when the Ryder Cup was sort of on life support. You were very much involved in the change in composition of the teams. Is this what you expected or has it sort of even overwhelmed you a little bit how -- what that competition has become?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand it, frankly. And I go back to the Presidents Cup. Let's take that for instance. And I'll just use that as an example.
Gary and I were talking, walking up the fairway after the Presidents Cup last year, we were talking and he says, I just don't understand the Ryder Cup. He says, you guys have drummed us two years in a row, two tournaments in a row you tied us in the other one. He says, we haven't beaten you in a long time and yet I would take my team, I think we would drum the European team. So and I said, well, on paper, Gary, that's what it looks like. On paper it looked like you should beat us. And we beat you. And yet on paper the U.S. team looks much stronger than the European team. What is it? Why is that happening? I mean, if we had an answer to that, we probably wouldn't have bothered to play the matches. And that's why you do play. I think one of the issues has probably been and in previous years that the United States was so used to winning the Ryder Cup that it really became a situation where it was really an honor to make the team and an honor to represent your country, but they really didn't care about playing the matches, because we won every time.
Then when all of a sudden the Europeans won, when we changed the format and brought the Europeans in, the Europeans won once or twice, oh, well, you know, good for them. So what. All of a sudden they got the confidence and all of a sudden the Americans couldn't figure out how to win, then it became a big deal and now it's all of a sudden what's wrong with American golf? What does our captain need to do? I mean, Paul called me up for Presidents Cup last year, and we talked for -- on Tuesday, geez, talked for about an hour and a half on the phone.
He said, what do you do? I says, Paul, it's what I don't do. I said, to me, these guys all got where they got because of their record and how they played. Tell them how to play golf? That's ridiculous. And to hire a bunch of -- or hire or appoint, whatever you do, a bunch of assistant captains to teach them how to play alternate shot or match play, I said, come on, give me a break. These guys, they don't even know the guys you're bringing in. I said, why would you do that? I said, all I do is get out of the way. And I asked the guy, I said, give me who you want to play with and who you don't want to play with. Who do you think you'll do well with? All those things. And then just go have fun.
And I said -- and so anyway, I don't know whether Paul listened or didn't. I think he did listen a lot because we talked quite a bit. And what he's going to do, I don't know. But I think that to make too much out of what a captain's job is, I mean, to me to take a whole team over to go play a practice round, you know, a month before an event? I mean, you're talking -- you give me Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk who are basically No. 1, 2, 3 in the world on our team, and you're going to -- and they just finished playing all the Major Championships in the world, and they all are working their tail off, and all of a sudden, okay, then they just had the TOUR Championship and say, okay, guys, now we're going to do something important. We're going to play the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. I mean, come on. Give me a break. I mean, is it a nice event? It's a great event. Is it different? Absolutely it's different. Is it exciting? Absolutely it's exciting. But it's a goodwill event. It's for bragging rights. It's not -- I mean, I think the U.S. Open or the Masters or British Open, it's a little bit more than bragging rights. It's an event that stands on the record book. You go back and tell me who won the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup ten years ago, or whatever it is, you just -- who was the star player, you couldn't even, not even close. But won't even know who sat out and who didn't sit out.
But it's a great event. I'm not trying to put down the event by any means. It's a great event. It's great fun. I think it's great entertainment. But it's not, you know, it's not the TOUR Championship which they just finished or it's not the Masters or the PGA Championship. These guys to just sit there after they played all those events, to try and sit there and treat them like little kids and say, you know, now you got to do this and we got to do this and we got to play this way, I mean, come on. Get out of the way and let them go play. That's sort of my feeling.
And it could have maybe -- maybe sometimes maybe it would have worked with me, but it seemed to work pretty well. And I think the guys liked it, because the guys seem to have great attitude with the Presidents Cup. They seemed to like, to enjoy what we were doing. They were having fun. They came to me -- I had several of them come to us after the first dinner on Monday night and say, you know, we had more fun tonight than we had the whole week we were at the Ryder Cup.
So basically that's the way I approached it. And I think that's what the event's supposed to be. It's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be bringing -- these guys play together a lot now, but it used to be where they never saw each other but once or twice a year and it was a goodwill event. And that's the purpose of it. So anyway, that's sort of my feeling. And if that answer s your question, good. If it didn't, I don't want to go through it again.
