The 2004 Senior PGA Championship
A PGA of America Event. Click to learn more

Interview with Jack Nicklaus

May 26, 2004

Note: The news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations of the PGA of America

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome Jack Nicklaus to the interview room, joining us at the 65th Senior PGA Championship. Somebody very, very, very familiar with Valhalla Golf Club not only in the design mode.

JACK NICKLAUS: You got a leak in your tent.

JULIUS MASON: But also a playing participant.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm going to move over here.

JULIUS MASON: Jack, welcome, once again, back to Louisville, Valhalla. Some opening thoughts and then we'll go to Q and A, please.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't have much thoughts that except this used to be usually the week we played Muirfield and I can understand why we're not playing it this week, you've got this weather. So maybe we'll have good weather next week. I don't know. But this time of year it can be wet. The golf course I understand from everybody told me at the beginning of the week I had so many guys come to me and say how good the golf course was. And how much they liked it and how nicely it was playing. And I went out today after the rain last night and I said, man, this is a golf course they liked last night? I'm back here hitting driver and 2-iron to everything. The golf course is in nice shape actually, it's just wet.

JULIUS MASON: Questions?

Q. Mr. Nicklaus, when you designed this golf course is this what you saw in the final analysis as it's filled in over the years?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, every golf course evolves. I think all golf courses evolve. I think it's a never ending process as a golf course. You start out with a shell of what you start to do and then you just keep fiddling with it and adjusting it and doing things to it and the PGA has made a lot of changes in here. They have done them with what they say is my consent and what I mean by that is they run them all by me, but they're basically changes they want to make, not what some of them what I think should be here. But they're fine. The things they have done are fine. But I'm saying that there's some things that I think need to be adjusted on the golf course that we haven't gotten to yet and I certainly hope we do. But the golf course is really pretty darn nice golf course. And it's doesn't need a lot done to it, but there's always little tweaks that you eventually make with anything. And the look of the golf course and the what you call the finished product is, yeah, pretty close to what we envisioned when we stared it. Is that what you meant? Um-hum.

Q. First of all, how many holes did you get through before the rain?

JACK NICKLAUS: I played nine holes.

Q. Still on the front. Just talk about the front and some of the changes, especially 2. Now playing as a par-4 and?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the first hole, I'll just go through it. First hole basically is exactly the same. There really hasn't been any changes on the first hole.

The second hole, the guys just beat up the par-5 any more and really it wasn't room to take back a par-5. You could have gone back on the tee, but you really didn't have a landing area. So really it's probably best off to change the tee shot a little bit and which is fine. I think the green needed to be changed a little bit. That was where I was talking about it. I think the green need to be changed a little bit to really fit a par-4. Not much, but a little bit.

And the third hole is nothing been done to it. The third hole is just fine.

Fourth hole really nothing has been done. The hole is fine. It's a short par-4. Got a very difficult green. But that's fine. You got your opportunity to take your gamble and take it over the bunkers or you play it out short to the right and you play a longer club in. You can hit a driver or 3-wood over the bunkers and play a sand wedge in. It is your choice. And I think that hole place very nicely.

They put in I don't know whether they moved the tee back further on 5. I think they probably did. But they also added three bunkers on the left side. The tee we were playing is probably too short for the hole. We probably need a tee somewhere in the middle to really make the landing area effective. Because most of the guys will play 3-wood this week off the tee and I don't think that's really what we had in mind on a 427 yards I think we're playing it as a hole. It should be about 440, 445 because it's a little downhill and the ball runs. But the bunkers that the PGA added and they ask me about those bunkers, obviously, and I think those fit in there nicely. They framed the hole nicely and it works quite nice. We didn't change anything on the green there. That's fine.

They have added some yardage to 6. I don't think we'll play it, but it really doesn't make any difference because we hit 3-wood off the tee. If they go back we'll hit driver, so it will be fine. But there's nothing there where the changes been made there and the hole place nicely. I played 3-wood and 5-iron, I suppose I was on the left side of the fairway, I always played it with like a 5, 6, 7-iron type shot. If I'm playing that, the other guys, my irons are old lofts, so what I use for a club generally speaking is my 6-iron is a 7-iron today in anybody elses bag. By the loft of the club. I played the same lofts I played when I was 11 years old. So they don't play those lofts any more. I do, but nobody else does.

