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March 2, 2011

Jack Nicklaus


SCOTT TOLLEY: Good morning, everyone. My name is Scott Tolley, and I'm vice president of communications for the Nicklaus companies. I would like to welcome those joining us on the phone lines from around the world and those on site here at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida for The Honda Classic.
What we would like to do is begin the news conference with some questions from our media on site today at The Honda Classic and after a few minutes we will ask some of our media joining us via teleconference to ask a few questions.
And now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce someone who among his 118 professional victories worldwide had two wins in this event back-to-back in 1977 and 1978. He's also the owner of a record 18 professional major championship titles. Included among those is the 1971 PGA Championship he won here in Palm Beach Gardens 40 years ago this week. His 18th and final major title was won 25 years ago at the 1986 Masters.
Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Nicklaus.
JACK NICKLAUS: That was pretty exciting, Scott.
SCOTT TOLLEY: Was it? It took me days to author. Thanks for giving us your time. Unless you have a couple opening comments, I'll just open the floor to questions.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm used to going to a press room now where we have got one guy. We have a couple more than that now. Go ahead, it's your day, ask what you want.
Good, that was a very nice press conference. (Laughter).

Q. Twenty-five years ago, a lot of us had been watching the broadcast again this week, and seemed to take a while for even CBS to notice that you were mounting a charge. Have you looked at that broadcast and what are your impressions of it, and when did it sort of seem real that, hey, you were going to make a charge?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've seen that far too often in the last few weeks, I must say, because that's exactly what everybody has been talking about with me. I don't know why. Just another year away from a great year for me but still was very nice.
I felt like that when I birdied 9, I was decent. Birdied 10, I started to feel better. I birdied 11 and I felt like I was in the golf tournament. That's about the way I looked at it. And then I got out of the golf tournament again at the next hole and bogeyed 12 and of course I birdied 13 and when I eagled 15, I knew I was in the middle of it.

Q. Would you give us some comments on how you feel about giving and the charity of this tournament to the community?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I can start back and say that when this tournament was talked about moving from the Broward County area to this area here, Fred Millsaps, who was very involved in the tournament down in Fort Lauderdale, came to Barbara and me and said, we are looking -- we have always been involved with children's charities.
We would like to know what we can get involved with in your area. And, you know, Barbara had always been -- she said, we grew up with five kids. We had to go to Miami or Orlando to take the children; so we need children's care in the West Palm Beach area.
So Fred liked that a lot. And so the Honda from the inception, the idea was to bring our foundation -- we started the foundation, actually, to bring that in as part of the charities that are involved here at The Honda Classic. Since that time, it was because of this tournament that our charity got started. And it's because of this tournament, we now -- we had sort of a false start with the hospital. That was only because we had a profit hospital and you couldn't donate money to it, even though we still support the programs there to still a very large tune.
And we now have our first association with Miami Children's Hospital and we have opened our first Miami Children's Nicklaus Care Center south of the county and we'll have another care center open in the not-too-distant future up in the north part of the county, and hopefully a few years we'll talk about standing even more. And that came about because of The Honda Classic.
Obviously the tournament we do for the Jake, Lost Tree, supports our foundation. We are able to do a lot of things because of the start of it right here.

Q. Scott reminded us, as if we needed reminding, how many tournaments you've won over the years?
JACK NICKLAUS: It changes every year.

Q. After the eight six matter of fact, to what degree is that imprinted on your mind? For example if I asked you what club you hit into the 17th green, could you say --
JACK NICKLAUS: Pitching wedge. 110 yards. (Laughter) Close enough.

Q. Do you think could you run through the card? Seriously, do you think -- I'm not going to ask you to, but could you run through the card and pretty much talk about every club that you hit into every green?
JACK NICKLAUS: Every significant club. I mean, I don't remember what I hit at 9 but I remember the putt certainly. I don't remember what I hit on 10 but I remember the putt. I don't remember what I hit on 11 but I hit the putt and I hit a 7-iron into 12 and played 3-iron into 13. I think I played 7-iron into 14. I hit a 4-iron into 15. I hit a 5-iron on 16. I hit pitching wedge at 17 and I hit 5-iron at 18.
But outside of that, I can't remember. (Laughter).

Q. How does everybody get a memory like yours?
JACK NICKLAUS: You wouldn't have known the difference if I had told you anything. (Raucous laughter). I could have said anything. But no, those are the clubs I played.