Q. Nowadays guys travel with coaches or teachers or what have you. What is your opinion on sports psychologists, guys that actually use for the mental side of the game? Is that ever anything that you ever did?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know any. I've never known one during the time when we played. There was never such a person. Obviously I knew some of the guys that are out there now. And they're nice guys.
They got to make a living, you know. But I always felt like that it is a different day. It is a different day. So now maybe I'm an old fogy, maybe I am set in my old ways. Maybe -- I don't think I was that old for a long time and now I'm old now when I look back and say that.
But I always felt like I was taught by my dad first to run my own life and do the things that I need to do; Jack Grout secondly, who taught me how to play golf and who taught me how to understand my own game and how to teach myself and how to prepare myself mentally on my own so that when I had my problems, if I did, I at least had a basis somewhat to fix that, rather than running back to somebody.
And I look at -- basically that's the one thing Jones kept harping to my father and me when I was a young kid and started playing in the Masters. He said that I used to run back to Stewart Maiden, supposedly his seven lean years and when I finally didn't have to run back to Stewart Maiden is when I became a player because I learned to do my own thing.
And I think that's -- and, you know, I -- you know, I say it's a different day, but I would rather see -- you know -- you don't need a crutch. I don't see Tiger running back to somebody every time I turn around. I'm sure he's got somebody. I used to go to Jack Grout three or four times a year and I'm sure that Tiger working with Haney? He probably sees -- I bet he sees him three or four times a year. I bet he doesn't see him a lot.
And the one thing is that Jack Grout never one time in all the years that he worked with me did he ever step on a practice tee at a tournament. Not once. And that's sort of my feeling of what it is. I think that it's no different than being responsible for -- I work with Egoscue for the body and he teaches you to be responsible for your own health, in your own physical health. And I guess that's been -- and I've done his exercises for over 20 years and he teaches you to understand yourself.
Well, it's no different than understanding yourself mentally as well as understanding yourself physically. That's just the way -- I think they will be better if they did that. But it's a different day. I mean, when you're a young guy and you come out and you see all the guys that are out there all have coaches and all have things and you say, well, I got to get that too. That's just, as I say, it's a different day.
Q. Go back to the Ryder Cup for a second. Seve made some comments last week about how he thinks it's necessary basically for the U.S. to win or the Cup may become irrelevant. You were actually involved?
JACK NICKLAUS: Maybe we need to add the rest of the Americas.
Q. Well, that's --
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not being facetious actually.
Q. That's kind of the question.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. I understand. And Britain needed the Europeans to make a competition out of it. I mean, golf is an international game today. And maybe, I mean, we have enough players in America to compete. That's crazy. We got a lot of great players in America. But I'm assuming that's where he's coming from. But I don't know. I didn't see what he said.
Q. Your reasoning back when you were pushing for the Europeans to join, how is that different than the situation now?
JACK NICKLAUS: The Europeans, because -- it wasn't a Great -- it wasn't a Great Britain and Ireland TOUR. It had gone from a British Tour to a European Tour, and the European Tour was -- you know, all of a sudden they play all year on the European Tour and then they excluded the Europeans from the Ryder Cup. And I went to John Darby, Lord Darby, President of the British PGA, and I said, John, the situation is that you got all these players and the Americans love making the team, but they really don't care about playing the matches. And I said, but if -- and I says, and if you brought the Europeans at that time Seve was obviously there and -- oh, I don't remember who the other players from Europe were. No, Faldo was English. He would have been there anyway.
JACK NICKLAUS: Langer. And you had -- there was a couple other Spaniards. Romero, I think, and you had some guys that would -- that would make that team and would probably increase the chances of making it a better competition. But it was their Tour. I mean, the American TOUR is not part of Canada and part of South America. It's the U. S. TOUR. So it's a different game.
Could you change it? Sure. I don't think that that would be right. I think that you're probably all right where you are. I think that the TOUR is, the American TOUR is the strongest TOUR in the world. Still produces, I mean if you took the top, I don't know, 20 players in the world how many of them are Americans? Give me a list. I have no idea.
Q. Six probably. Five or six?
JACK NICKLAUS: That's all?
JACK NICKLAUS: Really? How many of them are Europeans?
Q. Three or four.
JACK NICKLAUS: So it's a pretty even match from that standpoint, right.
Q. If there wasn't a Presidents Cup --
JACK NICKLAUS: So there's no real reason to change that out.
