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April 5, 2011
LARRY PUGH: It's my pleasure, once again, to welcome Jack Nicklaus back to Augusta National.
As you all know, he has won six Masters titles and 25 years ago, he won his sixth, which was 23 years after his first Masters. A memorable day for winning the Masters and also with his son as his caddie. Just a terrific situation.
Jack, welcome back and thank you for being with us, and if you would like to make a couple of comments that would be great.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've been on the grounds now about a minute and a half, and greeted me at the front door and greeted me with my green jacket and said I'm going to run down there. Thank you for waiting. We were a couple minutes late.
But anyway, been a lot of conversation this year about the 25th year anniversary. I guess you can make a big conversation out of anything. But it was a long time ago, and it was an exciting week for me. It was fun having Jackie on the bag. It was fun having my mother and sister here who had not been here since 1959.
Even more fun was I holed a few putts the back nine which made it possible that we could sit here and talk about it.
Q. Could you just talk about how difficult it may be now, more difficult nowadays, for somebody in that late 40s, early 50s age bracket to get in contention? Do you feel it's something more difficult now?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it's more easier frankly. The only reason I say that is because equipment has allowed guys to extend their year. Equipment allowed me to extend my career. Even though I played a wood driver here in '86 and I made essentially the same irons I'm playing now, I'm too stubborn to change; but the golf ball goes so much further today. And so the ability for an older player to not be able to -- or to worry about the distance of the golf course is not as significant as it was then.
And it's mostly equipment. I think the guys are a little fitter today than they were back in our time. I think the overall size of guys is larger.
I think you've got an opportunity; in other words, you've got, Vijay is what, 49 now? 48? To think Vijay couldn't be in contention is silly. Freddie Couples is 51 and can certainly play well here at any time. I would even throw up my friend, Watson. He can play pretty well, too.
Q. Can you just speak about over the years, what it has meant to you to be the record holder for a number of majors, and you spoke to us last year about what you thought it would take for Tiger to surpass that record, where your thinking is on his pursuit of your record.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't really don't think too much about him to be honest. Too busy doing other things.
I don't think much about mine. Certainly don't bother with that too much unless somebody asked me a question about it.
As it relates to Tiger, I think he's -- I've said many times, that he's got a great work ethic and he's a very talented young man. And equipment will help extend his career beyond what it extended mine; that's what we just talked about in the last sentence.
I assume that he'll get his focus back on what he's doing, and he will probably pass my record. But then the last part I always say about it is, he's still got to do it. If you look at what he's got to do, he's still got to win five more, and that's more than a career for anybody else playing.
Q. As you're coming down the back nine in '86, did you feel 46?
JACK NICKLAUS: I would hope so. God, that was a great age. (Laughter).
You don't think anything about age when you're playing. I mean, why would you ever think about that. I was physically in pretty darned good shape when I was 46. And you know, I wouldn't have thought anything about that.
Q. Talking about '86, I spoke to Frank Chirkinian shortly before he passed away and he said that he thought that you were very conscious of everything that was going on on the golf course coming down that back nine, even to the point of like at 17, your history, your knowledge of the course, your history of how it goes, you knew what happened to Seve and you could feel what happened to Seve?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I knew what happened to Seve, sure. Well, I didn't know what everybody was doing because you just can't know everything. But if somebody says they don't watch the leaderboard, I don't buy that, I'm sorry. Because you've got to know where you are to know how to play.
Once you play a tournament, you're playing against the golf course, you're playing against yourself and trying to do the best you can.
Now at a certain point in the tournament, it becomes a match-play event and becomes a match-play event against who is on the leaderboard, so you have to know who is there to do what you're going to try to do.
I knew what was going on. I had sort of forgotten about Norman. I really had not even thought much about Kite. He was playing with Ballesteros. And of course I was on 17 tee when Seve hit that 4-iron in the water. And when you hear that sound, you know exactly what it is. I mean, I had been around golf long enough to know that there was a cheer and a groan, which means that something bad happened because somebody was rooting for somebody to have that happen, and somebody was rooting for Seve not to have that happen; and so you hear it.