7. 7, I have done a nice job with 7. I put it in nice shape. The guys earlier in the week were driving the ball at the end of the fairway on the left side and getting home. Today I hit it down the fairway, but I rolled about a foot out, so I ended up not being able to hit to the green, I had to hit to the right of the green. And that hole place very nicely. You can bite off what you want, try to take it into the green. If the hole's firm, it's not going, it's not a difficult par-5. If the hole's wet, then you got to make up your mind because you miss the fairway on the right side, you got to figure out where you're going to hit your next shot. I mean miss the fairway on the left side, I'm sorry. If you miss there, because again, to get it to cross over the other side you got to hit is 140, 150 out of the rough, you might not be able to carry it that far. And if you drive it right, you know you're going to be driver, 3-wood and probably a 9-iron or 8-iron. So it's a pretty decent golf hole. It's good options, good gamble.

8th hole they put a little hollow down in the fairway rather than the rough. Which is fine. That makes it a little bit easier because you can probably putt the ball out of that hollow rather than have to play a sand wedge out of the high rough. And it's a nice little hole, nice little length. Just got to be a little careful with what the tee shots you play. Going to be a lot of balls in that hollow.

9th hole they have added some bunkers. I think the bunkers were added more for definition of the golf hole. I don't think they were necessarily necessary, from a playability standpoint, from a visual standpoint they look quite nice. But from a playability standpoint, frankly, they make the hole easier. Because it's much easier to play the ball out of a bunker than it is out of the rough. And that's what the guys will say. So that's the way I feel about it. As it relates to that. I have not seen what's the changes we have made on the back nine. I know we made some adjustments at 10.

11, I'm not sure. Okay. 11.

Number 12, put a new tee in, but I don't think we're going to play that tee. I told them I didn't want a new tee in. Maybe they didn't.

13, they added another little bunker on it, which I haven't seen. I approve the location of it though.

14, they didn't make any changes.

15, we added some yardage to it and put a bunker on the left side of the hole, I think.

Is that a rat in the attic? That's what my house sounds like sometime with the rats running through it or raccoons or whatever we get in the house.

Anyway, so 15 will probably be a little stronger golf hole.

16, they got a new tee back, which we won't play, I can't imagine. They're going to change the green at 16. They really and I never really was wild about what I did at 16. So I don't have any objection to that. We'll adjust that green and make it a little different green.

17, I think we played the back tee when I was here in the PGA in '70. I don't think they put another tee in since then. And we changed that green before. We altered that green. It's in the center, it was too knobby. We changed that before.

Then 18 we brought the bunker in a little bit on the tee shot and it was really almost out of play before. I think it probably brings it into play more and it probably works better. So that's fine. That's really what I know about the golf course.

And I haven't seen the back nine changes myself physically. I think that's pretty much what they were, weren't they?

Q. When you won your Major championships do you remember going into it each time thinking, yeah, I could really have a chance to win this time or were there ever times when you won where you felt you were going into it not playing that well and how?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have gone into a lot of Major championships not playing very well. This is one of them.

(Laughter.) I don't think that was so funny.

(Laughter.)

But the I've gone into them not playing very well and won several of them. Absolutely. I've also gone in playing very, very well and walked out, how in the world could I possibly do that? You know. You never know. All you do is prepare yourself. You try to do the best you can in preparing yourself for a golf tournament and get yourself to where you can play and then you go from there. And frankly, I have not done that here.

Q. Do you have to have a different mindset going into a Major?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don't know, it depends. I don't think you have to have a different mindset, you just have to have a mindset that that's what you're trying to prepare for. I always built my season around four golf tournaments. And then and just played what I knew to play. On the outside I'd prepare myself golf wise and tournament toughness wise, for those tournaments. And once I got to the Senior TOUR, then I had 8 tournaments to try to do that on and I couldn't really prepare properly for 8 tournaments. I couldn't get myself ready to play that much golf. So as I started, kept playing a few of the other Majors and then physically when I got so that they really weren't, I really wasn't a factor so much in the other ones, then I would concentrate more on the Seniors and, frankly, I enjoyed the Senior Majors, I enjoyed them a lot. When my golf game was good enough to be able to pay in them, the Senior PGA Championship was and I always wanted to play. Most of the time it was in Palm Beach Gardens. I won it in '71 and I didn't win it after that and I had several other chances to win it and just didn't finish it. And then but this is a good championship, it's our oldest championship as far as the Seniors go. And it's a good one. They have always done a good job of preparing the golf course, they have always been last year at Aronimink it was prepared very nicely, this year, Akron, the year before, they have all been prepared very nicely.