Q. I'm wondering whether you were surprised or humbled by the reaction of the fans to that win in '86 when they swept you along?
JACK NICKLAUS: The fans there were fantastic. No question about that. And what's happened since, it seems as though I still -- I don't care where I go, I always run into somebody and say, you know, I was in an airport in '86; and he says, I cancelled my airplane and sat there and watched it because I couldn't leave. Or I had to do this or I had to do this or I had to stop this or I had to stop that. Amazing the number of people that just told me those kind of stories. I said, you've got to be kidding. Pandel Savic, my close friend I stayed with, he got in the airplane and left.
It was a neat win and one that I guess nobody really expected me to be in contention at that point in my career, particularly even me. I had not really prepared all that great for it that spring. But once I got myself in contention, muscle memory and knowing how to play golf came back.

Q. Is that your favorite? Do you rank them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think they are all very special to me. And you can't really rank them but I think it's obvious that that one stands out simply because most of the other ones were during the bulk or the basic part of my career and I expected to win; I expected to prepare for it that way, and I really got the results that I was looking for.
There, you know, like every Masters, I always started thinking about it in January and preparing for it all through the tournaments I played.
Well in '86, I started thinking about it in January -- I started preparing two weeks before. I don't even know why I was playing golf then. I didn't really -- I was doing my golf course design work, but I really liked to play golf. I didn't want to quit playing golf but I really didn't have any goals. So from about 80 on, I was there. And then just sort of lightning in a bottle I suppose in many ways.
It just sort of kept me game. I didn't do it because I wanted to play the Senior Tour, that's for sure but I did play the Senior Tour, which at that point in time would I have said no, I don't want to play the Senior Tour. But actually when I got there, I really enjoyed the tournaments that I played on the Senior Tour. I had a great time. I had good fun, and I think it's been a great extension for a lot of the guys; there's a lot of guys this week that are playing here to a large degree because they want to be competitive, be active and prepare themselves for the next level, for them, for the Champions Tour. I think that's kind of neat.

Q. You've touched on it there, but why above all do you think it resonated so much with people? Was it your age? Was it the 65 --
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes, 46 doesn't resonate today as that bad, simply because of equipment. But in those days, I was playing wood driver, playing a wound golf ball. I'm still probably playing the same set of irons or very, very close to it. It was a different game. Things didn't go as far. The game was not -- you didn't reduce a golf course to nothing like you can today.
So somebody at that age at that point in time, it was not that easy to do. Raymond followed right on my heels. He won Shinnecock the same year, and he was 43. So a couple of old guys -- I mean, that's not an old guy today. Who is out here over 40? Vijay, Phil, Kenny Perry. You've got guys that are very competitive today and they are competitive -- I shouldn't say they are competitive because of equipment, but equipment has contributed a lot to that.

Q. I'm going to go a little off the Masters topic for a second; you're going to get a lot more of those I'm sure. But the question I have is there's a lot of volatility at the top of the game now. I have two question, wondering if you think that's good for the game, and secondly, why do you think some players who might have the ability to compete for No. 1 never do or shy away from it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know whether they shy away from it or not, Larry. Although, because I don't know the players today; I'm sort of out of it as it relates to contemporary. Obviously I've played with most of them and know them. But have I played with them and known their games, I can't say that I can so I don't think it's fair that I comment on them individually.
But when I was playing, there were three or four guys that always wanted to be No. 1. We didn't have a No. 1 ranking in those days but they always wanted to be No. 1. But there was always that group that was scared of winning and they were afraid that, gee, if I come down the stretch and I win this golf tournament, you know, what it's going to mean to me. They sort of backed away from it. I think there's going to be that, though in everything. You always have people that are afraid of success.
I think that's sad when you see that because most of those guys are very talented guys and certainly had the talent to be at the top, but just never quite got there and was mostly between the ears that they didn't.
The guys today, as I said, I don't know enough about them individually. It seems as though we are having more guys today that are really working pretty hard to get to the top, and that didn't seem to be the case, let's just say, four or five years ago. They seemed to sort of turn it over to Tiger and they were quite content to be 2, 3, 4, 5 and move along. And all of the sudden, that No. 1 spot's vacant and there's a lot of guys who have really sort of popped their game up and sort of gone after it. Actually, I think aren't the five -- I haven't seen the World Rankings lately but the five top players European?

