June 4, 2003
Note: The news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the PGA of America.
JULIUS MASON: Jack Nicklaus, ladies and gentlemen, at the 64th Senior PGA Championship. Playing in his 13th Senior PGA Championship. Also a little familiar with the Aronimink Golf Club.
JACK NICKLAUS: Did I miss one?
JULIUS MASON: That's what we count here. I don't know. Is it 14?
JACK NICKLAUS: 63, I played in 1950. That would be 14.
JULIUS MASON: And while we're pondering that, I am going to count them up and let you guys know. Jack did tie for third in the 1962 PGA Championship here. Jack, welcome back. Some opening thoughts then we'll go to Q and A.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, my opening thoughts are I don't remember anything that was here because I guess it's all been changed. Or if it hasn't then I wouldn't have known either way. I don't remember anything. But the golf courses that is here now is in -- nicely conditioned. Obviously with the weather we have had it's going to play long and heavy. But the golf course is in excellent condition and it's a nice golf course.
Q. When you get out there with your friends, is it a lot different now than it used to be when you were younger and playing on the other Tour?
JACK NICKLAUS: What do you -- when you say I get out there with my friends what do you mean "my friends?"
Q. I would imagine now you are very familiar with guys like Gary Player, Arnold Palmer you have been playing with for years. Is it a more comfortable setting for you then when you were a younger man?
JACK NICKLAUS: The same.
Q. Do you ever get nervous on that first tee?
JACK NICKLAUS: Every time I play.
JACK NICKLAUS: Sure.
Q. You relate to people like myself and others out there?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think I will relate quite there, but close to that, maybe. (Winks).
Q. When do you quit getting the shakes when you play, and are you nervous ever?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't get the shakes. I didn't say I get the shakes. I get apprehensive, ready to go, wanting to play just like, I suppose, if I got out there to tee off and I didn't have any desire to compete and be part of it and want to play well, then I'd have no business being there. But as far as being able to concentrate and do what I am going to do, I don't have a problem trying to do that, and hopefully probably not different there anybody else, I want to get off the first tee and get off it well.
Q. Does this weather bother you at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: Same for everybody. I mean, I guess if you have been up in this area, this -- it's the same weather you have had all year, we had this coming through Columbus (Ohio) yesterday, and I saw -- I looked at the weather report on Monday afternoon, I saw what was going to happen, and I said, oops, I said, I think I better -- I wasn't going to come in until today. I had the Memorial Tournament and I was tired, I just wanted to get a couple days off just getting some rest, and so I was going to come in this morning or come in last night for the dinner; then play today. And when I saw the weather report I decided I think I better get on the airplane and get over here. I came over yesterday and I almost missed playing yesterday because we actually got a nice break. I got in -- well didn't even start drizzling 'til the 18th hole. I got in a round yesterday, otherwise I would have -- wouldn't have seen the golf course. Today it is actually probably good for me to not go out and beat it around. I went out and hit balls for about an hour, that will be enough. I will go and hit a few chips and putts. That will be fine for tomorrow.
Q. Is one practice round enough for a major championship?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably not. Probably at my age it's probably what I am going to take. I played -- I probably wore myself out at the Memorial Tournament, which I probably shouldn't have. I had played, let's see, I played Sunday at Muirfield (Village), then I played Monday at Oakmont. Moscow on Tuesday, and worked all over a new property there, walked all day long, and Wednesday went back to London and ended up having dinner that night. Then I played Royal Saint George on Thursday, and got on an airplane, had dinner that night got up at 6 o'clock in the morning and got on an airplane flew to Muirfield and this is Columbus, I played Friday afternoon, played Saturday, played Sunday, practiced for five hours on Monday, played Tuesday, Wednesday, by the time the tournament started I was probably worn out, which was not a good move for me. But I have had had enough golf. I probably would not have played that much on Wednesday except right after The Masters, Mike Weir called and said let's have a practice round at Muirfield. I said terrific. So I went and played a practice round on Wednesday. So more golf than I probably should have played. I like to get Tuesday or Wednesday -- today my plan would have been to play nine holes would have been enough. Which would have been the same amount of balls that I probably hit on the range today, probably -- actually probably even less. But I am fine. I don't think -- if I was going to prepare for a major properly, which I can't do anymore, then I would come in and play four or five practice rounds and so forth and so on. But I just can't do that anymore. My body just doesn't handle it. I know what happens because it happened to me last week, when the tournament started I didn't play very well.
