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June 3, 2009
JACK NICKLAUS: Good morning. How are you all doing?
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Mr. Jack Nicklaus, tournament host of the Memorial Tournament and a two-time past winner the event. Mr. Nicklaus, if you would start off by -- I think you've been here just under a week. Maybe talk about the conditions of the course, and then we'll take some questions.
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, it's nice to have you here. I hope you're enjoying your visit, as we say.
I got here on -- I guess I really got here Friday. I went to the NCAAs on Thursday and down to Athens on Friday, got here Friday afternoon and played the golf course on Saturday and Sunday. It's really in perfect condition.
We didn't really do anything significant from last year. We did a little fix of the greens at 18 and 11. We had some issues last year because we did have a fairly dry year. The greens really did keep their speed.
We had a couple of guys putted the ball off the 18th green, and they were not good putts, incidentally. But we really couldn't use the front pin placement at 11 because we'd spin the ball back in.
So we raised the collar at 11 and flattened out that front pin placement and ended up with actually almost two pin placements in front, at least according to Steve that's doing the Tour here.
And then 18 was raised probably about three to four inches, I suppose, which really holds the ball in a little bit better, makes it a little bit steeper getting up into it. But once you're on the green, it's fine.
Those are the two changes. We put about four miles of drainage into the fairways again this year. We've been putting in three or four miles every year. I don't know how many miles of fairway we got, but by the time we get done with it be with let's hope we'll have all of it done.
What you'll find out there is, when we do get rain -- in years past, Ohio being a very heavy soil, it doesn't drain real well. And now it goes through there like it may as well be on sand. So the golf course drains beautifully, and it's easier to dry it out.
But the fairways are good. The greens are good. Didn't make any changes to the golf course from a playability standpoint other than the two I talked about. I think they're ready for the tournament.
Actually, two other things we did. We had three requests from the Tour to consider, which actually, you know, shouldn't be -- it's not my call anyway. It's the Tour's call. They've been very respectful towards my judgment and what I want to do.
And so they've come to me. They came to us about the height of the rough, which was too high last year. It wasn't too high because it's the same height we've always used, but it was so thick last year that it really played difficult. So we lowered it a half inch this year. I don't know if that will do much or not.
The rough is probably not quite as thick as it was last year, so we probably won't have as many hack-out shots which I don't like anyway. I never liked hack-out golf.
When you hit the ball in the rough, I think you should have an opportunity, if you grab a halfway decent lie, you have the opportunity to maybe figure out some way to get the ball on the green or around the green or play a shot. I don't think you should be sitting in the rough and spinning it back.
That's obviously new to the Tour and new to the USGA. That's why they're changing the rules on grooves. So that's one thing.
Of course, the second thing was the bunker rakes, and we went back through the statistics on the bunkers. It really wasn't that much difference. It really surrounds the greens. That's not the area that I was concerned about. I was concerned about playing the strategy of the golf course in relation to the fairway bunkers.
Rather than fighting an issue, it's not that big of a deal. It's too much controversy. So I just said forget it. I'm getting old, I guess.
And the last thing was, you know, they were concerned about maybe the greens were getting too fast. I said, well, guys, they're the same height they've been for the last fifteen years. I don't think that really that's a big deal. We just had a dry year, and every time we have a dry year, the greens get a little faster. If we don't have a normal dry year, they won't be as fast.
Anyway, the greens are per suspect. I haven't heard anything about it on the golf course. They've said I've never seen better greens. So that's perfect.
Now we'll go back into the other things. What you got? End of press conference.
MARK STEVENS: No questions? Go ahead.
Q. Jack, everyone seems to have an opinion on Tiger and his comeback. How do you see his comeback? Are you surprised? Do you think he's sort of on schedule? How do you see him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't really know. I think that answer really should come from Tiger. I mean, he's obviously -- his scoring is pretty good. He's won once. I think he's won once, hasn't he? Once? And finished in the top ten every other time or something. That's really terrible, isn't it? It's a terrible comeback.
I think he's probably done pretty well and probably is where he would have expected to be. Do I think he's probably at the level that he wants to be? Probably not. You know, it's a long time to come after you have an ACL and you have broken bones, actually were probably more twisted than broken. I probably shouldn't say that because I really don't know.
But it seems like from the force that was put on his leg, it was probably more of a twist than what you'd call somebody with a clean break of a leg, obviously. So he's going to take a while to heal from that, and I think he's probably protecting that.