And so I backed away, and as I said, I knew exactly what had happened. At that point, I wanted to hit it up the left side, and probably hit it up a little further left than I wanted to. But I did not want to be on the right side of the hole I wanted to give myself an angle up into the green, and I left myself with 112 yards I think, and I hit a pitching wedge, which I knew I couldn't hit over the green. So I hit it hard because I knew I wouldn't do that.
That left me up about 12 feet and of course when I made the putt, I realized that I was probably in the lead. I didn't know exactly if I was, but I probably was in the lead of the tournament.
So my goal and focus was then to not worry about anybody else, because they were going to chase me now and it was: How do you play the last hole. You want to ball in the fairway. You don't want to put the ball in the bunker. You want to play the 3-wood. I left myself 175 yards. I didn't want to be over the green. I didn't mind being on the front of the green. I didn't want to be on the front of the green, but I didn't mind being in the front of the green.
I hit a 5-iron, hit it solid. Just as I hit it, a little breath of wind hit me in the face and I knew exactly where it was going to go, it was going to go halfway up the slope and come back down. Fortunately I practiced that putt quite a bit prior to the Tournament because we redid the 9th green the previous year. Took them down from about 11 percent pitch to 8 percent pitch, keeping everything else the same.
So I knew that, so I practiced that putt earlier in the week. So I got there and practiced the putt and felt pretty certain I was going to win the tournament. I didn't realize that all Kite needed was a birdie at 18, and he was right behind me because I was focused on Seve and I wasn't watch what Tom was doing. And Norman was way back, and all of a sudden Norman made four straight birdies or something like that.
So all of a sudden, here is Greg Norman tied with me after 17. What a great second shot he played at 17 over there by the 7th green, played a little shot under the trees, ran up on the green and holed the putt.
I'm sitting in the Jones' Cabin watching that, and when Norman started making his first birdie, I was sitting down -- sitting there for a while and he made another birdie. And I said I'm not going to do very well sitting here. And so I started getting up and walking around the room pacing behind the couch, and he kept making birdies and so that didn't do any good because I couldn't control what he was doing.
And then of course he played the bad second shot at 18.
Did that answer what you were asking me? Probably a little longer than you wanted, but that's okay. (Laughter).
Q. We are used to it.
Q. Sandy Lyle, who obviously played with you, said that the putt on 17, much more difficult to read than most people think. Do you remember much about that and just how hard it was, and Jackie telling you something?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, the putt was about a 12-foot putt, I'm guessing, 12-, 13 -foot putt, whatever it was. And I don't normally ask Jackie. I don't normally ask anybody. And I might confirm when I've got my kids, because Jack and Steve were both the two best caddies I ever had, as it relates because they were golfers, and they understood speed and what you have to do to a putt and not do silly things to it.
I asked Jackie and said, "What do you think?"
And he said, "Got to go right."
And I said, "Yeah, I know but I think it will come back to the left because of Rae's Creek." I said, "There's always that influence back there."
He said, "You sure?"
I said, "Pretty sure." So I hit the putt, played it out a couple inches on the left, the ball broke right and the ball sort of turned and sort of straightened out, which meant it was turning back towards Rae's Creek, and I obviously made the putt.
Now I have gone back and putted that putt a hundred times since. I don't think I've ever found the exact spot or the place it was before, but it's never broken left again (laughter) and frankly, I think that really is -- I think they have changed the green a little bit.
I don't know how often they re-sod the greens here, every couple three years they replace them and they change little items. If that green breaks back, that meant that the back part of that green was pitching away from a shot coming in. So they probably took that green and just probably lifted it. When they changed it, probably found the percentages, picked it up half a percentage.
If you go back to this golf course, every green has changed just a little bit, because I think that they work so hard at perfection here to get the thing the way they want it, that they do that. And they didn't pay any attention to the putt I hit obviously, but they paid attention to what was happening on that green; so I'm guessing they changed it.
Q. I understand there's a back story to why you were a little late this afternoon. Could you share that with us?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, they don't need to know that in here.