Q. If there wasn't a Presidents Cup, do you think that might have facilitated that change?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well the Presidents Cup obviously was created by the TOUR and of course the Ryder Cup is owned by the PGA of America. So it's two different organizations having two different events. And I don't think either organization would want to give up one of their events. They're both very big money makers for both organizations and they create a lot of interest and a lot of support from the players and from the media and the people around the world. So nobody would want to do that.
But if you had it where the there's an event every other year rather than every year, I think the American players would be more competitive on that basis. Which I've said that for, forever. Because Europeans play once every two years and they have two years to get real excited about the next event where the Americans finish the Ryder Cup and then they got the Presidents Cup the next year. And/or you could play the event every year if you played a king of the hill type thing where the Europeans win the Ryder Cup this time, they would play the international team the next year in the Presidents Cup.
You still have it be the Ryder Cup or still be the Ryder Cup and I don't think the U.S. players would be very upset about sitting out. So they would need to go play their rear end off to get, to want to stay there. But that's the only thing. I think maybe you would want to do that. But it's -- right now -- I thought that, I thought that ten years ago, I don't think it as much now. Because both events are very successful.
And players remember, after we came back from Australia in '98, and I was captain again in 2002, and I had a meeting with the guys and I said guys, if you would -- I don't -- I don't -- I know that a lot of you came to me and said you really didn't want to be there before. I said, I don't really care whether you go or not go, I said, but if you're going to go, I just want you to want to be there. I want you to want to play. And I said we can find 12 good players in the United States that want to go and play in the Presidents Cup. And I never had an issue since then. And the guys all wanted to play, they all were enthusiastic about it, it was never all this, well, I think maybe this guy is going to stay home, I don't think this guy is going to play. We never have any of that any more.
So I think a lot of that has gone away because I think the guys have taken pride in the way they played and the way they have done things and I've been very proud of the guys. I had a great group of guys on the Presidents Cup. Each time they played they have been terrific and I'm sure that Paul will have a great group of guys that want to play the Ryder Cup this time, because I think they're tired of losing. And I don't know whether I contradicted myself about ten times or not, but I mean there's so many different thoughts on it that that's where we come from.
Q. Wanted to follow-up on you talking about guys going for it on 14. Do you remember anybody making it before Bubba last year I think?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know anybody who -- somebody knocked it on there? Daly did one time, didn't he?
Q. I'm asking you. I don't know.
JACK NICKLAUS: Daly knocked it on.
Q. J.B. Holmes.
JACK NICKLAUS: J.B. knocked it on. Yeah. But I just heard one or two shots, I wouldn't want to worry about one or two shots, but I think when it becomes a regular thing, then it's time to think, then maybe it may be time to rethink about what you want to do. That bank may turn into an, instead of being an inch and a half of bluegrass it might turn into a half an inch of bluegrass.
In other words my philosophy on the banks on this golf course, I don't like to shave banks, I never liked that where you see a guy hit a ball on the green and spin it back into the water. I just don't think that's a fair thing. And so what I've tried to do here is I get the grass at a height that if you land the ball on the green and spin it back, the bank will have enough grass on it it will hold the ball up. If you hit the ball on the bank the ball will bound into the water. And that's sort of been my philosophy. And I think that the banks have played pretty much that way. And that's, they have done pretty much what I've asked or what we have tried to do.
Q. You talked about Tiger not needing to run to a sports psychologist or anything like that, is that the one thing that impresses you the most about him, his ability to focus or is there something more than that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think I think his record impresses me pretty much. He plays pretty well. Tiger, you know, you know I have great respect for Tiger. And his ability to handle himself at the top of the game has been enormous. I think he's done a great job. And his peers like him. His peers like him. Everybody likes him because he handles himself well. He doesn't run around boasting and telling people how great he is. He just goes and does his own thing and plays golf and he does, he's done a very, very good job of that.
And so I have great respect for that, great respect for the way he handles himself, and great respect for him as the way he handled himself on the Presidents Cup teams. Tiger was as much a team member as everybody else if not more. And that's -- so that would be the things that I like about him.
His golf game, his golf game's great, but I don't think that's what he is about. I think what he's about is the way he handles himself in the position he's in.
Q. On the Majors, a couple questions. Tiger only recently has made inroads, if you can call it that, on your Major record of 19 runner-up finishes. Why do you think that is?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, well, he won or finished second at the Masters. Making inroads on my runner-up finishes?
Q. Small inroads.
JACK NICKLAUS: That was sort of my bad remark I made the other day when he finished second, I said, well, he's only got 14 more to go.