Q. Sort of on the same line, as the greatest majors player of all time, the regular Tour and the Senior majors, big difference in your mind, approach, prestige?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably about 150 players and 220 years in age, yeah, that's about the only difference. As it relates to senior golf, the majors that we play are the ones are the most important tournaments and we're no longer competitive as it relates to the other Tour. That's obvious.
Q. I meant then versus now, the mindset?
JACK NICKLAUS: My mindset was what I could -- I looked at major tournaments, that's when I could play golf. I don't really consider myself playing -- I play golf but I don't really play golf -- what I term golf anymore. I probably even today probably have no business being here playing in it, but I am just sort of competitive enough to believe that I can play well and believe that I can still win golf tournaments and until I start shooting ridiculous scores I am still going to continue to probably play, at least in the Senior majors. I played pretty -- last tournament -- three weeks ago, I guess I played in Austin, I had a chance to win and that's first time I have been in contention to have a chance to win a golf tournament in a while. My game is coming back and playing better, so I come in here and actually played the last -- I got off to -- I played poorly on Thursday and then I started off badly on Friday then played the last 14 holes at Muirfield 3-under par. That was encouraging. I started to feel good about my golf game, even though I didn't make the cut. I feel like -- I played yesterday, played pretty well yesterday when I played here. I am all right.
Q. Can you recall ever playing a tournament where you didn't get a practice round in because of weather?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah, never a major.
Q. When would it have been -- just curious?
JACK NICKLAUS: I said never a major.
Q. I know. What was the other event, do you remember?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh I am sure that I have gone to tournaments where I showed up on Wednesday and we got rained out on Wednesday, pro am or just didn't get the practice round in. Probably on a golf course that I have played but. My early years as a pro I remember I did some things which were stupid. I'd go to The Masters and five minutes 'til 6 on Sunday and find Jack Tuthill, our Tour director, I'd say enter me next week and I'd show up on Thursday morning and play, which is ridiculous. You can't prepare. But I remember I'd usually shoot my 74 the first round; then I'd come back and come close to wining. But then I was -- then I was probably good enough to be able to do that or at least believed I was. But you can't get away with that and probably do it right.
Q. On the major theme, you talked a little bit about majors last week in that they don't allow you a chance to gamble. You get out of your sort of natural game plan. Can you expound on that a little bit what it takes besides your golf game to win a major championship?
JACK NICKLAUS: What are you talking about?
Q. Patience, persistence. Last week just in a casual thing you said that --- because course setups --
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, the U.S. Open general speaking, most of the golf course setups at the Open are really -- make every hole very difficult and really not too many of them are risk-reward type holes that are -- you maybe can pick up a shot or two or something it's like -- guy might make a birdie or bogey but that's about, generally speaking, what is going to happen. I think Augusta is a different story, Augusta is a very much a risk-reward, a lot of strokes can change hands and so forth and so on. But not as much as it used to because they took a lot of that away with the length of the golf course. And -- but we were specifically talking I think about the US Open in the pressroom last week. I think the USGA tries set the course up where par is a good score on that hole. Is that what you were talking about?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think this golf course here is set up -- the PGA does a little bit the same what the Open does. I think this golf course here of course -- the numbers on the tee aren't long. It says 409, it's driver and a 3-iron, I am saying, huh? A lot of 410 yards holes out here and in this day and age with the golf ball they are drivers and wedges; not so much here with this wet conditions and hitting into a lot of the hills that you are hitting into. Now I think the weather is supposed to turn better tomorrow and probably by Friday and Saturday probably going to have a fairly faster golf course or faster golf course, and if that's the case then you are going to find how the golf course -- we will find out how the golf course truly plays. Tomorrow it's going to play long. No question about that.