Q. I bet you they would.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, a gal from the V.A. Hospital faxed me and said there was a fellow who was a big fan and would I stop by. So I arranged to stop by and we got delayed with weather in Palm Beach so I stopped by the hospital. I walked in, and his name is John. They wouldn't tell us any names, they wouldn't divulge that. And there were about ten veterans there and so forth and so on that were either quads or paraplegics, and we stopped by and said hello so that's why we were late here.
Is that what you meant? It actually was a very nice visit.
Q. All of the memories you talk about, 25 years ago, with all of the memories that you've had overall here, do you still get kind of chills down your spine? Do you still get a special feeling when you walk in?
JACK NICKLAUS: I've said many times, I drove down Magnolia Lane the first time in 1959 and I thought that was pretty neat. We drove down here again today and my grandson, Nick is over here, Nick O'Leary. He's my caddie tomorrow. We have Mutt and Jeff on the Par 3 tomorrow.
I told him I said, look at these trees. These trees look exactly the same, I don't know how many years ago is that, that's 52 years ago -- that's not 62, is it? 52. (Laughter). They look the same to me now.
I'm sure they have lost one or two trees. I don't think they have ever replaced any.
LARRY PUGH: Not to my knowledge. Lost one last night.
JACK NICKLAUS: I get the same thrill of driving in every time. To me that's the entrance to Augusta National and the Masters is driving down Magnolia Lane. And so I still get a big charge out of it. It's fun for me, and you know, I keep saying, well, okay, look at the practice tee and it's not there anymore, because not practicing anymore. But where do I go tee it up and go play, that's the way I think.
Then I look in the mirror and I say, no, no, no, not doing that. (Laughter).
Q. How many other shots in your career do you regularly re-hit when you go to that particular golf course?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, re-hit? You mean in my mind?
Q. Like you go, you hit that putt a hundred times.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, no, when I went back the next year and we were in a practice round, somebody asked, where did you hit that putt from. I don't know who I was playing with. So I tried to find the spot and hit it and broke right. It was around there somewhere, so every time I get back on that green, I get asked that question. So I go over to hit that putt and it keeps breaking right and it never comes back. That's all I meant.
Do I do that very often? No. I probably hit the putt I hit at 16 that I made in '75. I tried to hit that putt a few times. I don't think I've ever seen the pin actually in that same spot again. The pin has always been a little bit more to the right and back a little bit I think.
Every once in awhile you find a shot. At Baltusrol, there's a plaque in the ground where I hit a 1-iron in '67, it was 238 yards uphill into the wind when I hit the shot. I've gone back with a driver and can't get it there. (Laughter).
There are some times when I do that and have some fun with it, sure.
Q. How many times do you suppose you've seen the clip of that putt on 17, and what do you think of Verne Lundquist's call, that, "Yes, sir."
JACK NICKLAUS: I've seen it a lot. Nobody really asked me very many times about Verne's call, because I've heard it so much, that's what I expect to hear. I thought it was a pretty good call.
If I'm not mistaken Frank had said something to him about that, and he said to him, "Verne, whatever you do, don't use that 'yes, sir.'" And all of a sudden he used the "yes," sir and Frank let him get away with it if I'm not mistaken.
Q. There's a lot of sports today that have not retained the same values that they used to have.
JACK NICKLAUS: Sorry, missed the first part.
Q. A lot of sports today have not retained the values that they used to have. I assume you wouldn't put golf in that category. Just wonder why that is, why it's retained all the values?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think frankly, I'm not sure that that's actually true with other sports. I think there's a lot of sports that retain their values in a different way. Golf is kind of a funny game that way. Golf has had its traditions. I think that most games are managed usually by younger people. Usually the players are in the middle. That's sort of the tradition.
In golf, old guys like me are still around and we have dinners like we are having tonight, and we go there tonight and the young guys, they see the tradition, they see what goes on, they see how the older guys handle themselves and what they do and so forth and so on. That has been sort of historically -- maybe that's stuffy, whatever you want to call it, but it happens to be inbred in the game of golf.
One of the great affairs that we have in the game is the dinner we have tonight. Now, why -- why, really, on earth, why would you ever want to come back 25 years later? Because it's a great evening. It's not the Par 3 tomorrow, sure, I'm here and I'll play in the Par 3 and it's very nice to be the Honorary Starter. That's all well and good.
