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April 8, 2010

Jack Nicklaus


THE MODERATOR: It is my great pleasure and privilege to welcome Jack Nicklaus. April 8, 2010 marks a new tradition here at the Masters Tournament, and Jack Nicklaus has returned to the first tee and golfing fans throughout the world are thrilled with his new role as Honorary Starter.
Jack, as you know, has 18 major championships including six green jackets, but his Masters Tournament records in themselves are uniquely impressive. Jack has competed in 45 Masters totalling 163 rounds, and in that span of 163 rounds, he holds the career Tournament record for birdies, 506. He holds the career Tournament record for eagles, 24, including two eagles, on No. 5, in 1995, and he holds the career Tournament record for most rounds in the 60s, 39.
Jack we are truly honored to have you this morning, it was a thrill to see you and we would invite you to make any comments you would like before we open it to questions, sir.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't really have a whole lot of comment except I went out and hit a tee shot that, as I said, Arnold, when he hit it, he said, "That wasn't too bad."
I said, "Yeah, we heard it." That's what we were trying to do is hear trying to hear the ball hit the club. I said, as long as we don't hear it land, we are both in good shape, and that was what we did.
I think Arnold hit a pretty good tee shot if I recall, a nice ball. I've never been up this early at Augusta. (Laughter) Never had the tee at 7:40 before, but now I have, so I'm run the gamut.
Anyway, we had a nice time with it. We had a nice time yesterday at the Par 3, and we enjoyed that, and we had a nice time at the dinner the other night. My official duties will be over as soon as I walk out of here.

Q. Does the reception ever get old, when the people fawn all over you like that out there, since it means a little more to Arnold than it does to you, since he's wired a little differently?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know that it means any more to Arnold than it does to me. I think we both enjoy it and think it's nice. I think it's -- I don't know how you phrase it, but it's a tradition they started many, many years ago, and you know, I remember when I first started playing, Jock Hutchison and Freddie McLeod, I think they were still doing it then, I'm not sure who was or what, but it was a nice tradition then. I was a young player and I didn't have a clue who they were now and I'm sure that the young players have no clue who Arnold and I are. (Laughter).
But it's a nice tradition and I think it's -- I hope that I'm invited back to do it again.

Q. Did you ever see Sarazen or Snead?
JACK NICKLAUS: I never saw anybody do it. As I said, I've never been up that early, not at the Masters.

Q. When did you begin to realize that the rivalry that you and Arnold had would bloom into the friendship that it has blossomed into?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I go back as sort of the history as what happened with Arnold and me; early on when we all three were represented by McCormack, Gary, Arnold and I, Arnold and I used to play a lot of exhibitions together. Arnold used to come to Columbus and pick me up. We would go off and play tournaments in his airplane. We played his team members for many years.
You know, we had a great competitive rivalry, but Arnold and I were always good friends throughout that. Our wives were good friends, never had anything.
When Arnold left the regular Tour and went the Senior Tour, we sort of lost each other for about ten years, we weren't able to spend any time together. And I think that's what people thought, there was something different and off between Arnold and me.
You know, in my opinion, I don't think there was. I think Arnold would say the same. When I started playing the Senior Tour, we started playing a lot of golf again together. I don't get -- just because two guys -- two guys are rivals and want to beat each other's brains out every time they play doesn't mean they are bad friends. And if you are alluding to that, then I think you are sadly mistaken.

Q. How many times do you think if you had to ballpark it, you and Arnie have had shots off the same tee together; 100, 200, 500? How many times you guys have played together?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I don't know. Between practice rounds and everything, we've probably played 300, 400 times together, I suppose, I don't know. We played at least a year together. (Laughter).

Q. Do you have any good airplane stories with him at the helm, any frightening ones?
JACK NICKLAUS: Fortunately no good stories -- I should say, fortunately, no bad stories.
No, Arnold is a good pilot. He was a good pilot when he was younger. He loved flying. He had an Aero Commander, a 500A, I think it was. I could be wrong on that.
We used to go play, remember the Tour used to give us three weeks to play exhibitions; that's what they used to do. We would go get in the airplane and go play a week of exhibitions together. We did that a lot.
And I suppose that the bumpiest ride we had was we went out and played one at Sea Graves, Texas, which is out near Odessa, out in west Texas, and it was windy and it was blowing and we were bouncing all over the sky. And I kept saying to Arnold, "Don't you know where a smooth road is?" (Laughter).
That's about the bumpiest we've been. Let's see, I don't -- I don't think I've been on Arnold's jet with him when he's been flying. Ever since I got an airplane, I don't think either of us have been on each other's airplane since.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the 16th hole here and what it's meant to you?
JACK NICKLAUS: The 16th hole, in many ways, I've always felt like it's kind of -- it's probably not the most descriptive hole on the golf course, and exciting hole. I'm sure some guys have hit the ball in the water there, but you shouldn't. And yet, every time -- and maybe that's why I've taken advantage of the hole, because I've always felt like it really wasn't that dangerous a hole.
And from my standpoint, it's probably been the one hole on this golf course that's probably been more relevant to my career than any other. And I made a lot of 2s there. In '63, I holed about a 12-footer that year with the pin on the back right and I holed a putt there to go into the lead. Obviously in '75, the shot I hit there in '86; I remember one year, I won the pin was the front right, I don't remember what round it was but I stuffed it about a foot from the hole -- and made the putt. I tell you one thing, a foot on that spot on that green is not a gimmie.
And of course, the gallery there, the reception you receive, it's just the relationship to the 15th green and 15th hole and how the interrelation of how those two holes -- that's what's so unique about this golf course, and I'm sure is to a large part is why you all are here. If this golf course was not a golf course that had the inter-reaction throughout the golf course of the players and the holes and the back and forth, it wouldn't have had the excitement that it does, because it does present a lot of excitement at the end of the tournament. The excitement of Amen Corner and 16, obviously 17, 18, coming back to the clubhouse don't provide the drama that the others have but they are very strong golf holes.

