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April 9, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, the legend next to me obviously requires no introduction. Jack is always incredibly gracious with his time and we are so appreciative of his insights and reflection.
This year he returns to Augusta National 50 years removed from his first of a record six green jackets.
Jack, before we take any questions, maybe you could tell us what it felt when that first green jacket was put on you and how you felt personally and what it meant for you as a young person.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think you'll get a kick out of the last part of this story, most of you have heard it anyway.
You know, I came here in '59, and played pretty well in '59. I remember I hit 31 greens in regulation and I missed the cut, shot 150, shot 74, 76, or 76, 74, whichever it was. And I saw that Arnold hit 19 greens and he was leading the tournament. Art Wall was two shots in front of me and he won the tournament.
I learned a couple things. First, here they learned they needed a ten‑shot rule which is what they did. I was ten shots behind Arnold at the time. And also, I figured out I'd better learn how to putt these greens.
And these greens here are greens that you've got to learn. They are difficult, particularly for a newcomer. We've had some newcomers that have done pretty well. Was Fuzzy the only one that's won the first time? He's the only one.
But anyway, I played pretty well in '60, played well here in '61. As an amateur did decently in '62. I was very disappointed, and I think I finished 14th. So coming back in '63, I was the U.S. Open Champion and I felt like I had really prepared and wanted to play in this tournament. I had hurt my hip early in the year, and I had had 25 injections in my hip over a ten‑week period, which is probably why I had my hip replaced. But what it forced me to do was learn how to play right‑to‑left because I couldn't hit it in my hip. I couldn't play left‑to‑right. And so it was actually very fortuitous for me here because I was able to learn how to play around my left side and learn how to hook the ball.
And so when I got here, I was happy with what I was doing. I didn't play very well the first round. I shot 74. I came back with 66 the second round. And then we had the rain day. And the rain day, I played with Souchak and it just poured, and everybody thought ‑‑ in those days when they washed out a round, they washed out the whole round. They didn't start back at the same place.
So I remember the 13th fairway, we had total 100 percent casual water and there was no place to drop it, and they said tough, play it. So we played it out of the water. Anyway, nobody thought we would finish the round. We finished, we got to the 18th green and that's when I looked at the leaderboard, and I'm colorblind, and I looked at the leaderboard and I saw these several 1s on the board. And I looked at my caddie, Willie Peterson, and I said, "Willie, how many of those ones are red?" And he said, "Just you, Boss." And that's when I found out I was leading the tournament.
Anyway, I finished off the next day. I don't even remember what I shot the last two rounds. But anyway, I won the tournament. Arnold put a green jacket on me, and it was a size 46 long. I could have used it for an overcoat. I was a 43 regular.
So the story goes on beyond that, because obviously I was excited about winning the Masters. But the story goes on that the next year I came back and he didn't have a coat for me, and they said, here, use this one. It was Tom Dewey's coat. Many of you have heard this story, but I'll tell it anyway. The former governor of New York, and Tom Dewey was a 43 regular. The coat fit me perfect, and I wore that for about ten years. So they kept putting Tom Dewey's coat on me every time I won the Masters.
It got around to 1998 and we were doing the fountain, and I told Jack Stephens the story about never been given a green jacket, I've won six times and nobody has ever given me a green jacket. And he said, "What?"
I said, "No, I've never been presented a green jacket."
I said, "Jack, I have no problem with that."
I said, "I'm the only guy that's ever won this tournament and never got one."
So anyway, I went home that weekend, came back, and there was a note in the locker, you will go to the pro shop and get your green jacket. So now I have a green jacket, guys. Same one.
The Masters was always something special to me as a kid. I remember the first time I drove it here, 19 years old and drove down Magnolia Lane, and I think I had a friend of mine with me, high school or college golfer with me at Ohio State, Robin Obetz, and I'm trying to think who we ran into. That's pretty good. Anyway, he was really a nice man. I didn't know that you were not allowed to bring people along with you, and he just took care of us, never said a word, he just played golf with us and he was terrific.
Anyway, I always loved it, had that love affair with the thing. And of course when I first came here in '59, Bob Jones put a note in my locker. He invited my father and me down to his cabin, and we went down every year. That same note was in my locker every year. There's so many special things here that when you finally go through and win this golf tournament‑‑ finally, I was only 23 years old, still the youngest winner, it was still very, very special. I'll stop it there and let you guys talk.