We come back because of the dinner. We come back to see the other guys, see the traditions in the game. You come back and I listen to Doug Forbes and we used to come and listen to Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen. I used to get a good kick out of all of that, Hogan, those were my heros growing up.
Hopefully some of the young kids got some heros growing up and that tradition has remained in the game of golf. And most of the clubs or courses they go to, generally speaking, people that are running those courses or those clubs, courses or whatever they might be, are generally people that are not young kids. They are people who have really had time to be able to volunteer to do that and be part of it.
So you get a little older element. It's no different than a kid growing up at a golf course. When you're 15 years old or 13 or whatever it is, and you're going out and playing a golf course, who do you see at the golf course, you have a few other kids you go play with. But you are mostly dealing with going into a locker room or going into a dining room or going someplace where you're having older people. And golfers seem to grow up around that. And not many other sports that happens. That's what you were asking.
Q. Did you ever in any other tournament have a run like you did on the last ten holes on Sunday in '86?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. (Laughter).
Rather than thinking back and trying to compare to anything, I don't have anything to compare it to. (Laughter) I obviously had some good runs. The five birdies I made at Inverrary one year; it's not the Masters, but that wasn't too bad. I've had a few other things like that. Nothing was really quite compared with '86 here, no.
Q. Last year and a half, Tiger Woods' life has undergone a complete upheaval as we all know and have discussed; any part of that you feels bad for him at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, yeah, I feel bad for him. I feel bad for his family. You know, I feel bad that he got himself in that position. You know, I think that we're taught to have forgiveness, and I wish him well. I hope he gets his game back and I hope he comes back and plays well.
Q. Speaking of Tiger, there's been so much discussion about him changing his swing. And I just wondered how often you felt the need in your career to reinvent your swing?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, I'm kind of funny about that. It's not Tiger; it's all the guys today. Probably not all of them. But to a large degree, Jack Grout was my teacher, okay. Jack Grout came to the Masters every year. Never once did Jack Grout ever step a foot on that practice tee.
At any golf tournament, Jack Grout never set one foot on the practice tee. I used to go down to Bobby Jones' Cabin, when I first came here, he invited my dad and me down. He says, you know, he went through his seven lean years. And he said what Stewart Maiden kept working with him and trying to teach him, how to manage and try to be responsible for his own game, his own actions on the golf course so when he had problems, he could correct them himself on the practice tee or during the round.
I never went back to ask Jack something. I would say -- I don't think I ever did at the Masters. If there was a round somewhere, I might have picked up the phone to call him. I saw him maybe twice a year, maybe three times a year, other than here. I thought that was why I probably became a pretty good golfer, because I could when I was on the golf course any time when I was having troubles correct myself. Maybe not to the degree I wanted to all the time, but to the degree I could get my game back.
If I had problems in the third round of the Masters and I was on the 11th fairway, would I hit it out to the right? You bet your life I hit it out to the right, because I wasn't going to take a chance on a swing I didn't like and I wasn't going to put myself out of the tournament; and on 12 I would make sure I got it out over the water somewhere.
But if I got to 14 where I didn't have any trouble, then I would go ahead and take a shot a little bit more at the hole and work on the thing I was trying to work to get it back. In other words, I would know when to try things and not to try things when I was working on trying to correct myself. It seems like the guys today all go back to teachers and they are all asking the teachers, what's wrong with me, what am I doing, and they see them constantly.
I have always felt like, you can't see the guy when you're on the golf course. When you've got a problem, you have to fix it. You have to fix it now. And you've got to figure out -- you've got to know how to fix it. It's a different generation.
Today the guys are with a strength coach; they go with a nutritionist; they go with their workout guy; they have got five or six guys travelling with them. I couldn't afford that. (Laughter).
You understand what I'm saying? I'm not trying to put down; it's a different generation. It's a different day. But I really think guys would be better players if they didn't run back all the time and try to figure out their own problems. Now, I could be dead wrong. You're asking me about Tiger. And I don't know sound Sean Foley, period. I just don't know him.