Q. 6,900 (yards) and change, par 70. With these type of conditions, is there anyway to extrapolate to a number as to in dry conditions what that might number might be?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have not seen the course enough to know. I think -- 6900 yards even by the Senior Tour standards is not a particularly long golf course anymore unless it's totally wet. And for most of the guys, it's not that long, they still hit the ball hard enough, that's fine. You get the (Tom) Watsons, Andy Beans, and what do we have for the first week this year?
Q. (Craig) Stadler.
JACK NICKLAUS: It won't be long for him. Those courses won't be long for them. Somebody 63 years old who starts to get a little longer, I just don't hit the ball that far anymore. Wet conditions usually are fairly easy conditions for most of the guys unless you can't hit it out farther enough, then you are hitting 2-, 3-, 4-iron type stuff to all the greens rather than hitting 7-, 8-, 9s. When you are hitting 7-, 8- and 9s, obviously the golf course doesn't play very hard.
Q. I was looking for if there was anyway to in your mind's eye calculate a number.
JACK NICKLAUS: I will calculate for you -- what do you want? What would you like to have? What answer would you like to have?
Q. Well, you said --
JACK NICKLAUS: For me, it's going to play like a 7,200-yard golf course. Is that what you mean?
Q. Something like that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I would think that's probably what it's going to play like.
Q. 7,200 yards ---
JACK NICKLAUS: That's what it's going to play like for me. But I don't think that -- I played with Tom (Watson) yesterday and with Tom he hits the ball long. He can hit the ball in the air long enough that he hit it 40 yards by me on occasions, most of time we were five yards apart, but where he wants to, he still has the ability -- he's young enough to be able to pop it when he wants to. I don't have that ability anymore. I extend myself every hole.
Q. Obviously you are concentrated on this course and this tournament, but when you come back to this area do you think about White Marsh, Chester Valley, some of the other courses that you have played here over the years?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. But you have got a lot of nice courses in the Philadelphia area, if that's what you mean. I have always enjoyed playing here at Merion, played here, I guess, I have played five different golf courses in tournaments maybe even more, I suppose, one senior tournament a couple years ago --- Hartefield, Merion, White Marsh Chester Valley is that the name of it? We played the -- that's a nice golf course, tough little golf course. I am trying to think of any other places I have played here. Probably not.
Q. Pine Valley?
JACK NICKLAUS: I am talk about tournaments here. I haven't played Pine Valley for 42 years. But I think that's probably all the courses I have played here. Probably played some exhibition, so forth, through the years over the years. You have got a lot of nice golf courses in the Philadelphia area. You have always have had.
Q. Pine Valley you haven't played it in 42 years?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes. I haven't played it since I have turned pro.
Q. All of these holes out here, seems like long uphill par 4s.
JACK NICKLAUS: I thought so.
Q. Even the downhill par 3s seem like long uphill par 4s. It's and all-walking tournament. How is the hip, No. 1?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't have any problem with my hip; that is not an issue, walking is not an issue for me.
Q. No. 2, Aronimink has made no secret of the fact that if this tournament goes well, they'd like to look forward to a PGA Championship or U.S. Open. From what you have seen of the course, is it up to that?
