KELLY ELBIN: It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this conference call leading up to the season’s final major, the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.
The PGA Championship will be contested on the East Course at Oak Hill during the week of August 5 through 11 and we are delighted to have with us today, PGA Member Jack Nicklaus, who won his fifth and final PGA Championship at Oak Hill in 1980. That year, Jack was the only player to break par at the PGA Championship finishing at 6under par 274 and winning by seven shots over Andy Bean. That was a record margin of victory and it stood for just over 3 it years until Rory McIlroy’s eightshot victory a year ago at Kiawah Island.
Jack, welcome. I’m sure you have many fond memories of Oak Hill and winning that championship which tied you with Rochester native, Walter Hagen, for the most PGA Championship victories of all time.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I obviously enjoyed it. I remember that was the year that I came to Oak Hill having won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol and I remember following that, I had a letdown and I had a hard time getting myself back up from a ballstriking standpoint.
I was up there playing the weekend before with my son, Jack. We were playing, and I was hitting the ball fair, but I was just putting awful. And Jackie gave me a putting lesson on taking the heel of my putter through the line and breaking it off; I was breaking off my stroke. And anyway, that week, I never did hit the ball very well, but I absolutely ran the tables with my putter. Everything I drew back went in the hole.
It was one of those weeks that I just turned around and I make a mistake, and all of a sudden I hole a 30footer and I just started chuckling and I’d think, okay, here we go, let’s keep on going. But it was fun.
I love Oak Hill. It’s a wonderful golf course. It’s changed a lot through the years, from the first time that I played the U.S. Open there, I think it was 1966, if I recall ’68, and the 18th hole was changed greatly, a couple holes on the front nine were changed and I think the par3 15th was changed. There were some holes that were changed that made the golf course a little bit more difficult.
But it was still Oak Hill and Oak Hill was still a beautiful, northern, treelined, softlyrolling piece of property that was very enjoyable to play.
KELLY ELBIN: Why do you think Oak Hill has stood the test of time throughout the years? It’s going to be the 11th national championship to be played there when the PGA Championship is played in just a couple weeks.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don’t really know, except that as I described earlier, it’s a good test. Nobody has ever really chewed it apart, and it’s one you’ve got to play smart on, but you’ve got to control your golf ball and you’ve also got to putt, because the greens are not easy greens.
KELLY ELBIN: Let’s take a few more minutes and we’ll discuss a few items of note and we’ll move on to questions.
Want to start first with this year, 2013, this Sunday to the day, marked the anniversary of your first PGA Championship victory on I’m sure what you remember was an incredibly sweltering day and I guess a sweltering week at Dallas Athletic Club in 1963. What do you recall from that week as you came from behind to win your first PGA Championship?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, I don’t remember much about the Championship itself. I guess I did start, I think I started the last round with an eagle, if I’m not mistaken.
KELLY ELBIN: You eagled the first hole and you had some birdies on 8, 12 and 15 that really helped put it away.
JACK NICKLAUS: Basically, what really happened that week, when they used to have the British Open and the PGA backtoback, which was really kind of silly, but that’s what they had. I think that’s probably why Hogan did not play in the fourth major because he couldn’t get back to play in it. It was before the time of jets.
So I was fortunate to be able to get back, and we came from where I lost by a shot at Lytham, I sort of felt like I gave that one away. And then bogeying the last two holes, going from a 50degree championship or a 55degree championship to a 100 or 110degree temperature, it was a big change. I think a lot of the guys got back, and I think they were probably pretty tired from the British Open and I think they were pretty tired from the weather just absolutely beat them down. I guess I was a young guy that I handled those conditions pretty well.
I remember we had a fair amount of rain, and I don’t think we had a lot of wind, but we had some really hot, hot weather, and it was I just sort of managed my game pretty well, played a good last round and won the championship.
KELLY ELBIN: You closed with 68. Bruce Cranston led by three strokes going into the final round. That eagle on the first hole, you don’t have a lot of golf courses that have par 5s in major championships; Riviera comes to mind. But to be able to eagle the first hole of a major championship has to provide, I would imagine, incredible confidence in continuing the round.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t remember how long the first hole was. I don’t think it was a particularly long hole, because I think I mate maybe I don’t remember, it was like a driver and a 5iron or something. It would be a par 4 today.
But the golf course has changed. Matter of fact, I changed the golf course quite a bit. I don’t even remember what I changed, it’s been awhile since I’ve been there.
You know, it was a golf course that was chosen for the PGA Championship and you say, well, the conditions in August are not something that’s supposed to suit your game. But the golf course may suit a lot of guys’ games, but that’s not what the game is. The game is to change yourself to fit the golf course and that’s why you play different courses every week. Obviously I was able to do that that week, and as were several other guys that were close. I guess I was lucky and prevailed.