And Tiger may only see Sean Foley occasionally, but because Sean gets a lot of publicity; Tiger may work on his game constantly without that. Tiger may do that himself. I don't know. But I'm saying, it's the appearance of all of the guys with all the teachers, that's what I see.
Q. Tiger won three of his first six Masters and we talk about him possibly winning ten of these and now Phil has won three of the last seven, and it feels like the balance has shifted the other way. Does it seem like the course favors one of those guys more than the other now?
JACK NICKLAUS: It favors them both. They both play pretty well in case anybody hasn't noticed. The golf course has always favored a high, long hitter, always.
And you know, I think that when I was winning, it didn't necessarily have to be high all the time, because Arnold didn't hit the ball particularly high, but Arnold turned it right-to-left. Watson turned it right-to-left. Mickelson plays a lot of shots left-to-right; Tiger plays a lot of shots right-to-left.
This golf course is basically a right-to-left golf course most of the time and the shots into the green, as far as these guys hit the ball, they are not playing very many long clubs. I didn't play very many long clubs when I played.
If I go back and recall the round in 64 when I shot -- no, 65 when I shot 64, I go back and look at that round, and it's wedge, 9-iron, wedge, 9-iron, right through the bag and I didn't really play very many long clubs. I played a couple 8-irons or a couple long irons on par 5s or something.
When you hit the ball long, the golf course is reduced to the ability to be able to put the ball in the air and play a soft shot into the green. These greens require a soft shot. They require a ball that, you know, is not coming in hot into the green.
So -- I forgot what your question was, got carried away here with something.
Q. The balance of power between those two has shifted.
JACK NICKLAUS: They both are going to play well, but there are other guys who will do the same. Dustin Johnson, what a talent. You've got Westwood, great talent. Martin Kaymer, what a talent. You go right down through the bag; it's always going to be harder for the Luke Donalds -- or I don't know who else hits the ball the length Luke does.
Mike Weir won here; I thought that was unbelievable what Mike Weir did. He hit 50 percent of the greens. Historically it's taken 75 percent of the greens for the winner. He hit 50 percent of the greens and won this golf tournament. He had an unbelievable week of a short game.
Now, barring that, it's going to be that odd week of somebody that happens to, most the time it's going to happen to the guys that put the ball in the air, hits it a long way, and are playing short irons into these greens, and that's Tiger and Phil. They are probably more so than anybody.
But Westwood will fall into that category. Kaymer will fall into that category. Who are the other guys at the top of the list now? Vijay falls into that category now; Watson. Kaymer is No. 1 in the world now, Westwood -- who's three? Phil? He moved up this week. And McDowell, I knew there was somebody else I was in there I was missing. I assume McDowell hits it long; I don't know, you guys know him better than I do.
So McDowell and Donald would have a little bit less advantage than Kaymer or Westwood or Mickelson or Woods. That's sort of what you're asking, right? And without having played -- Gary Player, to win this golf tournament three times, that's pretty phenomenal. Ben Hogan, he won it twice. Those guys were not big hitters. But they are great golfers.
Q. Going back a couple of questions, did this game mess with your mind in the 60s and 70s?
JACK NICKLAUS: Did it mess with my mind?
Q. If it didn't --
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's messing with it now. (Laughter).
Q. Do you attribute it to balance of life, Barbara and the kids?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was fortunate. I was very, very fortunate. I had a family when I was young. I got to know my family. I spent time with my family. So that was a normal part of my life that I basically had out of the way, you might say, of worrying about it.
So golf was not my total -- I wasn't totally absorbed by the game of golf. I was absorbed more by my family and other things I was doing. That was a blessing to me. I think I would have gone crazy if golf was the only thing I had to think of. I can't imagine getting up in the morning, if all I had to look forward to in the day was going to practice and hitting balls, going home at night so I could go to bed and wake up the next day and do the same thing again. That would drive me crazy. But that's me. That's always been me. I love my business. I started designing golf courses when I was in my 30s, prime of my career.
I enjoyed having diversity. I loved to fish. I loved to be outdoors. I loved to do all kind of things. Did I love to play golf? Absolutely. I loved to play golf but I loved to play golf, and when I loved to play golf, it was because I could totally absorb myself in the game. It wasn't because I had to be there. It's because I did other things that I had to budget my time for golf.