Q. When you are playing a practice round, how much are you thinking really about preparing for the tournament today versus looking around, checking out the course and thinking about how much?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not worried about the golf course. It's here. I'm trying to prepare for a tournament. I'm a little disappointed that I don't, it doesn't look like I'm going to get to see the other nine holes before I tee off tomorrow. And I don't think I've ever done that in a golf tournament or at least in a Major. Now I went to Muirfield yesterday, and I've got a little bit of things I got to do up there. So I just took advantage of a day and played golf, I just played nine holes, but I played golf up there yesterday. And tried to prepare myself from a physical standpoint and I was using today to see this golf course and play it. And I didn't get that done. It was my judgment in error or error in judgment on my part. Because for me to be ready for this tournament to play on Thursday, I needed to be able to play it today. Now so my, what I'll have to do tomorrow morning is I'll tee off on the back nine and at nine I have not played. So I'm going to have to play from memory a little bit, playing around, unless this thing breaks up in couple hours I can get out and get in the back nine. If that happens then I'll do it. But if it doesn't, that's the way it is. And I'll just have to get through the back nine and then I'll play the front nine and I have played that, I know what I want to do on it. I don't know how, since 2000 I'm, there has been some changes in my game, you know. A lot.

Q. If I could take you back to 2000, one of more memorable moments for a lot of people, not just in this area, was your final round on Friday with Tiger Woods. Can you reflect on that now that you're here today?

JACK NICKLAUS: Isn't much to reflect on, I missed the cut and he didn't.

(Laughter.)

Sort of the way I look at it. I mean, it's the first only time I've ever played competitively with Tiger in the same group. And I enjoyed that very much. He played very well. I'm not sure, was he leading the tournament after two rounds or close? He was pretty close, I think. Did he win? Did he? I didn't remember that either. But anyway, the he was in a playoff action, wasn't he.

Q. Bob May?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah. Okay. Okay. So but anyway, he obviously played very well. I enjoyed watching him play. I think I made the comment in here in the press room that I know why I'm getting out of tournament golf because watching the ability of Tiger Woods and others, particularly Tiger, but those others too, that I just don't have the game to compete with that any more. And so that was a wise choice on my part. Now I'm back playing again, but playing a little bit, but not much. But the it was a I enjoyed that very much. It was fun. A lot of people call it I passed the baton at that point in time, you know, you might say. I think it was passed a little before that, but that was sort of the official passing, when we last played. I did that with, I played with Gene Sarazen in the PGA Championship in 1971. At Palm Beach Gardens and Sarazen was near the end of his career and not playing very much and I was paired with him the first two rounds and I won the tournament and he played and he shot I think he shot 146 and missed the cut and not dissimilar to what Tiger and I had here in 2000.

Q. You talked a lot lately about giving up tournament golf, but you haven't put a timetable. Are you thinking about that?

JACK NICKLAUS: About another 10 days.

Q. Is that for real?

JACK NICKLAUS: Probably. I'm not sure. I really don't know. I'll play some more golf. But I committed Muirfield Village I want to play anyway. I may continue to play at the Memorial whether I'm playing tournament golf or not. And I wasn't sure whether I was going to play here or not. And I've played no golf lately at all and I said, well, you know if I'm going to go it from Muirfield, the last place I am going to play, I need to play before that. And what better place than here. I had to commit here, what, six weeks in advance as far as the entries closed or whatever it is, and so, and plus this golf course is one that I feel like the Gahms have put an awful lot into this place and what they feel and they were very loyal to me and I felt like if I'm going, that I needed to really do that. And be here. So that's why I'm here. I'm not here because I'm playing the Senior PGA Championship, I'm playing here because of them, that's why I'm here. And the anyway, that's and I don't have anything else on my schedule for the rest of the year. I'm going to play father and sons and Skins games and that kind of stuff, you know, if I'm invited. But tournament golf, I don't see myself playing much. I might play an odd tournament here and there, but only if I, only if the mood strikes me and I want to go play.

Q. But you sound pretty solid about 10 days being it.

JACK NICKLAUS: For right now. I don't have any I've entered absolutely nothing beyond Muirfield. And if I play, beyond that, I might. Who knows, I may go out here and play well this week and next week and decide I might play the rest of the year. But that's sort of been my thought. I prepared for this tournament with five days of fishing in the Keys.