JACK NICKLAUS: I can't answer that question 'til after I played the golf tournament and see it. The golf course is -- it's an unusual design. It is a golf course that if you put the ball in the middle of the green you are going to have an uphill putt most all day long. In other words, most of the greens come in low in the front and flare in all directions. Some of them are a little different you have got some rolls to putt over and so forth. But the center of the greens are fairly benign and pretty big greens. A lot of the -- if you miss the green on the sides, but the greens are pretty big, you shouldn't miss too many of them on the side or at least if you -- you shouldn't -- you should never try to short-side yourself anyway, but particularly on this golf course, a lot of times you will go ahead and whack a ball at the pin in a corner, you don't really mind, if you miss it off the side. But here you have got a situation where coming back on the green it's going to be usually straight down the hill. Which make it a little bit more difficult particularly if it dries out a little bit. So my analysis of the golf course yesterday is basically played in the center of the green to the hole; never play the ball on the edges to the hole. I think that if I play halfway decent will produce a fairly decent score. Now on golf courses of challenge for the guys that are playing the regular Tour, that's a fairly easy situation score-wise, they will short very low scores on a course like that. I think they would shoot very low scores on this golf course presently. If you change that -- I don't think the seniors will do that. But you are talking about PGA Championship or a U.S. Open, I think they will shoot a low score on that kind of a situation. And how would you change what? Don't know. I think -- once you play the golf tournament here, see how the golf course does, how it plays, get the opinion on it, and then if you are going to go to try to get a U.S. Open or try to get a PGA Championship my guess is that you might make a couple adjustments on the golf course, to be able to create some tougher pin placements. You got some tough ones, but you usually get to them from the center of the green. A lot of courses you can't do that. A lot of courses will get -- and repel the ball from the center off the green, which means the center of the green, a lot of times is a tough putt. A lot of times you have to get the ball even almost onto the edge of the green to get a shorter putt. Augusta is much that way. Augusta you play in the center of the greens a lot of times you are putting over the hill down the ball falling away from you, which is why it is tough putting.
Q. Pine Valley, let's revisit it. You have not played there in 42 years since you turned pro. Is that because you have chosen not to or just haven't had an opportunity?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I haven't had any reason to. No tournaments there. I guess you had a Walker Cup, I couldn't play in that. No, I played there on my honeymoon and shot 74 I didn't think that was a fair test at that time. Not the golf course. Being on a honeymoon. And then I came back a year later and I shot 66, and that's the last time I played it. Enjoyed the golf course, nice golf course. But -- and I have been invited back a few times, I just have never been able. My kids, I think some of them have gone and played but I haven't. I don't think -- I think (son) Jackie has played it. I think (son) Steve might have played it. I don't think (son) Gary or (son) Michael has played it.
Q. You talked about Mike Weir earlier. When he was a boy you wrote him a letter and told him to stay playing left-handed. What does his Masters victory mean to you and have you talked to him since Augusta?
JACK NICKLAUS: What does it mean to me?
Q. Did it mean --
JACK NICKLAUS: I would say it means a lot to him. I was very happy for Mike, Mike is a nice young man. I like Mike, and didn't -- it doesn't mean anything to me other than you know, I was very pleased for him. Only thing he did he wrote me a letter which would have been like a lot of kids would write me a letter and I would respond with what I think is the appropriate answer. He asked me about whether he should stay left-handed or change back to right; what was my opinion. I said not knowing him from another kid at 13 years old, I just suggested that I said, well, whatever is natural for you, just enjoy it and have fun with the game. I had no idea he was going to be Mike Weir and a good player. I had no clue about that. But I thought what he did at Augusta was one of the gutsy performances that I have seen. Here's a guy that's not on a golf course that really long hitter -- favors a long hitter just by 10 miles, he only hit 50 percent of the greens and won the golf tournament. I mean, that's pretty -- that golf course is really difficult to chip and putt on, and I think if you go back through the years look at Augusta, probably I will bet 75 percent of the time that the guy who hit the most greens won the tournament, or at least was in the first or second or third of the greens in regulation. And Mike was certainly obviously not. But I thought -- I thought he played very with. Obviously as I said here a minute ago, I played with him Wednesday at Muirfield. We played a practice round, and you know, Mike he's 10 or 15 yards longer than I am today with equipment, but that's not a lot. Certainly to play Augusta with that kind of length is very difficult. That's a heck of a performance.
Q. Jay Sigel, the advantage he might have this week this being his home course, he's played here for four decades?
JACK NICKLAUS: Is it?
Q. Yes. Any advantage for him as you see it?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think any time you play your home golf course has got to be an advantage unless let's make him the favorite and put some real good pressure on him. (Winks) I don't know, I think Jay is a good player obviously and he's playing well right now, he won two, three weeks ago, and I would think that he's looking forward to this a lot if it's this is his home course. And I don't know -- can anybody tell me how much they changed this golf course? I have asked that question. Nobody has ever been able to answer the question.