I wouldn't go on the practice tee for six hours. I had other things to do. I would go to the practice tee for a couple of hours and I would make sure I got six hours of practice in in two hours because I focused on what I was doing.
I don't know if that answered your question or not. What were you driving at?
Q. Do you think these guys -- and I know you won't be judgemental, do you think their life balance is a little out of whack?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think so. I mean, I don't know. I honestly don't know. But there's a lot of these kids, a lot of these guys out here have got two or three kids and they have got families and other things they are doing. No, I think a lot of guys have a pretty good balance of life.
I think one thing that is a little different today is that we played golf to win so we had the opportunity to make a living. We didn't make our living on the golf course.
Now, the guys today play golf and they make their living on the golf course. If they are not one of the top two or three, four players, and they see: Do I need to put that much effort to be top three; I'm making a great living here being at No. 10 or No. 20.
Does that mean that they don't have to put forth the effort to try to elevate themselves or they won't -- I'm sure some out there saying, gee, I'm not going to putt forth that effort; I'm not going to catch Tiger or Phil anyway. Why would I bother doing that? If I'm making three or four million dollars a year and I'm having a great life and having fun with my family and doing other things; this is my balance of life. And they use it as a job.
I never used it as a job. I used it as a game. I always thought if I played the game well, my financial rewards would be there, but it came from, because I played well. But I had to play well to get the financial rewards.
And so I think it's a little different today. I mean, I liken it to all sports today frankly, basketball players, football players, baseball players, you have guys making $5 million a year sitting on the bench and don't care whether they get off the bench or not. And some people are that way.
Fortunately I think most of the guys out there playing have come here want to go win for the game and the game they are playing and the game they love, most of the guys here and those are the guys that are going to be successful and those are going to be the guys you're going to write about.
Q. This is the 50th anniversary of Gary Player winning his first Masters.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, '61.
Q. Can you talk about the significance of that win and him backing the first international champion?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't know he was the first international. He was? Okay.
Gary's been a great friend. Probably as close a friend as I've had in the game of golf simply because our families are the same size and like and so forth.
Pound for pound, I think Gary and Hogan you would have to slow in there someplace, but pound for pound, Gary Player is probably the best player to ever play the game. Here is a guy who travelled over here when travelling wasn't easy. I mean, Gary got on an airplane, 40-some-odd hours later he would be here. Not eight hours later anymore.
For him to do that and do what he did, and the record that he had, and the way he's handled himself and the way he's given back to the game, you know, I've got the greatest respect for Gary Player. He's a great guy.
Q. You spoke about the game's tradition and how important that is for golf, and having older people around, and one person who won't be around this evening for dinner is Seve. Phil made a really nice tribute saying about the menu being Spanish this evening and that is one way of saying thank you. Wonder if you can give us your recollections of what Seve meant to you personally?
JACK NICKLAUS: We honored Seve at the Memorial Tournament last year. I don't know if you saw it, but he did an interview, we had him on film because he couldn't travel. He did a great job.
Seve was a seat-of-the-pants golfer. He played, he invented shots, he invented this -- he always created this, he created that. He was the heart and soul of the European Ryder Cup Team. He was the enthusiastic guy. There was so many things that he did in the game that the game should be thankful for.
And Seve should be that thankful, too, because the game gave an awful lot to Seve. He could really play. And then all of a sudden, just, boom, he couldn't. You know, and he continued to work at it. He continued to try. He just couldn't get it back. He couldn't drive it to find it. Now when he couldn't drive it to find it early in his career, he would play out of parking lots, under cars, over the top -- out of trees and he would knock it on the green and make pars, that's what he did. But that was Seve.
You know, his enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game. You know, you forget about guys when they aren't there, but he was a two-time winner here, wasn't he?
LARRY PUGH: I believe so.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know what his health is.
Q. It's poor.
JACK NICKLAUS: I would think that's probably right. But you know, his spirit in which he played the game will never be forgotten.
LARRY PUGH: Jack, thank you so much for being with us. We really do appreciate it. Thank you very much.
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