THE MODERATOR: Maybe we can open up to a few questions.
Q. If you can recall, what's the learning curve like between your first time competing here and your second time? What are the most important things that you can learn in between?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the first time, I learned what I‑‑ I found out what I mostly didn't know and that's was that I didn't know how to putt these greens. So that was the first thing that I had to learn.
I knew that you had predominately‑‑ not predominately, but you had to play some right‑to‑left shots, but I still didn't have the nerve to let them go because I didn't have the confidence in my own game to be able to do that because I was pretty confident playing left‑to‑right.
It wasn't until '63 that I got that. And I think certainly after a couple of years, I pretty well figured the greens and what I had to do. The greens in those days were mostly just poa trivialis really. I'm not sure they had a bermuda base in the first few years. Then they got a bermuda base in maybe '61, '62, somewhere in there.
I remember when I won in '65, that year the greens just had a very fine grass on them, totally different than when we started. It was an old grass with sort of like over the top of each other that you saw in the south. You guys wouldn't know about it, 55 years ago in the south they had sort of a lot of scraggly old grass cut down, and that's basically what was here, too, and it was no different than any place else. They just always got them quicker and firmer here than they did any place else.
Q. You talked about the greens a couple times. What's the single scariest, craziest putt you've ever had here?
JACK NICKLAUS: I've had a lot of them. You can get a crazy putt on every green on this golf course.
Try putting from one side‑‑ probably the left side of No.2 to the right side of No.2 sometime. You can do anything with that.
Try putting from the right side of behind 3 down to the front left pin placement.
Try putting from behind the hole into the right down No. 4.
5's not that terrible.
6 is not bad except coming up the hill is always a tough putt.
7, not much; 8's not much.
9, coming from the back, you always had to figure that‑‑ matter of fact, we were part of the team that reduced the pitch at 9 and 18. We reduced that in the fall of '85 and the first time we played it is '86, so I had a little something to do with that (laughter). But we reduced them from 11 percent to 8 percent. Same thing, just reduced it down, the overall pitch, which is still a lot of pitch. So that was always a scary putt.
Putting to the front right for me on the back on 10 was always scary.
11 wasn't bad, 12 wasn't bad, 13 really isn't bad.
14 is anybody's guess where you might end up on that hole.
15, putting from the back or just over the green just down to that front left pin position, that's always scary as can be. There's so many scary putts here. You just have got to learn them. The only way you learn them is to putt them and play them and go through them. And when you do that, over time you sort of get it in your mind what you do. I know a lot of guys write it down and do all that. I had my yardages down, but I never had mapped a green.
Q. The last Masters you won, considering where you were at in your career, coming into that week, how realistic was it for you coming into that week that you could win this?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I always I could win. I had not played very well for a couple years, and certainly I had not stood out much that spring. But I didn't play very much. I was only playing about 12 tournaments a year around that time. I don't know why I was playing. I really sort of finished my career, basically, in 1980, and I wasn't playing so I could be ready for seniors golf. I just happened to like to play golf and I wanted to be part of it and play a few other things. I was doing a lot more golf course design and watching my kids play football, basketball or baseball or golf or whatever it might be. And I was frankly enjoying my life.
I had prepared in '86, like I did any other year, maybe not quite as much as I normally would in the early years, but I still prepared. I was here and I had that big putter that I had and I putted pretty well in the spring. I sort of didn't know what was going to happen but I started hitting the ball well and started putting well and ran the tables in the last round.
It's find of funny, because it was sort of like I got myself in position to make a run in the early part of the back nine, and all of a sudden I start making birdies and all of a sudden I remembered how to play. I remembered the feeling of being in contention. I remembered the feeling of how do you control your emotions and how do you enjoy the moment, too, and be with it and I had my son, Jack with me, and we had a conversation, and doing the things that you wouldn't normally expect to have happen.
I was standing there on 15, and I said, how far do you think a 3 will go here? And I said I don't mean club. I was kidding him, you know. I was serious, yet I was kidding. We were keeping a light side at it. Of course, I put it in and made eagle.
At 16, I hit a 5‑iron in there, that was 175 yards, and I just through a soft 5‑iron up in the air. And I remember when I hit the shot and looked down and Jack said, be right, be right. And I said, it is. It was the cockiest remark I've ever made, but it was in fun and in jest, even though I knew the shot was right. We had a great time and it was fun. But I remembered how to play and I remembered what to do coming down the stretch.