Q. Four?
JACK NICKLAUS: And I think that a little bit of that probably stems from the fact that I've always felt that like the -- I'm sure the Europeans felt like they needed to prove themselves more in the world. The U.S. has always been the supposedly superior tour and they came here because they needed to play and prove themselves. I shouldn't say they worked harder; I'm sure that the U.S. guys worked very hard. But they have had to, to get to where they are. They have had to come out of their own area. Some of them have come out of Ireland or they come out of Germany or they come out of wherever the guys are from; we've got England, who is the other one. Of course, Luke, basically, he's an American player but he's played a lot. It seems as though they seem to want it more right now. I think that although you look at The Ryder Cup, The Ryder Cup was close last time, but The Ryder Cup, we have come back at Louisville. The Ryder Cup, the American players were great when they played 2 1/2 years ago. I think it goes back and forth. When guys get down, they say, all of a sudden, we have to kick ourselves in the rear end and we have to go play. And I think they will.
It ebbs and flows. Is that what you were asking?

Q. That's pretty much it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Did I answer it?

Q. Yeah, you did answer it. 1994, speaking of Ray Floyd, what do you remember about his struggles at the Senior PGA here at the Bear Trap? Do you remember that?

Q. He kind of collapsed at the Bear Trap?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't remember.

Q. He never brought that up to you in the future?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. (Laughter).

Q. Are you surprised that in the four years the Honda has been here, the Bear Trap has played very tough, that maybe someone has not come unglued there maybe in one of the final groupings or something?
JACK NICKLAUS: I really haven't paid any attention to it.

Q. Has it done the job, the risk/reward?
JACK NICKLAUS: They are three holes that are not very long and they are certainly not power holes that you can overpower. They are holes that you've got to be precise on. I never dreamed when I redid 15 -- 15 was a little benign par 3 before we did it. There was not much there. The water was in play. It was sort of a nothing little hole, and when we brought the water in play, all of a sudden it became a monster and it's only a monster because of the awkward wind there that sort of comes into you, right-to-left, and you have to sort of cut into it or if you get it hooking it sweeps across the green. I was either lucky or stupid enough to do it the way I did it, whichever way it was. But it turned out to be a really interesting little golf hole.
16 isn't anything all that unusual. It's not much of a tee shot. And the water really is not in play on that hole very much. I could have put the water in play there if I wanted to but I felt like with 15 and 17, I didn't think that they needed it that much in play on the second shot, felt like it needed to come out. It's always a good, strong hole. But the wind conditions always make it so because if you miss the fairway the second shot becomes very awkward.
17 is just a little flip, nothing. All of the sudden, putting it on the water -- it might have been on the water before, but putting it on the water and again with the conditions, and that wind coming in your face an awful lot, and if you miss it left, of course, I did that on purpose obviously. I did that one on purpose. I felt like you could play from that bunker but you had to be a little careful. And the whole segment there is not length. It's not about length. It's about precision. It's about guts. It's about can you get down -- what do you have between here, in your chest, that you can finish those holes.
And so far, it has not been a tremendous, you know, problem at this tournament. But it will be one of these days. It will always be there for you to write about. Is that really what you're asking about?

Q. Yeah. Thanks. A lot has been written about fan reaction to what happened in the '86 Masters, but what did some of the guys who you beat down the stretch say to you either that Sunday night or the next time you saw them, Seve or Tom or Greg? What was their reaction?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not much. They all thought it was great for me. I didn't see them on Sunday. A couple of them stayed around to come up. I think Tom did and a couple of the other guys stayed around. They wanted to shake my hand and say congratulations. Most of the guys get out of town. You know, when you get done with your round, you're going to the press room or you're going to Butler Cabin and you go to the press room and by the time you get out, the place is clear.
They all talk about it but they never -- golfers don't really, you know, sort of swoon over what happened. They just sort of move on; we'll go and play next week; he had a nice week this week, 20 years later they will talk about it. You understand what I'm saying.

Q. At this point, what would be your assessment of the possibility of Tiger getting to 18 majors?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've said all along, I'm surprised that he has not bounced back by now. I think he's got a great work ethic, or at least he did. I assume he still does. I haven't seen him practice for a long time. But he's got such a great work ethic. He's so determined to what he wants to do. I'm very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he'll break my record.
But obviously -- we have not played any majors yet this year. We'll see. You probably can ask me that same question at the end of this year and we'll see what the answer is, and it might -- it will probably define a lot of what will be the answer. My answer is as good as yours, or my guess is as good as yours. Or certainly yours is as good as mine.

Q. Probably not?
JACK NICKLAUS: You're probably a lot closer to it than I am anymore. I mean, the last two mornings, I've been at grandparents day. I came to grandparents day at school before I came here. I'm more worried about the grand kids than I am what's going on in the golf tournament.

Q. Can you talk about why you are someone that didn't do -- basically make a major swing change throughout your career and what was the reason for that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know whether I didn't, Alex. You think that guys make major changes today? I mean, seriously, do you think they make major changes?