I mean, does he want that record too? I don't think he wants that record or cares about that record.
But it was, I mean Tiger, he never has finished second. Up until about the last three or four years ago I think he only had one second in there someplace. And he, every time he got himself in position to win, he won. That's pretty special.
I would much rather have about three or four seconds myself. I would much prefer that. I would much prefer to take that 19 and forget it, have it on the other side of the ledger. And he's done a much better job of that than I have. Converting them, converting the final result.
Q. Back to the Ryder Cup, just briefly, is Valhalla in any way a good fit for the American team or what could be the American team? Would that help them at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I think Valhalla is a pretty darn good test. We made a lot of changes there last year, I made a lot of changes. And it's a considerably better golf course. It's certainly considerably tougher golf course too. I don't think that makes any difference. They all play the same one. It's another guy playing another guy side by side. So it's not that big a deal.
But I thought Oakland Hills was a very American type of golf course and I thought the Americans would do well there and the Europeans killed the Americans there at Oakland Hills. So I don't know what they will do at Valhalla. I would think that the Americans would play very well there.
Q. Curious, what the toughest, what you thought was the toughest Major for you to win?
JACK NICKLAUS: Toughest Major to win? I don't know. Most of the time I would think that probably the U.S. Open maybe. Because it was really, it was more set up not around my game. I was sort of more of a little bit more of a power hitter than some of the guys than a Hale Irwin type player.
But so I thought, I found that probably on a tournament to tournament basis more difficult to find one that I played, that I really liked to play as well.
The British Open, I always felt like, well I won it the least, but it was the one I always liked, I enjoyed that much more than of them.
Q. Probably contended the most in that.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what it was, not very many for a long time and I always felt like I was right there. The Masters was probably the, theoretically, the easiest, simply because of the type of golf course it was and really did lend itself more to my game.
And the PGA Championship was, you know, I don't know, I think the PGA Championship was really most of the time held in the northern part of the United States in which it was the kind of golf course that I grew up on and I played most on during the summertime. So I always seemed to play well in the northern part of the United States with the bents and poa annua or bluegrasses or whatever they might be. It seemed to fit me. Although I did win some, I did win, two of my PGAs I won in Dallas and one in Palm Beach Gardens. So when where did I win the other ones.
Q. Canterbury, Firestone?
JACK NICKLAUS: I won't Firestone, I won --
Q. Oak Hill.
JACK NICKLAUS: Oak Hill. And Canterbury. So I won three times up in the northern part of the United States.
Q. When you talk about preparations how did you prepare differently for a U.S. Open than I guess than a PGA since the other two are so different?
JACK NICKLAUS: The U.S. Open was a little earlier in the year. And worked a little bit more on -- we hadn't played many courses with that type of preparation. By the time we got to the PGA we had played the U.S. Open, the British Open, and two courses with that type of preparation.
So I didn't have to prepare as hard for that. But basically they're the same. Basically prepared the same.
Let's get back to the Memorial Tournament and finish up there, guys.
Q. It isn't a Memorial Tournament question.
JACK NICKLAUS: Go ahead.
Q. I was going to follow-up, the comments that Seve made, and he never really did say what Seve had said. So I wanted to sort of give you the thrust of that. But what his assertion was is that if the Americans keep getting hammered it's going to become an irrelevant event in the states because the fans won't care. You know how apathetic fans can become here and we don't suffer losers well and our attention span is about that long. I'm wondering whether you would agree with that. Do you see any danger in us continuing to get beat?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well I think that was the same danger that it was in Europe. And it's just as much danger there the other way. When we had, when we were winning every time it wasn't much feeling towards it. No, the Americans are going to win the Ryder Cup. They're going to win it plenty of times. It's going to go back and forth. That balance will change.
Q. Among the younger players on TOUR guys maybe who are here this week or not here this week is there any young player that particularly impresses you, guys in their first couple years on TOUR who are just starting to contend?
JACK NICKLAUS: I obviously don't know them that much. That's one of the things that I'm sort of, I start thinking about staying relevant in the game and it's difficult for me to do. Because I don't know the young guys as much as I used to.
Being Presidents Cup Captain kept me within being pretty current. But they were all guys that I had known most of -- I mean on my the Presidents Cup team last year I think I had two guys in their 20s. Glover, Lucas Glover. I think they were the only two, weren't they? And now if you would go to select a team this year, you probably would have a half a dozen guys or better maybe seven or eight guys that you could choose from, from a captain's pick or might earn themself a chance on its team in their 20s and I'm not as familiar with those guys.