KELLY ELBIN: This year at Oak Hill you are involved n something very different and unique that was announced on Monday, the PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus. You were good enough to partner with the PGA on this, and I know you spent some time with Kerry Haigh, our Chief Championships Officer, about this.
Can you talk further about what this Pick the Hole Location Challenge is and what it means for fans of the game?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the 15th hole is the last par 3 at Oak Hill. It’s got water on the right. It’s a hole that was redesigned. I don’t remember whether the original hole had water on it. I doubt if it did.
Kerry had come up with what he thought would be the most likely four pin placements on the green, which I think were front part of the green, I think sort of middle left, middle threequarter back, and then all the way back.
And then to get the fans involved, I think it was a great idea, because the response has been terrific to it. People have been very involved in being interested and saying, hey, I’m going to be part of the PGA Championship and I think that’s what The PGA of America wants. They want to include people in the game and grow the game and make sure that people feel like they are part of what the Championship is. I think it’s kind of a neat thing.
I tried to get the PGA to do it all four holes, and I said, well, maybe that was a little bit too much the first year, all four pin placements, maybe too much the first year, seeing if the weather conditions and everything it was going to change. One was the last round, and I’m not going to divulge which one I think it will be, but I think there was one that’s a little bit more difficult than the others, and my bet is that’s the one they are picking.
KELLY ELBIN: And fans can go onto PGA.COM now through the third round of the PGA Championship, August 10 to vote for the one that they want and can vote once a day.
You made a holeinone, I believe, on that hole in 1980 in a practice round.
JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you for reminding me. I didn’t remember.
Q. Lee Trevino is going to be honored at the PGA later on in August, and I wanted to ask you if you had played with him yet or what you knew about him by the time he was in the hunt in 1968 at that U.S. Open, and in that final round, you came in seven strokes behind. Was there a point that you thought you might have a chance there, and also, at what point did you feel like it wasn’t going to be your day?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I go back on my first time that I saw Trevino. He played Baltusrol in ’67 and he finished fifth, and we were in Cleveland the next week. And I saw this fellow on the practice tee hitting balls that I didn’t recognize. I said: Who is that?
And they said: That’s the new fellow, Lee Trevino.
I said: Oh, that’s the kid who finished fifth last week.
Yeah, that was the kid. Anyway, that was my first sighting of Trevino.
I don’t know whether we played that year or not. But at Oak Hill, the last round, I thought that I was going to win the tournament and Trevino holed some unbelievable putts coming down the stretch. Every time I seemed to do something well, he seemed to, he was hitting it he was not hitting it straight for him, but he was holing everything he looked at coming out of here with a 25footer on two or three holes coming back coming down the stretch and that certainly made the difference.
I think that that tournament itself, obviously, established Lee Trevino, and from then on, he was always a force to be reckoned with. He was a terrific player, he was a great competitor, and he’s become a great friend.
Q. Lee talked about this it a bit during Merion, in ’71, you took him aside in the locker room. What motivated you to sit him down and tell him about how good you thought he could be?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don’t remember I did that at Merion. But Lee had always talked about, he couldn’t play Augusta. He always said there were certain courses that he couldn’t play.
And I said: Lee, don’t be ridiculous. I said: You are an unbelievable ballstriker. You can hit any shot there is. You’re as good as I’ve ever seen, and you know, I think that don’t put yourself down. You can win all these tournaments.
He won everything but the Masters, and I still think that had he not had an attitude in that direction, he would have won that, too.
You know, why did I do that? Well, I like him. I like to see guys play well. I have never had any hesitation to help a fellow competitor. Didn’t bother me. He still had to beat me, and of course, I had to beat him. So for me the better he was playing, that was fine with me; all I had to do was play better.
Q. I’m at one of your other courses, Glen Abbey, for the Canadian Open, and I wonder if you can talk about a couple memories you have of the course, finishing second seven times over the course of your career?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that’s about what my memory is, back in the Canadian Open, way too many times. Barbara said, “I’m going to keep sending you back until you do it right,” and I never quite did it right.
There was a couple times I was going to win the golf tournament and one that I probably I always say I should have won and almost did win was I think the year that Norman won.
And I remember the 17th hole, they had parking behind the green, and they had took and moved the outofbounds stakes and Norman hit the ball, which would have been outofbounds and they had moved the stakes. So he ended up being inbounds and I think he got back and made a par or bogey on the hole and ended up beating me, otherwise I would have won the tournament.
You know, I kept saying, I said after the tournament was over, I said, what was all that about?
Oh, they have parking issue and they changed the outofbounds to accommodate it. It was kind of funny.
But it seemed like everything I seemed to do at the Canadian Open turned out to be a secondplace finish. I know the 18th hole at Royal Montreal, I hit 3wood off the tee and hit it in the water and made bogey on the hole and lost to tie with Weiskopf and lost in a playoff; and St. George’s, I think finished second, and I finished second at Glen Abbey several times.
I always enjoyed the Canadian Open and always seemed to play pretty well there and never seemed to quite I was always the bridesmaid and never quite the bride on that one.