Q. Well, they say they are making them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, let me ask you a question. If you would watch Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, any of them, and you're 200 yards away, does it look the same today as it did ten years ago?

Q. I'm not --
JACK NICKLAUS: Just answer my question.

Q. I'm not a good judge of swing changes.
JACK NICKLAUS: Put it this way; if they are 200 yards away and each of them swings, I know who it is, or Arnold Palmer, Gary Player Tom Watson, I don't care who it is. What I'm saying this their swing is not going to change, much.
My swing, did I make changes? I made changes constantly in my swing. That's how you get better. If you don't make changes, you don't improve. I don't care who you are, because your body continually changes. I mean, my body at age 46 was certainly a lot different than it was at age 25, and/or at 35. And as is Tiger's body a lot different at age 30 -- is he 35 now -- than it was at age 25.
So does the swing change? Not really. He's got a beautiful golf swing. He's always had a beautiful golf swing. But you always continually tweak things that you do within that golf swing to try to improve it. Sometimes you're successful and sometimes you're not.
But the biggest swing change that I made in my career was in 1980. In '79, I had the worst year I ever had, it's the only year I didn't win a tournament, after 17 straight years or something like that, whatever it was. I got very vertical in my golf swing. You wouldn't have noticed it to look at it. But I noticed it. And from August 3 until the first of the year, I touched a golf club three times. I wanted to get rid of all of my bad habits.
So when I started back out in January with Jack Grout, I said, okay, let's start over. We started with grip, stance, posture, everything. But the biggest thing we started out with was huh to shallow out my arc. If you took my swing and said, yeah, I'm sure that Peter Kostis could use his little magic thing or whatever it is and see something different. But it still looked like Jack Nicklaus either way.
I'm saying the guys, yes, they do make changes, and for me to go from here to here was a huge change for me; but it's such -- it was like that much. That's the kind of changes the guys make. But does it result in good things for them? Yes. And I think they need to make those things, as their body changes, they need to make those changes to keep up with their body, keep up with the game and keep up with what equipment is doing, all of the things that are happening need to happen.
I mean, I've always said many times, and there are a lot of tournaments that I've played where midway in the third or fourth round, I was not doing what I wanted to do. I changed it right then. Next hole. I said ok I went back to basic fundamentals and I didn't care if it was the middle of the U.S. Open or the Masters, I did it. Because to me, what I did then, I was careful about how I played the next couple of holes with trying to make a swing change. I mean, I gave myself a little bit of air so I didn't put myself out of the tournament. But I always felt that I needed to make those changes if I wanted to have a chance to win that golf tournament.
Was I successful all the time? Of course not. Of course I screwed it up sometimes. But there are times when I made those swing changes and I probably did that in the '86 Masters because I got better each day, I don't remember what I did but I got better each day and I really got to be hitting the ball obviously very well near the end of the tournament. So I had to do something. It just doesn't happen.
So these guys that are going out and doing these things, I think you hear more about it because of the swing gurus that are out there. If it was the player himself, he ain't going to talk much about it. But most of the guys out here on the practice tee, they want to talk about it because that's how they make their living.
Jack Grout, who worked with me from 1950 through 1989 till he passed away, never set foot one time on a practice tee, ever. He came to a lot of golf tournaments. You never saw him on the practice tee. He taught me to be able to make my own changes, make my own adjustments, work on the things that I needed to work on so I could concentrate and I could understand how to play the game. That was the important thing; that I knew how to play the game. Jack Grout didn't care about that he knew how I had to play the game. He wanted me to know how to play the game. And I think that's part of the problem that maybe that Larry was sort of alluding to a little bit earlier.
A lot of times the guys run back to their swing coach too much. I mean, Bobby Jones sat with me when I was 19 years old in his cabin at Augusta and he said, "Jack, I had my seven lean years," from the time he was 14 to 21 is what it was. He said, "I kept running back to Stewart Maiden." And he says, "Until I learned and he taught me how to not run back to him, when I did that, then became a golfer."
And Grout talk me, tried to teach me that from the inception, because he knew that, and he was familiar with what Jones had done. So are the guys making changes? Yeah. And do they need to make changes? Yeah. And should they just go about doing it? Yeah. But they are under a microscope today. You guys are out everywhere and they walk off the tee and they say, gee, that looks different, what did you do today Tiger or what did you do today Phil or what did you do today Graeme or whatever it might be.
So it becomes more public. We made them all the time. It's been a long answer to your question, Alex.

Q. If I could just follow-up to the long answer to my question.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'll try to make a shorter answer.