(Laughter.)

So I got back on Sunday afternoon and rushed to the golf course and hit 2 hours of balls and hit, played hit balls and played nine holes on Monday and played nine holes on Tuesday and here I am. I played nine holes on Wednesday. I got to go out and play 18 tomorrow.

(Laughter.)

That's a lot of golf for me.

Q. Is that because you just haven't found that much to be encouraged about on the golf course or you just were interested in doing other things?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm interested in doing other things. I've had enough golf. It's not I love to play the game of golf. Absolutely love to play the game. And I like nothing better than playing competitive golf. Competitive golf has been my life, I love it. And I absolutely I just I die for it. And I just absolutely it's what I want to do. But I'm not competitive any more. And I said I would play the game as long as I was competitive and as long as I could enjoy it. And I think the two of them fall hand in hand. If you're not competitive it's pretty hard to enjoy just going out and beating a ball around. I do not enjoy that at all. And it's what I enjoy is being in the hunt. Now I had I don't know that I have even played this year if I hadn't play well in Hawaii. I went to Hawaii only because at the middle of last summer I told the Mastercard people that I would come and play. And that was before I figured out what I was going to so I entered the tournament and I said, well, I said, and then they had the Skins Game. And I said two weeks in Hawaii, nothing wrong with that. And I shot my age at the Skins Game. And the I played the Mastercard and I finished sixth I think. Something like that. Played pretty darn good tournament. And I actually, if I had a chance on about 15, if I made a couple of birdies to have a chance to win that golf tournament. And I say, well, you know, maybe I'll play a little bit more. Then I went and played Naples. And then I went out and played Newport Beach, because I felt like if I needed to play something before the Masters, because that was my, I didn't know whether I was going to play Augusta or not play Augusta. But I wasn't going to go to Augusta not having played enough golf where I felt like I could play. So I went in to Augusta with an optimistic attitude on how I was playing. And actually hit the ball fairly decently at Augusta. Last nine holes I did miss five fairways which that I only had one bogey out of that, but what it did, it kept me from having a chance to make any birdie and kept me from making the cut. So I thought, but I thought that 75, 75, I think that's the same score I shot the first time I play. I shot 74, 76 or 76, 74. And when I was 19. They say you come in as a baby and leave as a baby sometimes, you know. And no matter what you do in this life. But anyway, I shot 150, but I really played a lot better than that. And then I made the commitment to go to the BMW tournament because of my boys who wanted to play. And they hadn't played any golf either, but I said, well, why am I going up there if you guys aren't even going to prepare to play? So anyway, I played nine holes between the Masters and the time I went up there. And I thought I played pretty well. I had never missed a fairway in two days. I never hit a bunker shot and I only hit one chip shot in two days, shot 3-under par. Putted really well. And I hit a par-5 in two. So you know how many putts I made. And I missed the cut by shooting 3-under par. Well, since then I think I played two nine holes of golf up until this week. And I just no, I think I did play 18 holes, I played a week ago Monday I opened up a course in Memphis. And, but outside of that I played no golf. If I was really wanting to be a competitive golfer, and play golf, I would have played golf. And I've always never come into something not prepared. And I just don't have a desire to prepare. So maybe I'll change, maybe I'll get something that sparks me, something that kicks me in the rear end, but it's going to have to be a pretty good kick. Meaning a good tournament. This week or next week to make me play much more.

Q. There's been talk that you might come over to Scotland for The Open at St. Andrews next year. Is that

JACK NICKLAUS: It's a possibility. As I said, I might play an odd tournament, that's why I say that. When I was at St. Andrews in 2000 they were scheduled to have St. Andrews in 2006. And I said I was talking to Peter Dawson, and I said, I said, "Peter, I'm going to be 66 then, I won't be eligible any more." I said, "Darn", I said, "I wish you might have it had one year earlier, I might have come back one more time." And he said, "Would you come back in 2005 if we had it then?" I said, "There's a pretty good chance of that." And anyway, before they announced it, they changed it to 2005, which was a very nice gesture. And if I feel like I'm still playing golf and feel like I can enjoy it then I'll probably go. That's the kind of thing. I'll play an odd tournament and that type of thing. I mean, I said at Augusta that I said I may have played my last. Who knows, next year if I feel like playing, I'll play. But, you know, I'm back, I'm not going to play touring tournament golf. Play an odd event.