If you look at his golf swing, I don't think he moves out of the way of the ball like he used to. I think that's probably protective, and it's probably a good move on his part. That's probably on purpose. He's probably adjusted his swing to fit that.
I don't know those answers because I haven't talked to him about it. I'll talk to him this afternoon and answer that question for you tomorrow, if he'll tell me.
He's such a good player. He's so good around the greens. His iron game is so good that, even if he's not playing well, he's going to score well. We're delighted to have him back here. We hope he plays well, hope he has a good tournament.
Q. Jack, could you talk about playing with Tiger today. It's sort of a rare occurrence.
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't played with him since PGA at Valhalla. I guess that was 2000. I decided to have a Skins game, and I said, when I play in the Pro-Am, I usually try to put my face on the golf course for a few hours while I'm here during the week.
I think, while I can, it's okay. It's the only place I do it.
They had me paired in the other group, and I said, unh-unh. I said, I haven't played with him for nine years. I'd like to play with Tiger. So they said, okay. So we're going to play together.
I'm looking forward to it. I really am. I'm really looking forward to it. I told him I'd give him a couple of extra shots if he needed it. I'll throw my 98 mile an hour club head speed at him.
Q. Jack, you've always been very supportive of your desire to see Tiger get to 18 and maybe 19. What do you see in your crystal ball next ten years of Tiger's career? How many Majors do you think he might be able to win?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have not a clue obviously. People have just asked me, will Tiger break the record? I think the pace he has and the quality of player he is that, even if he doesn't play well, I think he'll probably still break my record.
But he still has to do that. I mean, it's not a gimme. You just don't win -- what's he won, 14? He's got to win another 5 Majors to do that.
You start out anybody's career at age 33 and say you're going to win five Majors, the chance of most people is probably going to be no. But in Tiger's case, probably yes. We don't know. I have no idea.
I would suspect that he is such a focused young man and his work ethic is so good, that I would suspect he will pass it. He will probably the next three years probably. He'll probably do that.
But, if it's the next three years, that's fine with me. Then he can get it over with, and I can go shake his hand. And I don't have to worry about where I'm going to travel to to shake his hand.
Q. Take you away from Tiger a little bit. Talk about public golf. Since the last, what, 50 years it must have changed a lot in your career as a player and golf course architect. You've got the U.S. Open at a public golf course this year. Could you give us your opinions about the development of public golf in America.
JACK NICKLAUS: Public golf has really changed from public municipal golf to public access golf. What I mean by that is most of your old public golf courses used to be owned by the cities, counties, states, as is Bethpage. It's a state park.
Most of that golf was pretty accessible on a pretty low level of fee and everything else. I don't know what Bethpage is now. What is Bethpage to play?
JACK NICKLAUS: Is it? That's all it is?
Q. For residents.
JACK NICKLAUS: But what is it for the outside?
JACK NICKLAUS: So $100 golf, it's not wildly out of range, but it's still expensive golf for the average person who plays municipal golf versus where they pay $7 and $8 and that kind of stuff to get on the golf course for a local resident.
So public access has changed. Public access now becomes hotel golf, stand alone golf courses that are just for public access. Pebble Beach is a public access golf course. Pebble Beach isn't exactly the cheapest place to play. It's about $400. Isn't that right, Doug?
Q. I've not paid it, but I've heard that, yeah.
JACK NICKLAUS: I won't pay it, I'll tell you. I wouldn't pay $400 to play a round of golf. It sounds ridiculous because you spend $10,000 in dues to be on a golf course, yet you won't pay $400 for golf and you play three rounds a year. Doesn't add up quite right, does it?
Anyway, it has changed a lot, Jerry. What has happened, municipal golf has gone from being not much of a golf course to actually being able to create the same experience for all golfers, whether it's private or public, no matter what facility you go to.
It's terrific for the average golfer to be able to go to a Bethpage or go to -- let's see. Where else? Torrey Pines. And a new course in Seattle.
Q. Chambers Bay.
JACK NICKLAUS: Chambers Bay. And you have these abilities to be able to do that, which the public never would have. The public doesn't have any access to Augusta National. It's never had the ability to get there. Or have the access to get here. You don't have that access.
The game has changed from that standpoint over where the game begins. Scotland, St. Andrews, you've always been able to play St. Andrews if you're one of the lucky 1 out of 5,000 on the lottery. You can get in. That's about what it is anymore, isn't it? It's a big lottery.