Will I be? I'm sure I will as time goes on. Just like everything else. But I try to stay as current as I can. But as I say walked in the grill yesterday and I saw a bunch of guys that I walked up to them and had to introduce myself and they didn't know who I was either so.
Q. How does the length of the rough here compare with what it has been over the years?
JACK NICKLAUS: The same. It's just a more consistent rough. We have had, because of wet spring the rough has really gotten a very consistent growth. I don't think the guys will enjoy hitting the ball in the rough this week.
Q. As the tournament host and designer, do you care or pay attention to the winning score mostly care, I should say?
JACK NICKLAUS: I often wondered why we worry so much about the winning score and par. And it seems as though to continue to do that we continue to change golf courses, continue to spend a fortune and for what reason? Almighty par.
Is that really important? I mean, I don't want to get on my equipment kick, but equipment has changed the game. It is a different game. It's just not the same game. And so then I forget what I was talking about.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm usually a four sneeze guy.
Q. That's par.
JACK NICKLAUS: What was I talking about?
Q. You were talking about equipment.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well surprise there.
We talk about the game has changed tremendously because of equipment and I think largely the golf ball. And yet we're asked to play the same golf courses.
So I mean obviously if the golf ball goes further and equipment hits the ball straighter, and the guys are bigger, all those combinations would only, common sense would say, duh, scores are going to be lower.
Well, okay. But then you take the golf courses and we keep changing them and changing them and changing them and spend millions of dollars to protect almighty par. Is that really the right thing to do? I think that we're trying to, we try to take today's golf courses and make them -- we take equipment, which has no relevance whatsoever to the equipment that I played or we played versus what Jones played. Yet we want to make the golf course play, to be relevant. Does that make sense?
I mean why would you want to take -- I mean it's a different game, it's different equipment. Why would you worry about that it's relevant? Though we spend millions of dollars trying to make it so. And so that doesn't make a lot of sense.
Augusta is the perfect example. I think Augusta is a, to what it is right now, frankly, I think it's a great golf course. And I think what they have done to it is what they had to do to it if they wanted to protect par. Would Bobby Jones have liked that? Probably not. His philosophy was very much the St. Andrews philosophy. And that's wide fairways, second shot golf, put the ball in the right position, you got the right angle to the hole. You do that, you take advantage of the golf course and you can score it. Okay. Well obviously with today's equipment you just take a golf course apart.
But they have changed the golf course and probably rightly so. I have two thoughts on it. Rightly so. They changed the golf course to fit today's game. But they have taken the golf course away from Jones' philosophy of what the game was to him.
So you got two things happening there. Which do you protect? And they could have had the -- they're the only place that had the option probably to say, okay, we can do, take the golf ball and make them play a certain golf ball there. And they could have gotten away with that.
But I think they did the right thing there again, as I said to you before, in not putting themselves above the game. So I don't know what the answer really is. What was your question? Was that your question?
Q. What was my question?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I say it was your question, right, Doug?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. Do I have an objection, in other words, like Tom Lehman shot four 67s here one year. The golf course was -- and that was before the golf, before the golf ball went real long. Did I have an objection to that? Not really. Did I like to see my golf course torn apart that much? No, of course not.
But they had rain prior to the tournament, we had no wind during the tournament, the greens were soft, the fairways ran enough that the ball played fine. The golf course was just perfect and four perfect days. I don't mind the golf course yielding to that. The golf course is supposed to yield when you have good conditions. So that to me is always my definition of a good golf course. If a golf course won't yield under the right conditions to good play then it's probably not a good golf course, it's just been tricked up to the point where it's beyond a good golf course.
So, but it's a different day. So you either got to leave par alone and let them go ahead and play or you got to sort of say, okay, do what we're doing and we spend millions every week and do what we're doing.
That's why I did what I did with the rake. That's the only reason I did the rake is I tried to keep the golf course where I could have put in more length on it, I couldn't, I mean I can, but I didn't, I didn't more length was necessary. The only thing that I, the only thing I felt I could do was to say, okay, the golf course is designed a certain way, let's try to make them play, at least play the strategy of the golf course. That's basically it.
Q. It's interesting, some past champions obviously are not here this week. And I'm just curious, because of their stature, Vijay, Tiger, and I'm not actually certain what Els is doing, but --
JACK NICKLAUS: Els is on his way. He's in the air right now.