Q. Should it take that long then to make a change?

Q. It sounds like you made changes --
JACK NICKLAUS: If you understand what you are doing, that's why you try to make it so it makes you responsible for your own golf swing. If you understand what you're doing, which I think is important, you ought to be able to make a swing change during a round. And then once the round is over, you make some of the things -- you have tested it under pressure, you ought to be able to solidify that in an hour or hour and a half afterwards. You are not always going to get it perfect but you can make that change.
Now, if you are talking about changing from being here to being here or something else, that's a different story. But if you're talking about the types of tweaks guys make during a tournament to be consistent and play well, it shouldn't be much; it shouldn't be hard to do, if they understand their own game.

Q. SKY Sports is very proud to be broadcasting the Masters back to the U.K. for the first time this year. So for a lot of us, we have never been there before. Can you put into words the feeling you get when you get to Augusta, the kind of, what, runs through your minds, just the feeling you get when you are walking the fairways, the sort of buzz in the area?
JACK NICKLAUS: Stop playing golf. To me, it's not a big feeling. You're trying to find out what is going on, I understand.
I still get the same excitement and thrill as far as what I think about Augusta. Where I get my thrill at Augusta is usually driving down Magnolia Lane. When I first drove down it in 1959, I said, man, that's great. Now, those same trees are still there. They have not planted new ones. They haven't died and had two or three more generations, they are still there -- (pausing) that was supposed to be a joke. (Laughter).
I'll drive in there in a couple of weeks and I'll still look at it and say, man, this is pretty neat.
Now, once I get on the golf course, to me, the golf course is a great golf course, but it's just a golf course. To me, to go play, you know, you're there as a golfer trying to dissect that golf course, and get it in your framework of how you can play and how you can play it. So you don't really think much about the awe of what's going on. You are sort of just in your own little world. Is it neat to be there? Sure. Are the galleries great? Yeah, the galleries are great.
Is the golf course in great shape? Yeah, the golf course is always in great shape. Is it a pristine, great-looking place? Yeah. But there are a lot of places that are great and pristine-looking. And I suppose after a lot of years, maybe I have taken a few things for granted. It's a neat place. My thrill comes driving through the gate. Once I get there, then it's business as usual. I don't know what's usual anymore. It used to be usual.

Q. Back when you were dominating, which is a wide period of time, did you ever hear or read comments that may have been somewhat critical from your peers kind of poking the bear, pardon the pun. Did you hear any of those? And if so, what was your reaction? Did they motivate you?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Q. Did players say anything critical about you during your day that may have motivated you, given you bulletin board material?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, not really. I mean, today, no matter if somebody opens their mouth, it ends up in the newspaper the next day or on the news. And unless you're in a cocoon, you're going to hear it. But back when I played, we didn't have anything. Every once in awhile somebody made some comment and you laughed it off.
But today it's like every day, oh, did you hear what Joe said about Sam, oh, my gosh, what do you think. And then we have a Mike and the Mike in the morning who talk about it for four days. (Laughter) And then we have ESPN which runs it over about 12 times every day. (Laughter) And then we have GOLF CHANNEL -- you know what I'm saying? We didn't have that. Honest to gosh. I'm not putting down what's happening today, you guys have to talk about something. You get paid, don't you?
We didn't have that. It just didn't happen. I mean, really. I mean, how long did we talk about Jay Cutler? I ain't even sure what he did. He got hurt. Every morning you turned it on. And then what was the latest one? Carmelo Anthony; that's a month, a month's scenario. The poor guy wanted to go play for the Knicks and he couldn't get there.
So the speculation went on for how long? Forever. You understand what I'm saying. I hate to make light of that. I think that's basically where we are today.

Q. You've played with so many celebrities, so many athletes, obviously you're a little bit more removed from golf and you probably follow the NFL a lot --
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably more than I do golf.