I don't think there's many times in my career that I went back and drew from the early days and said, you know‑‑ and repeated what I could do and was able to do it.
Q. Did it get a little more serious down 18?
JACK NICKLAUS: It was very serious the whole time, but I was light with the serious. I had fun with the day.
Q. Right through to the end?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, yeah, isn't that what you're supposed to do? I mean, that's what I would think. Something I used to do, and I did it at 15, as I walked down the fairway, I remember stopping about halfway with my tee shot. I just went, (sighing), and looked around me, and I saw all these people excited and having fun. I had done it a lot of times. You know, this is what I'm out here for. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is why I'm having so much fun. I says, go enjoy it and have a good time with it. And so that's when I made the little remark to Jack, how far does a 3 go when I walked up to the ball.
I think the game doesn't have to be so serious that you strangle yourself. You've got to be light enough that you keep yourself loose so that you can play, and that's all part of it, and there's a balance.
Q. In a couple weeks, you're going to be playing in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah for the first time‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: That's right. I booked everything else and finally somebody reminded me that I entered (laughter). Absolute truth.
Q. Do you have any history of playing Savannah and what are your expectations of playing with Gary Playeras a teammate rather than ‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I have no history of playing in Savannah and I have no expectations.
Q. How do you see you and Gary playing‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I was with Gary, Vivian's birthday was last Saturday and I stopped up to see him. He said, "You getting your game ready?"
I said, "Yeah, I'm going to play the Par 3, I'll hit a tee shot on Thursday, I'll be ready." I can't remember the last time I played. I probably haven't played in a month or so and I won't play until I get there. I'll play the day before. That will be enough. In other words, I'm not taking a golf tournament serious. I don't play golf anymore. I play occasionally if I have to.
And you know, Gary asked me to play. Bob Charles is who he usually played with. Bob couldn't play, and so I guess he asked Simon Hobday to play. And I said to Gary, "I wish you'd asked me. I'd be happy to fill in for you."
He says, "You would?"
"Sure, I would love to play with you."
He says, "Well, you'll play next year."
I should have kept my mouth shut (laughter).
I said, "Sure, I'll play."
Gary and I will have a good time. We'll have fun.
Q. You've played all these great majors; is there something that separates this one from the other ones? And I know you respect the other ones, the British Open, the U.S. Open, the PGAs, you've won them all. Is there something that separates this one from the others in your mind?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, this is a tournament. The others are all championships. Bob Jones structured this to be a tournament. He didn't structure it to be a Major Championship. He earned his record from major championships and formed a tournament that brought the major championship winners together to have it be the Masters.
So that was his expectations. And I sort of honor those expectations as this being a tournament and the others are championships, even though for most of the world, this is probably the most important tournament that there is. Probably financially for the winner, this is probably the most important tournament.
And to me, it's the most fun of the ones to play in. I love it. But it isn't structured as a championship. And so I think that's maybe why we have more fun with it, but because of the time of year that it is; it being the first of the major events, people coming out of the snow‑‑ half of the people coming out here are going to be putting on sun lotion to keep from getting fried. It's something they are not used to, coming out of the winter.
There's so many things about it, the flowers‑‑ there's so many things that came together to make this tournament what it is. It's got a great membership. It's got people from all walks of life who just love golf and have been involved. That's why people are here. It's not because it's necessarily it's a club they want to belong to. It's because it's a group of people that formed a club because of their love for golf, and that's what's neat about it.
And so you know, it's different from all those aspects, and it's just got a great tradition do it. From my standpoint with Bob Jones as my idol growing up, to me, it's always been very special. To have won it six times, that's pretty special, too.
Q. You do wear the green jacket, and maybe you want to answer this question, maybe you don't; your thoughts on including women now in the club, wearing a green jacket, Condoleezza Rice is here?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it's time. It was not my call. It was the club's call and I think it's great. I mean, Condoleezza Rice is a great gal. I don't know Darla Moore, but I'm sure I will. And welcome. People that love golf, that's what it's supposed to be for.
Q. I love hearing you talk about '86. How cognizant were you at the time of your skills and somewhat diminished from the '60s and '70s, because you seem to talk about riding the emotion of the day.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know whether my skills were all that diminished at 46. I don't think your skills are really that diminished. It's more my desire and desire to work hard and prepare. Because I said I'd prepare, but I didn't prepare quite as hard as I normally would. So I never thought that, you know, that I was deteriorated yet. I don't think I was quite old enough for the wheelchair yet.