That was really your question?
JACK NICKLAUS: The quality of golf has obviously been much --
Q. Has something changed, technology or anything, that's enabled you to build a golf course for public access that's of that high quality?
JACK NICKLAUS: Nothing changes from that standpoint. It's a piece of property. You do what you do. I do a lot. Probably half of the golf courses I do are public access or even better. Most of the golf courses have been doing it for hotels or combination hotel/residential, whatever it might be, but it's still public access. You can get on.
Q. Jack, I just wanted to go back to condition of the course. You have a superintendent here, Paul Latshaw, who's been here six years, regarded as one of the best in the business. Your comments about how the course looks perfect. I just want to get your opinions of the job he's done since he's been here.
JACK NICKLAUS: If it's perfect, he's obviously pretty good, isn't he? Don't tell him that. That costs me too much money.
Paul's done a great job. He's more than a golf course superintendent. He's a student of -- he's got his Masters or Ph.D. in grass. I don't know what he has. But he keeps going back to school to get more education and keeps expanding what his knowledge is. He's a very, very intense young man who really likes what he does.
You know, when I hired Paul -- actually, I hired him. His father Paul Sr., Paul had started at Oakmont and grew up there. His father went to Augusta, went to Congressional, Riviera, maybe some other places, I'm not sure.
Paul went on to Oak Hill. When we were having problems here, I needed to make a -- looking for a superintendent. I called his father, who I'd offered a job to about 15 years earlier. And I said, "Paul, I'm looking for a young superintendent. I know that you have a lot of young guys that have trained under you around the country, and I'm trying to find one that you think would be suitable for us to have."
Well he said, "I've kicked myself for 15 years for turning down the job." And he said, "I'll tell you the guy that I think would be the best one would be my son. I think he's the best one of the lot." And I said, "Where's your son?" He says, "He's at Oak Hill. They just finished up the PGA Championship at Oak Hill."
And he said, Oak Hill won't have an event for quite a while, and Paul would like to get involved where we're going to have a tournament every year where he can get involved in the tournament preparation and so forth and so on.
So that was right down Paul's alley what he wanted. And I knew that Paul, obviously being at Oak Hill was going to do a good job. I never realized how good of a job he would do because he has taken this course to the next level.
I mean, all the drainage that he's put in this golf course. The restoration of all the creek banks and the erosion factors that we have because, when we started doing this golf course, remember number 6, we used to walk off the tee and jump over the creek, just take one step. It's ten yards now. The water comes down through this property from developments north of here. It's really created a lot of havoc within the property, so we had to control it.
Paul's controlled that very well. We put a pipe pass on number 5 this year. The 5 fairway comes through, and we put a pipe down through the fairway where it picks the water up. Put in a 36-inch culvert down through the fairway. More than a two-year flood, the water comes down through there and never gets any flooding. The water stays at a constant level.
I wouldn't have dreamed of doing something like that. It's a creek. Why would I want to go through it? That's his background. That's his education, to be able to do those kinds of things.
It cost more money to have Paul, but that's okay in the end because in the end, instead of spending, you know, $10,000 or $20,000, $50,000, whatever it is, to clean up and fix erosion, you do it one time, and you're done. That's not going to go anywhere now.
So he's terrific. He's just done a wonderful job here. He's taken the greens to the next level.
When we redid the greens here about 10, 12 years ago, the subsurfaces, we put a mix in that was very quick draining mix, and that draining mix was actually -- I did not realize it because I didn't realize what we put in, but we'd put in a fairly round sand. When you put in a round sand, it doesn't compact. It drains beautifully, but it doesn't compact. You never get the greens firm.
And so Paul's been working on changing the profile without having to redo the greens. Putting a little more angular sand to slow down the greens and get some compaction and get the greens firmer when you want to get them firmer. All of those are things that he's been able to do. He's just done a very good job.
Q. Jack, how did you prepare to play a U.S. Open? How was it any different from the normal tournament you prepared to play?
JACK NICKLAUS: I started off at the beginning of the year -- Masters with the first thing I looked at. I usually started in January thinking about the Masters and thinking about what I needed to do to prepare my game for Augusta.
I'd start playing golf. I'd set my tournament schedule based on what I wanted to do to prepare myself to play in the Masters. And I'd set the places where I'd have a few courses where I wanted -- I couldn't play all of them, but I needed some that played a little more right to left than I would other places. Some places where I needed to throw the ball up in the air. I didn't want to play too much in Florida even though that's where I lived, because I didn't want to play in total wind all the time.