Q. Have you met Tim Tebow?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I have not met Tim or Jason Taylor.

Q. You've heard so much about Tebow, what do you want to ask him?
JACK NICKLAUS: First thing going to do say, Hi, Guys, how are you? (Craning neck very high up). I understand Tim is 6-4 and Jason is 6-6. I have shrunk a bit but that's a little bit taller than I am anymore.
I'm looking forward to it. I all enjoy meeting guys. I've always been a big fan of Jason Taylor. I thought he's always handled himself well and I thought he's always played very well. Obviously being a Dolphin fan, I'm sorry to see him go to the Jets but that's okay. I assume he probably is going to retire now but I don't know. I'm certainly going to ask that question.
And Tebow, I thought Tebow is probably -- I think he's an unbelievable athlete and I think he just did a great job and he's going continually Mr. Try and Go After it. I don't know whether he's got the talent that people say he doesn't; I think he probably does. But he'll make it. He'll make it because he's just that kind of kid and that kind of athlete.
You know where, and what system he'll fit into, I'm not sure, but he's going to be a good pro, I don't think there's any question about that. I enjoy talking to those guys. I have a good time. I enjoyed Drew Brees last year, had a great time talking and enjoyed the conversation, had a lot of fun.
Of course Kenny Gee is terrific. He's a great guy and nice player, too. He plays very well. He is so into what he is doing with the tournament here, his Pro-Am and the charities that are involved. He's a really good guy. We'll have a nice day. I don't know if that answers your question or not. Is that about where you were going with it?

Q. Yeah, because all of the hype around Tebow and everyone knocking him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Why would you knock him? He's a Heisman Trophy winner. You build him up and tear him down? That seems to be what our society is anymore. It's a shame.

Q. You talked about '79, going a long stretch without winning. Tiger I think has gone 15 or 16 months without winning. Back then did it get into your head the way that people who are commentating these days about golf seem to think it's gotten into Tiger's head?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, sure, absolutely. And my head in those days, when I started out in 1980, even after making my swing changes that we talked about, which were for me monumental but were about like that (indicating two inches). When I got to Los Angeles, I was still putting it around bunkers.
I mean, I couldn't hit a chip shot to save my life. And I ran into Phil Rodgers out there and that was basically the last piece to my puzzle that really turned me around. When I got so that I felt like after working with Phil, which didn't take very long. It only took, a couple of days, or a couple hours, an hour each day probably, I had a new way of chipping and I had a way that I could go work on it and perfect it myself. I felt like, you know, hey, if I miss a green, I might be able to make a par again. That was my problem.
It wasn't that I hit the ball all that poorly. It was that I couldn't get it in the hole. And so yeah, it goes through your head when you go through that. And in 1980 at the start, I wasn't very good. I missed the cut the week before the U.S. Open and then I won at Baltusrol, two weeks before I guess, I didn't play the week before, Atlanta. I think I shot 72-79 or something, or 77 maybe. I don't know. Anyway, I missed the cut.
And I wasn't very happy going into the U.S. Open. But you just keep working at it and you keep doing things, and all of a sudden, something happens that kicks in, and I think that's what will happen with Tiger. And I don't know whether it was going back to Baltusrol, a place that I had won before. I remember going back there in 1980, playing a practice round and I looked at -- I played a practice round and I looked at this golf course and said, I broke the Open record on this golf course? Man, this is a tough golf course. Well, I broke my record again.
I didn't think that when I went in there. And I shot 63 the first round and missed a little putt on the last hole for 62. All of a sudden I said, hey, you know, maybe this is my time to start doing it the right way again. And all of a sudden your mind turns around. I remember coming to the last hole on that tournament, I remembered what had happened in 67, I played a 1-iron off the tee and I fatted an 8-iron and tried to hit a 1-iron up into the green.
Well, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to get over that lake in two and I wasn't going to try to get to the green anywhere and I wasn't going to put myself in a position to lose a tournament playing with Aoki, and I hit a 3-wood off the tee instead of a 1-iron and hit a 5-iron or something up the fairway or whatever I hit, I don't remember. But I had 66 yards on my third shot. And Aoki hits out of the rough and almost holed it.
Well, if this was ever a test of my new pitching stroke, that was it. Because here I am giving this little figure eight little flip that Phil had taught me, and that was not my natural move.
But I played the prettiest little pitch shot into about eight feet, and of course made the putt and won the Open. But sometimes the little things have to happen to you, and I think that's where you're talking about Tiger and his problems, I think that will happen to Tiger. I think when you have as much talent as he has, that will happen. He's not going to go anywhere. I mean, how does he win, what's he won, 14, 15 major, whatever he's won. Doesn't make any difference, he doesn't get there by playing poorly. He has won a lot of tournaments hitting it all over the world, but he still figured out a way to get the ball in the hole to win that golf tournament. He'll do it again. That's what you wanted, wasn't it.

Q. Talking about Tiger, when is the last time you guys talked and what was that conversation like? And a link to that, the role of stability in what you were able to achieve, at home, Barbara and your children, knowing that you had that stability all through your year, the role in that and what you were able to achieve?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, last time I saw Tiger, talked to him, was probably Memorial Tournament last year. I don't think I've seen him since then. Talked to him at the Masters prior to that and the Memorial Tournament -- was your question about that?