I mean, I was playing a dozen tournaments a year. I was just going through the motions. But every once in awhile, you find lightning in a bottle and all of a sudden you get excited about something. And every time I come here, I always get excited, but just didn't perform for a couple of years. And then all of a sudden I performed one year.
I almost said the same thing in '98. I mean, I was on one leg and that was kind of interesting; I could still play and I still remembered how to play.
But this is the kind of golf course that brings it back to you. And I don't know how else to answer, because I don't know. Just guessing.
Q. When you and your father went down for these chats with Mr.Jones, can you give us a flavor of the conversation? Was it wide‑ranging on things other than golf or was it predominately golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: It actually was more golf than anything but a lot of philosophy for life and how he led his life and what he believed in and why he stayed an amateur and why he played amateur golf and some of the issues of why he quit and stopped playing.
And you know, how he became a good player, that was probably more what I learned is how much Stewart Maiden had taught him and how he had his seven lean years and how Maiden had taught him to really correct himself on the golf course and manage his own game and be responsible for his own actions.
And those are the things that I think that ultimately made him the better player. He knew this young kid had a chance to be a pretty good player, and he wanted to impart as much wisdom to him as he could. And it was just his way of saying, hey, I'm on your side, I want to see you do well and I want to help you wherever I can, which was very nice.
Q. Did you say anything or were you just listening?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's one of the times I probably didn't say too much (laughter).
Q. There were no World Rankings when you played, but given the fact that you were winning major championships over a quarter century, have you ever given any thought to how long or how many years, weeks, you would have been No. 1 in the world?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when you don't have a ranking system and you don't have that, how in the world would you know? You wouldn't even think about it. You would look back at it now, and say, gee, I suppose I would have been No. 1 for a while.
I don't pay too much attention to it. I think there's too much paid to. It's like my majors, I never counted my majors until Bob Green told me at St. Andrews in the '70s. He says, "Hey, Jack, that's ten, only three more to tie Bobby Jones."
I said, "Really?"
Honest, I never counted them. Never really worried about it. All I did was try to play the best I could be. I knew that I was obviously somewhere near the top of the game. I certainly didn't like being second, so that was my goal, to stay right where I was.
Q. I understand you're going to have a private meeting with the young Chinese player who is playing as an amateur this week. What advice would you give him going into Thursday morning teeing off here at Augusta National?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I don't know what he's going to ask me. I don't know what I'm going to say to him. I don't have many 14‑year‑olds that I have come to me for golf advice (laughter).
Q. Did you ask for a meeting with you or did you offer?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, they came to us. Scott, who called?
SCOTT TOLLEY: It was folks over there. We mailed each other and he emailed me about it.
JACK NICKLAUS: And he started communicating himself, didn't he. He did the stuff himself, communicated back with Scott himself, 14‑year‑old kid. Thought that was pretty sharp.
Q. Have you had a chance to see his game at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I did a thing with Charlie Rose the other day, and I mispronounced what his name was. But I don't know anything about him other than he has a pretty darned good record for a young kid, and he's obviously got a great future.
So I will be a little bit like what Jones was to me, I'll give him whatever he wants and whatever he wants imparted and how I can help him, I'm happy to do that. I'm happy to do that with any of the young guys. In fact, it's very flattering when someone comes to me and wants some help.
Q. I know you're excited about your course at Gleneagles staging next year's Ryder Cup, what are your thoughts now with Tom Watson in charge of America? And is Tom the man to lead the U.S. to victory?
JACK NICKLAUS: I guess maybe they wanted to get a little tougher, because Tom is going to be a little tougher than normal. But Tom will do a good job.
The golf course, we made some adjustments on the golf course. The golf course is really going to be quite good and I think that everybody will enjoy it. It will be a great Ryder Cup. All The Ryder Cups are great. Tom will lead the Americans quite well.
Q. Do you expect Tom to drill you on the course, to ask you information on the course?
JACK NICKLAUS: He'll know more about it in five minutes than I'll ever know about it (laughter). No, he won't ask me anything.
Q. I know you've been asked a lot about Tiger, but in his efforts to pass your majors winning, is this summer particularly important for him?