Q. Okay. Are there ever personal conversations --
JACK NICKLAUS: At least that's what I was told.
Q. -- that they say, hey, I'm not able to make it? Do you get a personal call from a guy like Tiger who says, hey, I'm not able to make it or does that not happen?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's a different day and age today, guys. It's all through agents today. Mark Steinberg called the day after Tiger had his knee surgery and he said, and he called Andy O'Brien, called you, didn't he, Andy? And he said that Tiger's goal is to be back for the Memorial Tournament. He called and said Tiger's on schedule to be back for the Memorial Tournament. He called twice or three times during the week of last week and said that Tiger is going to, his plans were to get here Friday. And he says, but he's going to try to play, trying to try to play Thursday, but he plans to enter Friday. I mean they sent a check for renting a house and everything else. He was ready to come.
But then Mark called back and he said, he went out and tried to play Thursday and he couldn't. He said he couldn't put the weight on his knee, couldn't turn on it. So he called and said, I don't want to come to Jack's tournament and withdraw. So I mean, can't remember what your question was, but. What was your question?
Q. But you didn't hear from him directly.
JACK NICKLAUS: No. No. That's right. I heard, we heard it from Mark. But that was from Tiger. To keep me abreast. And it's okay. I don't think I ever talked to Tiger on the telephone.
I think that -- I know when I was growing up, and one of the things that Arnold did for me, I remember the first couple tournaments -- I mean it's only things that you normally would do, that your parents would teach you, is that he says, you know, I always drop a sponsor a note and thank him for the tournament. And I says, you do? He says, yeah, I try to do it every week if I can. I said, good. So every tournament I ever played in I always dropped the sponsor a note.
We get one or two. You know. I'm not saying that of everybody. But we do get one or two. But not very many.
And I remember, I know I remember a commemorative thing was given at the British Open about, I don't know what year it was, it wasn't a big deal, but it was a big enough deal I won't go through the names of the people. But it was a commemorative something being given. The guy carried it from the United States over and carried 150 of these things over to give them to the contestants at the British Open.
He received two thank you notes. From his brother and from me. I mean, you know, guys just don't communicate any more. It's something your parents, my parents taught me to do and then and Arnold was one that got me, that said, I asked him what he did and that's what he did.
So it's been, it's common thing, but so you just don't hear from guys. Every once in a while you might, I might get something, but I don't think I ever had a note from anybody when they're going to leave the Memorial Tournament or not going to play or something that wrote me and said, Jack, I'm sorry I had a problem, I can't be here.
Q. You got to figure out the text message function on your phone.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that's a cop-out way to do something.
Q. It's the way it's done now. It's frightening, but that's the way everybody does it now. If you're under age 30, that's it.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, but why do it that way. I just think that --
Q. Do you worry about manners?
JACK NICKLAUS: Do I?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's a different day. I worry about the game. I worry about all kinds of things. I worry about, you know, it's not my job to worry about what other guys do. It's just my kids. I think it is my job with them to bring my kids up to do the right thing. And hopefully my kids do the right thing. Probably not as much as I would like.
I know they do use e-mail a lot, so forth and so on. But I've got notes myself and in fact I got them sitting in the museum. I don't put my e-mails in the museum. You know what I'm saying.
I got notes back from presidents and different people that sent me notes on different things and congratulations. I love to have those things. Well I got an e-mail from a president the other day, you know, no. Come on.
Q. If you were playing today then do you think you would enjoy the game the same way you enjoyed it?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's a different -- if I would have grown up in this age I would have loved this age just as much as the age I grew up in. I think the guys today love playing the game. I think they love playing.
The kids I -- you know, kids up in the locker room yesterday and the ones I see every year, you know, it's just a different day.
But these kids are just as polite, just as nice, want to do the right thing. It's just, it's a different day. Since you're talking about e-mails, it's the same thing. It's a different day. So you accept what the day is. I just answered your question as far as that goes. But it's the way it is.
DOUG MILNE: Mr. Nicklaus, we always appreciate your time. Thank you.
JACK NICKLAUS: Doesn't anyone want to talk about the Memorial Tournament?
Q. What were you doing at Birkdale?
JACK NICKLAUS: I go over to the British Open every year for RBS. And they do an outing.
Q. Did you play it?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. I don't play any more. I went around the golf course. It's really odd. They changed 16 and 18 holes and I played, I probably played five or six Opens at Birkdale. I remember about three holes.
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