Q. What's given you the spark then? If it's not golf what kind of things are giving you the spark or the excitement if it's not competitive golf?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, frankly I find an awful lot of competition in trying to catch a fish properly. I enjoy that. It's something that I'm getting better at all the time. Particularly with a fly rod. Which is what I enjoy fishing with. And I fish all over the world with it, whenever I go. A lot of the golf courses that I select to do usually are close to good trout streams or something. So I make sure that they are. And so I like to do that. And my wife likes to fish. So the two of us can go trout fishing together. We can go bone fishing together or do whatever we want to do. And frankly my wife has spent a whole bunch of weekends watching me hit a golf ball, it might be time I spent some time doing things she likes to do. I got 17 grand kids. I'll have to say that the maybe it's a little bit too much little league baseball.

(Laughter.)

We go, we start at I mean we start at tee ball at nine o'clock, coaches pitch at 10:30, minor league at noon, Major league at 2:30, we don't have any in the next league, what's that intermediate or whatever it is. We don't have one there yet, but we will next year. So we'll have I have a whole bunch of kids and the girls are playing softball, so weekends, that's I don't think there's many rounds of golf any more, that's why, in the country, I think that all of the kids, all the people with kids are watching the kids involved in that. And they play golf, but they don't play as much. I don't think it's very, very I think that's a very accurate statement. And I think that's why the number of rounds are down. Because little league is so organized with all the different sports. And that doesn't change with basketball and football and soccer and what have you. And I frankly don't make anywhere near as many as my wife does, but I make a fair number of them. And I enjoy that and I still enjoy doing things with the kids and my boys and fishing and that. I've done enough hunting. I'm probably not going to do much of that any more. I think I enjoy the fishing more. I enjoy releasing my fish, basically.

Q. Can you be competitive this week and what kind of showing would you be happy with here this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: Winning. That's what I would be happy with.

Q. Is that it though?

JACK NICKLAUS: That is all I've ever played for. That's why I probably don't want to play any more because winning is really an issue with me that is probably beyond my ability at this point in my life. And that is the only reason I ever play. For me to go out and finish 10th in a golf tournament? Yuck. Just absolutely did nothing for me. Did I have a nice tournament? Yeah I had a nice tournament for who I am and what my age is. But is that what I want to do? No. That's not what I want to do. I think we all should do what we want to do, don't you? If we can, if we have that luxury.

Q. You were talking about the Gahm family, this is the third Major here in eight years at Valhalla. Just talk about Dwight had his dream when he called you, just talk about the course and three Majors in 8 years for any course is

JACK NICKLAUS: That's very nice. Well Dwight, the first day I was on this property he looked at me and he said, "Jack", he said, "do you think you can do a golf tournament here and have a PGA Championship on it?" I said, "Dwight, I think we can do that. And I think actually you're in the right city for it too." And what I meant by that is that you look at the places that have a hard time attracting the crowds and so forth and so on, it's where the sports dollar is really very competitive. New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, places where Atlanta is not as bad, but Atlanta too, but places where there's a lot of competition with major sports. That's why the Memorial tournament was so great. We had an Ohio State football, we had six Saturdays of that, and wasn't anything else for people to go do. So the golf became a very, very big deal. The Memorial golf tournament has been a very big deal in Columbus, Ohio. Well, Louisville, you got Louisville basketball, what else have you got? Louisville football. And Kentucky basketball. That's about it.

Q. AAA baseball.

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, AAA, but that isn't going to draw flies. You're not going to do that. AAA is not going to draw anything. You know that. And not that, not that they're bad, it's bad baseball, because it's very good baseball. I mean, I grew up in Columbus that had an AAA team and I used to watch it as a kid and loved it. But you're talking about competition for the dollar. And Louisville is right in that same situation, same as Columbus is. You sit there and there's the ability to hold a major golfing event and people are going to support that because they want to bring in a first class, top dollar deal. And that's what they have done. And so that was what the Gahms did. And I told them they were in the right place to get it. And I thought the PGA of America would look so kindly on it and they did look so kindly on it they bought the golf course. So that's kind of what I did. I think that the golf course has come along very nicely. I know that the PGA's made some changes on it and they have done it with my, with my blessing. And, but it's just evolved into a place that's going to have Major championships as long as the PGA owns this, it's going to have Major championships for a long, long time. And Louisville is going to be blessed with a lot of very, very good golf for a lot of years to come.

JULIUS MASON: What a way to end this news conference. Jack Nicklaus, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. Thanks.

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