JACK NICKLAUS: I would have thought every summer was. I mean, I don't know‑‑ obviously the older he gets and if he doesn't win, it makes my record move out further. But I've said it, and I continue to say it that I still expect him to break my record. I think he's just too talented, too driven, and too focused on that.
Now, a lot of you will say, he can't do that. He's 38 years old at this point‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: He isn't 38 yet? In his 38th year (laughter). From this point, he's got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37. You know, I still think‑‑ still he's got to go do it. He's played very, very well this spring. I think if he wins here, I think that it would be a very large step towards regaining the confidence that he has not won a major in, what, 3 1/2 years‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: 2009.
Q. 2008. U.S. Open.
JACK NICKLAUS: Really? A bit further away. I mean, it's been a while. He's going to have to figure it out. But I think if he figures it out here, it will be a great boost for him. If he doesn't figure it out here, after the spring he's had, I think it will be a lot tougher for him.
Q. What makes Amen Corner such a great conglomeration of holes, and do you think that it has the significance that‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know that it's a great conglomeration of holes. I think it's a great conglomeration of circumstances. They are all great holes, don't get me wrong, because I like all three of them. But you have all the conditions on 11 with the wind, how you play it, and what it does to the golf ball. And if you get to 12, if the wind is going something to it at 11, it's certainly going to do something else to it at 12. And you have 13, turning the around the corner and going there.
But the thing is, you have got everybody and your brother there watching you play. People can sit there and watch you play all three holes from one location, and it's just become such a great focus, not many places in golf that you can do that, and‑‑ hey, he's on 11, hey, he's on 12, he's over on 13, he's birdieing 11. You're all right there doing the same thing. It's a great thing that's come together. And I guess Herb Wind is the one that named it Amen Corner.
Q. How long did you think about playing your last competitive round here, when that would happen, and as you look back, how complicated was it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Playing here?
Q. Yes, your last competitive round.
JACK NICKLAUS: It wasn't complicated. I don't remember what I shot. I didn't play very well, I don't think. I missed the cut. Hated finishing on Friday, but I did and I finished on the ninth hole. Those are the two things.
But I don't know, I haven't even ever given it a thought to be honest with you.
Q. How long were you thinking about that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I played my last round at St. Andrews, not here.
Q. I'm talking about at the Masters.
JACK NICKLAUS: How long did I think about it? Not very long. I just knew that I wasn't going to play anymore after that. I knew I was going to play my last tournament round at St. Andrews in '65, so if I'm going to play my last Masters in '65, it's going to be my last Masters. Just sort of played.
I'm a little different than a lot of guys, I suppose, in that golf was a major part of my life, but not the only part of my life. And I have never had any problems with ending my career, not going out for the next tournament. I've never had a problem with that. I think I'm very fortunate that Barbara has kept our life balanced, a great relationship with Barbara and five kids, 22 grandkids, and that I have time to spend there rather than worrying when I'm going to play my last round of golf when I can't break 88. That's not important to me.
Would I like to play better in my last round in the Masters? Sure. But I didn't think about it very long. I got out of town quickly.
Q. Given Tiger's early success at his course, that he has not won here since 2005‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven't given it much thought to be very honest with you. He's in contention every year. I go back and look at my record here. I won in '63, '65 and '66, and then I didn't win again until '72. And then I won '75, and then I went 11 years until '86.
I mean, a career is not made over a couple years. I don't think it's any big deal. Make sure he does.
Q. You've been here through a succession of Chairmen. What kind of legacy do you think Billy Payne is writing here?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Billy is doing a great job. I think what's happening here at Augusta is‑‑ Billy, with what his involvement was in the Olympics and his idea of forward thinking and not staying behind the times has really been great for Augusta.
The past Chairmen were all great. I think they all did a good job, but I think Billy has taken it to another level and trying to take it to another level with what he's done over there at Berckmans Place, and all the other things he's doing, with what he's done out here with the driving range. He hasn't done a lot to the golf course, but a little bit to the golf course.
He's a very, very forward thinker. And, you know, in this day and age, I'd have to say this all the golf courses in the world that have had to deal with what happened to the golf ball, this is the only one that's kept up with it. I don't think another course in the world has kept up with this golf course. I don't think another course in the world had enough money to do it, either (laughter).
But I didn't mean that that way. But Augusta does very well, and they have taken the money they have made here and made the golf course be relevant today to the golf ball, where most other people, if you have an Open someplace, they add another tee or they add something here. They really are not overhauling the situation the way they have here.