Q. What was that conversation like?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not very long.

Q. And the stability?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have no idea what's going through his head. I don't think it's fair for me to guess what's going through his head. I know that -- I don't know, but I'm guessing that he is moving into his new house when he finishes, is that correct? That's what I hear. And I guess Elin has bought a place or is buying a place down in this area. So you know, even though they are not together, I think she still feels that the stability of a father is important to her kids and to him. And I think he feels it's important.
I know he's spending time with his kids, which I think basically Tiger is a really -- he got maybe off the track, but I think he's really a principled kid and I think -- did he have some wayward? Yes. But are we all perfect? No. I'm guessing that that wouldn't be happening if he isn't very still principled about that kind of stuff.
And I think that my family, I can only speak for my family, I suppose; you know, I said about Tiger years ago, I said, he's going to be tired of coming home and saying, "Hey, Butch, I won another one." And then he got married, he had somebody to come back to. I always had Barbara to come home to and my kids. I don't think I would have played past my mid 30s if it wasn't for my kids. My kids turned to me and said, "What do you mean, Dad? You can still play. Get out there. "And I did. I played 30 more years. Not as serious as maybe I would have. But I played those years because of my family, not because of me; because of family and the support that I had and going home to share what I had with somebody.

Q. Everybody knows about how motivated you were when Tom McAllister of the Atlanta paper wrote that you were washed up and clubs were too rusty? Did you or, Barbara put that up there?
JACK NICKLAUS: John Montgomery, he was a friend and he ran Executive Sports and he ran this tournament and he ran Doral and he ran a lot of tournaments. He's a good guy and a good friend. He's passed away now.
John is a prankster. Those of you who knew John know exactly what I'm talking about. I would end up with chickens in my backyard or a pile of horse manure in any driveway or donkey tied to my car or a striptease by a chimpanzee my birthday; you never knew what this guy was going to bring into my house. (Laughter).

Q. Is that true?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. Unweaned baby goat he brought to my house for my birthday.
And the one was the outhouse, we had a lot of fun with that, when I got home for my birthday and there was the half-moon cut into it, the broken mirror and even a magazine in there, Ray Floyd, Man of the Year. (Laughter).
Montgomery was wonderful. He was a great guy, but he was a prankster. So he saw McCallister's article and that had to go on the refrigerator. He would sort of peak around the corner to find my reaction when I first saw it. That was all. Did that article do anything? No.
But just so happened that Montgomery was having a lot of fun so it became a matter of conversation. I mean, you know, the other thing, the Masters, which not many people talk about, my mother had not been to the Masters since 1959. Why in the world she picked 1986 to come back, I don't have any idea. And my sister had never been to the Masters. Maybe she came because my mother did.
But the two of them, why would they pick 1986? There were a lot of things that happened that year that were kind of interesting but Montgomerie's article -- he was hysterical. He was a great guy.
I remember, this is kind of way off the thing, but we were on a hunting trip going to -- he will being hunting out west and we stopped off in Dallas -- I probably shouldn't tell this story but I'll tell it anyway. We went to King Arthur's Court to have dinner. Well, Montgomery didn't care about having anything so there was this big sword on the wall, it was obviously bolted to the wall. Well it wasn't bolted there very long. So when I get ready to go elk hunting John says, "You might want to have this to go slay your elks."
Can you imagine going in and taking a sword out of King Arthur's Court to go slay elk? That's the kind of stuff he did. He was hysterical. (Laughter).

Q. You kind of mentioned it a few minutes ago, that when you got to your mid and late 30s, you were playing for your family; and then you had said earlier, that you had lost that motivation before '86. What made it wear away? Was it just other interests? Golf course design?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think when I won in 1980, I put so much effort in changing my swing in 1980 and the success that I had, I just sort of said, gee, that was pretty neat. And I just sort of rested on my laurels, you might say, or got lazy. And never really got back to the -- I didn't have a lot of goals at that point in my life as it relates to playing golf. I was doing other things. My kids were now at the age where they were playing high school sports and college sports. My business was not playing golf anymore. My business was design business.
Did I still like to play golf because I loved the game? Sure, absolutely. But I had been doing it for 20-some years and just sort of waned away. I won at Colonial in '82. I didn't win in '81. I won at the Memorial in '84 and I won the Masters in '86. That's all I won in the 80s. Well, obviously the ones I won, the PGA and the open.
I forgot what your question was.
But I just sort of didn't want to quit playing golf, but I didn't really want to play, either. And I think maybe -- I don't know whether you understand that or not, but in this day and age, it's kind of funny, because you see guys out there after 40, a lot of times are just getting started and Phil was probably as enthusiastic as he's ever been.
So you know, that just was the times. I felt like my time was pretty much over but I didn't really want to stop playing golf, but yet I didn't want to putt in the work. I had other interests.