So I played about half the tournaments and got to Augusta about a week ahead of time and played it -- I played the tournament the week before the tournament, always to find out how my game would do, how I would score, how I would do things. Then I'd go home and play the tournament.
And once the Masters is over, my preparation was for the U.S. Open. U.S. Open was much the same thing. I'd pick golf courses, depending where the Open was going to be, I'd pick golf courses. I liked to play two weeks before the tournament. From my standpoint, the Memorial would be the ideal place to play. I always want to have these golf courses as close to what you would have in the U.S. Open conditions as you would have in the U.S. Open to give guys that type of a situation.
Then I would go in the week before again. When I was younger, I'd take in -- usually took Jackie with me or Jack and Steve, depending on where they were at the time. Take my kids with me and go play a couple of practice rounds, three or four practice rounds, and they'd go play. 9, 10 years old. I'd much rather play with them.
And I'd go play my practice rounds and work on my golf game. I'd like at the U.S. Open. Okay, I should play, this rough is really deep. These fairways are really narrow. These greens are really firm. These greens are really fast. All those elements that come into what the U.S. Open has.
I'd go in the week before and get them all out of my way. I would be comfortable with the fairway, I would be comfortable with the depth of the rough, be comfortable with the firmness of the greens and the speed, so forth and so on.
As a result, when I got there the week of the tournament, I had all those elements out of the way. As the players came in on Monday to start their practice rounds, and they said, oh, God, that rough is so deep. Oh, these greens are so hard. I'd just check them off. Don't have to worry about them. Don't have to worry about them.
So the only person I could control is myself. So I didn't really worry about anything else other than preparing me. I'd get myself so that, when I went back in for the tournament, all I'd worry about is having my swing in shape to play. I'd have all the other elements out of the way. I'd have myself ready. I'd build myself up to that. I didn't want to be my best on Thursday. I always wanted to be still growing. I'd want to get to my best on about Saturday.
I mean, I didn't want to be bad on Thursday, obviously, but I wanted to be able to feel I'm still working on my game, so I still felt like I was climbing a hill and still preparing for that tournament. The weekend was the time I really had to play well. I got myself in contention, got myself in position, and then tried to be in a position to win. That's what I'd try to do.
Q. Jack, Arnold turns 80 this year, and your relationship with Arnold has evolved, obviously, over the years. You probably don't have the opportunity to maybe run into him the way you did obviously in the prime of your careers. But how often do you talk to Arnold today, and what do you talk about?
JACK NICKLAUS: Today? I won't talk to him today at all.
Q. These days.
JACK NICKLAUS: You know me, wise guy.
Q. You know what I meant.
JACK NICKLAUS: Sure. Let's see. I'm trying to think last time I talked to Arnold. We were at Augusta. I don't know if I've really talked to him since Augusta or not.
For some reason, it seems like I have talked to him, but I can't think of where it was. I talked to Arnold -- for something, we usually end up talk about something once a month or maybe every six weeks. We'll run into something. And sometime there's something that I said or something he said or something that somebody else has said we've said, and generally, one or two of us will pick up the phone and call the other one. Hey, what do we got? What's going on? What are we doing? Where are we? Do you want to do this together? You going here? Should we go there? This and that, whatever it might be.
But Arnold and I had a very close relationship when we first started on the tour. He was very good to me. We used to travel a lot together and everything else. We played a lot together. Obviously, we competed a lot. But our wives are close friends, and we spent a lot of time together.
As Arnold left the regular tour and went to the Senior Tour, we had ten years in there where we really didn't see a lot of each other. He was playing in another tour, and I was playing here. Once we started playing the Senior Tour, we started to spend more time together. Of course, obviously, we've played a lot of Ryder Cups, a lot of team championships together, a lot of different things.
What was the gist of your question?
Q. Just that he turns 80 this year. I just wanted to get a sense of where you guys are in your relationship today.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think we'd both like to get a little younger. I think that's always the way everybody is. Arnold probably still plays ten times more golf than I play. He struggles with it, as you know. He's having a hard time playing.
That's one thing I talked to him. When we were at Augusta, I said, "How are you playing?" "Oh, horrible." "How much you playing?" He said, "Every day."