First of all, they don't have the money to do it and second of all, it will only be one time, maybe every ten years. And here, you have the ability, it's the only site of the major championships that's one place.
And you guys, why are you all here? You're all here because of the reputation and what's happened and what they have done and what all of the past Chairmen and what Billy Payne have done to this place.
Q. You talked to Rory a couple of years and we heard this week about talking to Nicolas Colsaerts, do they hear a similar message‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not smart enough to have different ones.
Q. What do you tell them?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't tell them too much. I just try to find out what they are thinking and what they are trying to accomplish, what they are trying to do, what are their goals, and what do they‑‑ how do they approach what they are doing and so forth, and I tell them how I approach things and how I play golf courses, and the mental philosophy that I had and how I learned. I learned that the only person that you can control is yourself. You can't worry about whether‑‑ you can never worry about whether Arnold Palmer was coming down the stretch or Gary Player or Joe Schmo. It didn't make any difference to me, I still had to play. Because if I self‑destructed, Joe Schmo would beat me just as easily as Arnold Palmer, so I couldn't do that. That's what I impart to them, understand yourself, figure out who you are and what you can do.
As I told Nicolas the other day, I said, there's going to be half a dozen golf shots on this golf course that make or break this golf course that can kill you, not so bad if you hit it good, but if you hit it poorly, you're down the road. You get to the airline booth on 2, down in the trees, and get your ticket home, or you can watch what happens. See guys at 12 hitting it at the pin and watch it hit the bank and trickle back in the water. Guys get aggressive at 11, and they are playing the second shot from behind the lake. Those are things that you really can't do on this golf course, and how you approach the greens and how do you think about this golf course.
Basically, this golf course, I can't find a bad putt on this golf course from the center of the green. You've got a birdie putt every time. Those are the kind of stuff we've talked about, and each guy has a different idea of what they want to do.
I'm very flattered that they're interested. It's kind of neat they want the advice from a 73‑year‑old, it's kind of neat.
Q. You've seen technological changes over the years. Can you give us your pros and cons and specifically the ball and course design that you've seen?
JACK NICKLAUS: The pros and cons of what?
Q. Technology over the years, driver, ball‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm having trouble with your English.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sorry, the what?
Q. The golf ball and the course design, the changes you've seen over the years?
JACK NICKLAUS: Here?
Q. In general.
JACK NICKLAUS: With course design and the golf ball?
Q. And the driver.
JACK NICKLAUS: You mean how the driver has come into play with the design? Well, obviously, the golf ball from about 1935 through '95 probably gained six, seven, eight yards, something like that. It's gained 50 yards since then but it's pretty well stopped for the last nine years, whatever it's been.
But the only difference is then it's become basically the athlete that has come. All the guys‑‑ Arnold called me Big Jack. I'm anything but big. I'm just like (indicating handshake looking up), how ya doing, like this all day with these guys now; they are all huge. You get guys that are good athletes, the further they are going to hit the golf ball.
The driver is a club with this golf ball today‑‑ how do you keep up with it, is that what you're talking about?
Q. When you started playing, and the stuff they play with now is a different planet.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it's a different game. I hit some long drives, and I go back and some of the driving contests I won, I hit the ball a long way. But that was a one‑off shot that I took off and left my feet and hit it as hard as I could and, you know‑‑ but I could hit it a long way. These guys do it every shot.
The only trouble is that all of them do it every shot. And so to try to design a round out of it is very difficult. I really try to design it taking the driver out of their hands a fair amount of time because I only feel like there are other people that are not as strong and not as gifted from a strength standpoint that need a chance to play that golf course. And if you try to balance it out to where you have some short holes and so forth and you're testing the guy who really hits it a long way and force him to use his head, but give him a few holes where he can take his advantage and use it, you try to balance out what you're doing, it's what I try to do.
Is that you're asking me? I assume what you're asking me. Okay? Or did you get what you wanted. Okay.
Q. You've had more seconds in majors than wins. Can you talk about your biggest disappointments at Augusta?
JACK NICKLAUS: At Augusta? Probably '71. And I don't even remember what I did. I think I made 8 at 15. And I don't remember what else I did. Charles Coody won that year and I did some really dumb things. I don't remember how many there were, but they were probably multiplied. I think I hit it in the water and knocked it in the water again on 15. And I don't remember what I lost by, but I think I finished second.