Q. What was the greatest challenge to your confidence? What was the lowest your confidence had ever gotten?
JACK NICKLAUS: '79. No question about that. '79, and I don't even remember what happened, I don't know where I finished on the Money List, something like 64th maybe on the Money List. I was somewhere in the 60s on that Money List, and you had to really fall down pretty bad to get that far down in those days.
And my confidence, I was hitting the ball short, and I was very vertical and popping, a lot of high-risers. I couldn't play in the wind. I couldn't penetrate that. I had to get the right condition to be able to play and you never get the right conditions, you always have a variety of conditions during the week.
I was just not having a good time with it. So that's what I said, well, I obviously must have wanted to still play, because I made the effort to say -- and I told Jack Grout in August, I said I'm going to get away from it. He said let's go work on it, I said no, I want to get rid of all these bad habits, take some serious time off and then when I get back, we'll start over and that's what I did and we worked on it really hard.

Q. How much golf have you actually played this year, recreational, other than the Skins Game and so on and so forth?
JACK NICKLAUS: Around the Skins Game I played a little bit of golf. I was playing -- I'll tell you how badly I'm playing. I was playing a little bit before the Skins Game and I didn't play much, but I started playing a little bit because I wanted to play for the Skins Game. Finally I said, I'm going to turn in my scores, I'm going to have a handicap.
So I turn in three 78s and I thought the third one was pretty good. Then I turned in a 76 and then I turned in a 75 and then I got a 72. That really messed up my handicap, lowering those scores.
I started playing a little bit around that time. And as we got to the Skins Game, we had a lot of the charity events, playing Lost Tree, and the last time I played was 2 1/2 weeks ago, lost tree. I gave a clinic Monday that I hit 20 balls. So I'm ready. (Laughter).
I'm going to play Seminole on Monday and I'm going to play Ernie's event, I guess is out here, and I'll play the Jake, which is of course at the Bear's Club. That's what I'll play.
And my tennis buddies might come up, we might play once this spring, I don't know. I get Cliff Drysdale and Butch Bucholtz, they come up. We usually come up and play golf in the morning and tennis in the afternoon. We usually do that about four or five times a year, so I'll probably play once this spring. That's all I play. I played with Gary in a father son at the Bear's Club.

Q. Do you play the Par 3 up at Augusta?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'll play the Par 3 at Augusta, and whatever event we have before the Memorial Tournament will be my next round of golf. I'll play once a month maybe. I bet if I play -- I bet I play 15 rounds of golf this year will be about all I'll play. That qualifies me as being a golfer according to the National Golf Foundation.

Q. Fifteen rounds?
JACK NICKLAUS: Something like that. I don't really play very much and the reason I don't play very much is first of all, 95-mile-an-hour clubhead speed doesn't translate into anything very special, and I do enjoy the competition.
The Skins Game, I had a blast. Now the Skins Game, because you don't play individually, Tom and I play alternate-shot. To go out there and get myself into position to get out there, the little 17th hole, and watch these guys trying to -- a little front came through and the wind was blowing like the devil and hit the ball and big spin shots up in the air; we said, we are not doing that. Took a little 6-iron and just picked it off the tee without hitting the ground.
I can still do those kind of little things, and I love that. I got the biggest kick out of that that you can imagine, going out there. I love the wind. Nobody ever hates the wind but when you don't have the ability to compete, then it's really hard to say I want to really run out and play.

Q. What's the status of your equipment company that's no longer on I-95 there?
JACK NICKLAUS: Totally different strategy. The strategy is we got rid of -- what most people do, you got rid of your overhead. And basically ship from China where it's made rather than come and assemble here. It's doing okay. We make money now. We are not losing money. That's a much better deal.

Q. Just wanted to follow-up on the Tim Tebow question from before; your thoughts on what someone like that -- people the way they react to him, he is one of those figures that people act crazy around. Is that something that you are aware of?
JACK NICKLAUS: (Shaking head no. ).

Q. So you weren't aware?
JACK NICKLAUS: I knew that, you might say, the Florida Nation has always embraced him greatly. I think that's great. I mine, how could you not? The enthusiasm, the effort level, this guy's a winner. I'll enjoy that. We're both probably about the same golf; we'll have a nice even game.
SCOTT TOLLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time. Jack, thanks for your time and that concludes the news conference.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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