But that's him. That's what he does. He says, "How often do you play?" "Once a month." "How are you playing?" "Decent when I play, but I don't play enough to be any good." He says, "Well, wait another ten years." Okay. I'll wait another ten years and probably be the same thing. "How are you playing?" "Terrible."
Q. A followup on that. As a competitor, you stood on the fairway with him in his prime, knew what he was. How would you assess Arnold Palmer as a golfer? What did he bring to the game of golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think he brought a lot more to the game than his game. What I mean by that is that, you know, there's no question about his record and his ability to play the game. He was very, very good at that. But he obviously brought a lot more. He brought, you know, the hitch of his pants, the flair that he brought to the game. The fans that he brought into the game.
He played at the time when he sort of invented television golf. I mean, he really didn't, but a lot of people would think that.
But he was there at the right time and for all those things, and his flair and his charisma was something that was really very, very important to the game of golf during that period of time. He brought more than just his golf game.
Q. Jack, I want to back up. You said you had a discussion with the tour about the three elements of the setup, the rakes, the rough, and the firmness of the greens. Have they ever vetoed any of your ideas and said, no, you can't do that? I'm kind of wondering -- obviously, they can do what they want. They're working with you on these things. I wonder how those conversations go.
JACK NICKLAUS: The Tour, as I said, has been very respectful of what I want to do. I think they do the same basically with Arnold and probably with Tiger at his tournament. I think most tournaments, the Tour takes it over and does what they think they should do. They really don't have an input because they really don't have a player that's really been through that and done that and been part of his heart and soul.
He knows that this is part of my heart and soul here, and the Tour, I don't think, would ever do anything that I didn't want to do. Then again, they do have control of the golf course. It is their golf course from Sunday on and theirs to do with as they see is right. But like I say, they've been very respectful.
Those conversations took place, like Slugger came to me probably on Sunday and said, a couple of things I want to talk to you about next year. I'm wondering about what's going to happen in the future with the Tournament. We want to make the event run.
I said, I want to make the event run. We all want to make the event run. He felt the rough was too deep. Look, guys, it's your call. I didn't even get here last year because I had a high school graduation on Sunday night, and rough made the final cut on Sunday. That rough was cut before I was even here last year.
Now, I didn't like that, but I didn't change what you did. Did I think it was too high? Yes, I thought it was too high too. So I have no argument with you on the rough. That was not an issue.
Bunkers? The statistics after the Tournament, we got all the shot lengths and stuff, really didn't make all that much difference around the green. I said, it really doesn't make that much of a difference. I said, it does a little bit on the fairways, but, guys, I'm tired of the controversy, tired of worrying about it. All I'm trying to do is try to present the best golf course event.
You guys do it week after week. I don't do it week after week. I do it one tournament. So if you guys think that's a better way to go, then we'll go that way. In other words, I'm respectful to them too.
I says, the one thing, the green speeds, unh-unh. He said, okay. I said, the green speeds, we've done the same thing every year. We've prepared them the same way, cut them the same height, done exactly the same thing. There's no way to change it. We get a dry year, sometimes they get faster. How many dry years do we have in Muirfield?
Q. Let me know when we have one.
JACK NICKLAUS: You take a picture, and this place has got an umbrella over it. That's generally speaking what's happened through the years.
Most of the time, the greens aren't going to be out of control. And if they are, hey, so what? It's what nature gives us. And I sort of feel like nature should present a little bit of what happens in a golf tournament, not just to try to have the same thing every week.
I mean, if it it's dry, you put a lot more water on. I just don't think -- let nature take a little bit of its course. You look at Augusta. You look at the British Open. You look at the U.S. Open. They always let nature take its course during the course of the week. I think that's been the nature of the game through the years, and I sort of like that.
So the Tour and I have never really had an argument. We've had discussions, but we've never had an argument.
Q. Jack, Tiger's respect for you is immense, and I'm wondering if he's ever sought your advice on how to juggle parenthood and tournament golf.
JACK NICKLAUS: Never asked me, no. I mean, I probably -- I've had enough comments on what I've done and how I've handled things, and I'm sure that he's probably read that or not read it, or he's taken it and used it or not used it. We've never really had a discussion on it.
He now has a couple of kids, and life changes. It's actually -- I've said many times that Tiger will be a better player with a family than without the family. You've got somebody to play for, somebody to come home and share it with, and somebody to root for you that's right there that you love.
So that's the way it should be.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you for taking your time today, Mr. Nicklaus. We look forward to a great week.
End of FastScripts