Q. We talk a lot about the six green jackets, but I want to get your thoughts on the jacket itself, what's it like to put that on, what's it like the first time and what's it like when you come here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, each year when I come here, I never know which jacket to put on because I never know which size I'm going to be. (Laughter).
And I'm not even sure whether it's still my jacket in there anymore or not. I went through the story here the other day; I don't think we need to go through that story about not having a green jacket until 1998.
But you know, it's a tradition at this club, and I had my jacket, I forgot, who had it, Jackie? Arnold got his jacket as soon as he walked off the first tee and put it on, and I didn't, but I meant to. But it's a tradition. You don't do that in many other places. Other places have jackets, we have jackets at all the clubs, not all of them, but some, but none that really relates to the tradition of here.

Q. How many rounds do you think you've played with Ben Hogan?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably 12 to 15 probably.

Q. What is the most memorable one of those?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I would have to think that the last two at Cherry Hills, I played there, and of course I played with him in the last round in '66 here when I tied, or won the tournament after tying.
We played quite a few practice rounds in between. Those are the only tournament rounds I played with Ben.

Q. Are you a little bit surprised that we are almost 25 years since '86, and nobody has yet won who is older than you were in '86, considering the fitness and how much longer these guys seem to be taking their games deep into their careers? Are you surprised that nobody has passed that record yet?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't really thought about it until you just asked it. I would think that that will probably happen but I don't know -- let's see, Kenny Perry almost won one last year and Kenny is older than I am, or older than I was.
I don't know, what's Cabrera, about 44?

Q. He's 41?
JACK NICKLAUS: 41, is that what he is now?

Q. Vijay is 47.
JACK NICKLAUS: If Vijay would win, he would be older. I don't know who else in the field would be capable. Freddie would be capable. Freddie would be capable, Vijay would be capable -- who were we talking about first?

Q. Kenny Perry.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, Kenny would be capable.

Q. Watson.
JACK NICKLAUS: Watson would be capable. I don't know whether -- Tom himself would say that he would probably have a hard time here because he just can't hit it far enough. British Open and things like that he can. He said that at the dinner the other night, he said, "It's just too long for me to compete here." But I would never put it by him.
It was like Trevino said he could never play well here and I said, "That's rubbish, you can play anywhere." He never did play great here, but he could still play. And just the same, you never know what Watson could do. Watson is just really -- he's still a very good, very good player.

Q. What's your plans for the rest of the week, and will you watch the tournament on television?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm going fishing tomorrow in the Bahamas and I don't think I'll have a television set. I'll be out in the water all day. I might. We have a set on the boat, but whether we ill pick it up at night, watch the replays; we'll probably do that.

Q. You said at the U.S. Open, the guys would be complaining about it and talk themselves out of the tournament, and it was one guy less to beat; is there anything guys could say here to eliminate themselves by the way they talk about going in?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think a lot of people eliminate themselves by saying it's the Masters and that scares them, that's one.
Two, they get on the greens and they can't figure out what to do and they start looking at where the pins are going to be during the tournament, and they start practicing putting them and they find out that they don't have any idea how to get it there.
If you look at some of these greens, you look at them, maybe looks at like a three- or four-foot break and in reality, sometimes you have to play a 20-, 30-foot break. This golf course, it just takes learning. And you know, although, if a player just thinks about this golf course and goes around, if you put the ball in the middle of every green on your shots on every hole, you're not ever going to have a bad putt.
You may not have a lot of birdie putts, but you consider birdie putts, you put it on the middle of the first green, uphill putt all the way, middle of the second green, you have an ease he direction to go, third except going left, they are all not that bad to be right in the middle of the green.
You know, a lot of greens today are not designed like that. A lot of greens sheet off in many directions and you can't keep the ball on the uphill side, or the side to putt uphill.
But it's just hard to learn that. It takes you a while to learn it. It just takes experience. I think experience is the hardest thing on this golf course. The experience of playing in U.S. Opens is the same thing or the British Open is the same thing. You get intimidated by the conditions of what you have and what's there, and the aura of the event; that's what guys get hung up on.

Q. How long did it take you to learn that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I said in here the other day, what happened to me in '59, I sort of looked at what Arnold had done and what I had done and I was not playing and he was leading, and I hit 31 greens and he hit 19 greens after 36 holes but I 3-putted eight times.
When you look at that and you say, hey, you know, I've got a place I'd better learn what to do on this golf course. I don't remember what I finished the next year, but I finished, record book would have it, I finished either sixth the next year or sixth the year after that and 13th the other year. But I was in pretty good shape both years and played a pretty good tournament still as an amateur. I learned quite a bit what to do.
So by the time I got to play my third or fourth year in this tournament, I was very comfortable with my ability to be able to handle this golf course, but I think it takes a few years to learn how to handle the golf course. Some guys, Fuzzy won I think the first time he played it, and I think lima also won the first time he played it, which was one of the years that I won. But it's not an easy place to learn.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Jack, thank you very much for taking the time to come down with us. Honor to have you.

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