Most of the other times that I didn't win here, I didn't come that close. I finished second to Arnold in '64, and Arnold won by six shots. I finished second some other times‑‑ I don't remember. Frankly, I go back to all the major championships that I finished second in, I've got about two of them that I gave away, which would have been Cherry Hills but I don't know any better at 20 years old; and Lytham, which turned out to be a learning experience for me, how stupid I was to play the last two holes the way I played them.
And the only other couple was where Watson beat me and Trevino. Watson beat me at Pebble Beach with that chip‑in and Trevino beat me at Muirfield. Those were things that were beyond my control. No different from Norman in '86. Norman wins the British Open, but look at the three things that happened to him with Mize and Bob Tway. And I don't remember what happened with the other one. You scratch your head and say, wow, okay, let's go next week, that week's over with, nothing you can do about it.
Q. The Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, is that going to make a big difference?
JACK NICKLAUS: Gosh, I hope so. There's no reason why‑‑ the Drive, Chip & Putt, is that what they are calling it? There wouldn't be any reason other than to do that. There's no reason to be involved in learning leagues other than to grow the game. The learning leagues are basically ‑‑ I don't know how many parks we're going to be into, but I was told it was close to 10,000 is what I'm told.
Q. There should be several hundred just this year.
JACK NICKLAUS: Ten thousand parks is where they're trying to get to. The whole issue of why we are trying to do this with golf is kids today, when they're four or five, six years old are going to the parks and playing sports. You all that have kids, you know what I'm talking about. They are starting to play soccer, they are playing football, they are playing basketball, they are playing baseball, they are playing lacrosse, and they are playing whatever game they want to play. And by the time they get to be eight or nine years old, it sounds ridiculous, but those kids, they have picked their three sports or two sports or whatever they are going to play and golf is not one of them.
So the learning leagues are a team sport, team golf, using snag as a starter, and then we'll graduate behind that. And get into where we get kids where golf can be one of those sports as they grow at four, five, six, seven, eight years old. And the Drive, Chip & Putt is exactly the same thing. You want kids, and that's, what, from 7 to 15, is that what it is? And it's the same thing, you're trying to bring kids into it and create enthusiasm and create other kids watching and having contests where you're watching and bringing all the kids together. Anything we can do to start promoting the game of golf.
We have lost I think, what is it, like 25 percent of the women and 36 or 37 percent of the kids over the last seven or eight years in the game. If golf wants to exist, it's got to change. We have got to be able to bring the kids back in it. Goodness knows I have enough time now on my hands that I have time to go do those things and be involved, because it's kind of fun to be involved in trying to help the game that you love and did so much for you.
I mean, I don't want to sound like that kind of thing, but that's what I mean‑‑ it's good. It's a good thing to do. That's what you're talking about, right? Yeah.
Q. There's a story in Canada that Mike Weir wrote you a letter when he was a kid asking you if he should switch to right‑handed‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: He was 13.
Q. You remember the letter well, obviously. When he won and became the first left‑hander, did you have a conversation about that letter at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: We had lots of conversations long before that. Mike came to me right after he got on to the TOUR and reminded me of the letter, showed me the letter. And he was another kid that I just responded to a letter, and my response was, you know, if you're happy playing left‑handed, then why would you change. If you think you can do better by changing to right‑handed, then change to right‑handed. But if you like it and you're a natural and so forth, you'll do fine. They make equipment that will be just fine for a left‑hander and that's what he did. That's basically it.
Q. Because we talk about the ball and clubs a lot, curious how Merion will play this year, it will be set up less than 7,000 yards.
JACK NICKLAUS: Merion will do just fine. Merion has got six or seven holes that you can abuse. They have got six or seven holes that will abuse you (laughter). Merion will do just fine. I think actually I think they are going have a really good Open. I think it will be a really exciting Open because of the nature of the golf course.
Q. If you had not had such extraordinary talent as a golfer, what would you like to have done with your life?
JACK NICKLAUS: John, I wish I knew. I can't imagine anybody having more fun doing what I've done and getting paid for it and also being able to sit here in front of you guys at 73 years old so I can spout off a bunch of stuff that I had no idea whether you were listening or not, or care about. (Laughter).
I don't know, I suppose I've always enjoyed being with people. I like people. I don't know what I would have done. I think I would have ended up somewhere in sports, though. I may have ended up sitting out here.
Q. Lucky you could play golf.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I can't spell, either. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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