Q. A lot of -- moved a lot of bunkers, added some bunkers, took some bunkers out, biggest change is on the greens.
JACK NICKLAUS: Green complexes are totally different?
Q. Yes, they have recaptured 25 percent of the putting surfaces?
JACK NICKLAUS: What does that mean?
Q. That were lost over the years, just shrunk.
JACK NICKLAUS: But they weren't this shape, were they?
Q. I think they returned to some of the old shapes.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think so. Do you?
Q. These are Donald Ross --
JACK NICKLAUS: That was a Ross course originally? Well, that's not Ross. Not even a glimpse of Ross out there.
Q. If you get --
JACK NICKLAUS: Oakland Hills was that way. That was redone Trent Jones. Ron Pritchard redid this one?
Q. Trent Jones did it in the mid-80s?
JACK NICKLAUS: Senior.
JACK NICKLAUS: These look like Senior's greens.
Q. Pritchard redid, undid a lot of what Jones did?
JACK NICKLAUS: Undid?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, they are the Jones Oakland Hills' flavor is what they are. That's what they look like. Now that understand, I didn't know Jones was in there somewhere. Because that's what they look like. Not that that's bad or good.
Q. The Mike Weir letter, I don't expect that you remember that specific letter, 17, 20 years ago, whatever it was, how many letters like that could you possibly respond to?
JACK NICKLAUS: Everyone that comes in.
Q. Is that right?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes.
Q. Do you remember how many letters? What that would entail, talking about hundreds of letters?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes.
Q. In the course of a month or something like that or a week?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know, I don't even ask the girls how much they do. Some of them would come in, they could answer them, they take care of them; some of them ones that people are asking me a specific question and they'd come and ask me and I'd give them an answer and some of them, they have answered the same question 100 times so they answer the same thing. And I sign it. But I have got an assistant -- my secretary, then I got a girl that works for her that helps part-time. Then another girl full-time that does all that. She does all the photographs, autographs, all the memorabilia, all that kind of stuff. I have got three girls that do that stuff constantly.
Q. Attempt is to respond to every letter?
JACK NICKLAUS: It's not attempt. We respond.
JULIUS MASON: Are you upset, Jimmy, because you did not get a letter from Jack?
JACK NICKLAUS: Only time I don't respond to something is when you get some kind of a nut case and you probably -- because every once in a while we have learned from experience that you start a correspondence with somebody and sometimes it ends up to be a lifelong project. And Phil, you know exactly what I am talking about. And so the girls take their judgment, I will get on a letter, she says this letter came in, says I suggest that we ignore, which is something that, you know, somebody coming in is off the charts with something and you are worried about that, but that's in – 99 percent of it, Jimmy, gets answered, respectfully, and properly. Probably they need to bother me with the content of the letter I would say probably half the time, maybe a third to half of the time. If that's what you mean.
Q. How long has that been going on for?
JACK NICKLAUS: 40 years. One of the first things that I did and I think Arnold (Palmer) actually was one of them that really got me on that. Of course my wife is that way, I should probably give my wife more credit than Arnold, but I give the credit to Arnold too. I found when I first turned pro that Arnold always wrote a letter to his sponsor, wrote a letter to the people and thanked him for different things so forth and on which is only common courtesy. But I found that through the years I get sponsors come back to me they will say Jack, we want to thank you for your nice letter, you are the only one we got. I bet I have had that on a hundred tournaments. It's just -- I found it's just common courtesy to thank somebody and respond to when they are asking you a question or something else. It's just the right way to do it.
Q. What are your thoughts on Annika Sorenstam's performance at Colonial and did she do the right thing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Annika was fine. I think that she decided that she would like to try and compete and play an event, something she wanted to do and the sponsor was willing to give her the invitation to do so. I don't have any problem with that. The thing that I have always felt and I have said it at the press last few weeks I said if somebody has the golf clubs and they can get in an event, I don't think you should legislate them out. In other words, years ago we tried to -- not, we - some of our guys on the Tour would try to legislate against foreign players to come in and play in our golf tournaments. Game of golf is not just an American game. It started overseas. And we have got a lot of wonderful players around the world that wanted to play in our Tour. Our guys said well, they are taking -- cherry picking our Tour and taking our money away from us. So what? If a guy is good enough or a gal is good enough who wants to play and wants to compete, and can get in the golf tournament, bring your golf clubs and come play. Don't legislate them out, just go beat them. Beat them with your clubs. That's the way I have always answered that question. You have been around me for years that's the way I have answered the question 100 times. Annika, as far as I was concerned, was no different. And I think that the only objection that some of the guys had is that she came in on a sponsors exemption and was not a person who had played our Tour or who had qualified in any way, shape or form for a man's tournament. You know, I think that's the sponsors -- that's why you give them a sponsor's invitation. They -- I probably use -- I don't know how many they had at Colonial. They had eight invitations to give who they wish to. At the Memorial tournament I think we have eight free invitations, and those invitations went to people that they thought would help the tournament, who had local interest, who had played before or and wanted to come back and play. I mean, Jerry Pate, for instance, was one that was given an exemption. Jerry hadn't played in any tournaments for a long time, and -- but Jerry is 49 and he wanted to play the Memorial tournament one more time before he turned 50 and the Captains Club does it. I have zero to do with the exemption. And my son Gary got an exemption. Gary has played the Tour for three years. He's played well at the Memorial Tournament every year and he's a local with Columbus and Ohio State; they felt like he was one that would add to the tournament. They had another boy from Columbus--- I am trying to think, Ben Curtis from Columbus who qualified through the Tour, what the Nike Tour -- Nationwide Tour?
Q. Regular Tour.
JACK NICKLAUS: He qualified -- he had not played all that well but they gave him it for the same type of reason. They gave let's see.
JACK NICKLAUS: Peter Jacobsen had supported the tournament for years. Peter wanted to play, he asked -- they had like 54 letters from players asking for exemptions. Now, at Colonial I am sure they had much of the same situation. It's a sponsor choice as to what they do. And you know, does that answer your question. I think Annika was offered 10 exemptions from 10 different tournaments and I think she picked Colonial as one that she wanted to play and I don't think that Annika is interested in playing the men's Tour. I think she wanted to play an event. At least that's what she said. That is from what I have read. I have played a lot of golf to -- not a lot, a reasonable amount of golf with Annika, very nice and good player, nice gal, I don't think she wants to abuse something. I don't think she's trying to prove anything. She wanted to in her mind see if she could play in the tournament and see if she could compete. Biggest objection the guys had you couldn't find out who was leading the tournament, won it, or who was even playing except for her. But for the Colonial that's what they wanted. That was a pretty good bit of publicity for them.
Q. I know you have played in a thousand pro-ams. When you play with that amateur you know he's scared to death. Anything you tell them to lighten it up?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have a variety of different lines I use, but I think I always remember the one that I used when I played with Steve Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers in Hawaii one time. Brother Rudy came to me he says, Jack, he says you won't believe, Steve was up all night he got sick, he got nervous he couldn't sleep, he just had a horrible night. He says he is so nervous playing you wouldn't believe it. So I got to the first fee and I walked up to Steve and I looked at him, he looked like death warmed over. I put my arm around him I said, Steve, God, I didn't sleep a wink last night knowing I was going to play with you. (Laughs) Sometimes I do that with the amateurs. They get a big kick out of it. It relaxes them or sometimes they will hit a shot that on the first hole or something where they make -- the ball rolls up on the green and I would say I never thought of playing it that way. Try to get a little lightness out of it have some fun and try to relax them. Sometimes you can't get that out of them. You can't get anything out of them, they are absolute basket cases the whole day. Sometimes guys really respond and play well. The Pro-Am is their day, not my day. It's a practice round for me. And I am going to play my practice round. I am going to go around do what I need on the golf course to work on what I need to work on and I want them to enjoy the day and have fun. I have made a lot of acquaintances, business acquaintances from that and just personal acquaintances through Pro-Ams, a lot of guys that I still see a lot.
JULIUS MASON: Jack Nicklaus, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
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