Q. Glen Abbey as a course you designed?
JACK NICKLAUS: It was the first course that I ever did by myself. I say by myself; obviously I had my team. That was Jay Morrish and Bob Cupp were working for me.
When Reggie Acomb, who was up there, came to us and said, you know, the golf course was there and he had been there for many years and all this kind of stuff. I kept looking at the property and I said, you know, Muirfield is the first golf course that it was ever done from its inception for a gallery. That was used mostly with natural terrain. Well, Glen Abbey was a big flat plain up on top of the hill above the creek, Sixteen Mile Creek, is it? I can’t remember. I think that’s the name of it.
Anyway, I sort of came up with the idea of putting the clubhouse in the center of the property and then having like spokes of a wheel going out and having the galleries go out on those spokes. Or if you stayed in the clubhouse, you could see an awful lot of golf right from there. You could go out to the driving area and you sort of follow that driving area from hole to hole on the driving area, you see back holes of the clubhouse or all the holes away or you can go on the outside of it and see all that.
Originally it was designed to see from the top of the hill holes to the bottom, but environmentally they didn’t want us to remove the trees on the hill to get a window through there so that never actually worked. I thought it was a unique golf course, and still is a unique golf course.
It’s obviously been popular for the Canadian Open because you continue to come back there, 26 times is it now, something like that. I’m very proud of that. It’s a golf course that we’ve fiddled with it at times and I think that the RCGA has respected what we have done up there and every time they want to make a major change or
omething, they come back to us and had us work and do it, which I appreciated.
As I say, it’s my first golf course by myself, so one that obviously is very near and dear to my heart.
Q. I think the record is in eight of your 18 professional Majors, you came from behind on Sunday. Talk about what you did from a course management or strategy standpoint when you found yourself trailing going into a major. And then the second part, is that a talent in and of itself for an ability of a player to comefrombehind and win on the final day?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, I don’t know whether you’re accurate on that, but I think I was ahead, I think of the 18, I think I was ahead 1 times, so maybe it was six. I might have got behind in a round that I was leading and then came back, so it could be to get to that number, I don’t know exactly.
You know, I never was a great frontrunner from the standpoint of being comfortable with that. Obviously I like to be in the lead and I like to stay in the lead and I like to win. But I seem to get a little too conservative sometimes when I was a frontrunner. I still won most of the time. I think I won 11 out of the 12 times or something that I was leading going into the last round, so I didn’t actually give it up. It’s just I was more apprehensive about it.
But to me, coming down the last nine holes, if I was like within a shot or two, I sort of always liked that challenge because it really put a fire under me and said, okay, now you’ve really got to go play. I don’t know, some mentality, I think Tiger’s mentality is the other way. He sort of looks ahead and he tries to get ten shots ahead. I’ve never tried to do that; although I have won some Majors by pretty good numbers, I guess the Masters by, what, nine, and the PGA Championship by seven, something like that.
You know, it’s kind of fun to be had, but yet it’s harder on you.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, there’s a conversation on the range at the British Open last week and one player was being very complimentary of the PGA saying it was definitely one of the most important events, except for the other three Majors, and I’m wondering, you probably have written this in your book, and I don’t recall, but the PGA is such a wonderful event and it’s old; it dates back to 1916. Wondering, first of all, if you can enumerate the things that make the PGA such a special major. And secondly, you won a PGA in the first part of the year, I believe ’71 in Florida, and I wonder if the PGA wouldn’t benefit from jumping ahead in the schedule again perhaps some year.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, let’s see, the first part of your question, what makes the PGA special. Well, it’s the championship of my organization that I belong to. I’m a professional golfer and I’m a member of the PGA, Professional Golfers Association of America, and you’re always proud to win the championship of your organization.
The PGA of America has been around a long time. They have tried to grow the game of golf. They have been supportive of the game of golf. They have taught the game of golf at every course around the country, they are a big part of what’s going on. So their championship, our championship, has been one that’s always been special to players that are a member of that association.
I think if you look through the years, the field of the PGA Championship is as strong if not stronger than any of the other championships. I think the other ones, the qualifications have are changed through the years, but for many years, the PGA had probably one of the strongest fields.
And the second part of your question?
Q. You won a PGA in 1971, I believe in Florida. Wondering if the championship wouldn’t benefit from another visit.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that if you’re going to go into the Southern part of the United States, particularly Florida or Arizona, Southern California, maybe not Southern California, but maybe even south Texas, you might benefit well, it’s probably Florida and Arizona. If you’re going to go there, I think you would benefit if you did have it early in the year.
I think those are hard places to hold a summer tournament, and there are some very good golf courses in those areas. But you can house a PGA Championship and you certainly have a better gallery and television rating and everything earlier in the year than you do in August. August is a tough time to have a tournament.
I think one of the toughest things about the PGA Championship and particularly being in August, in April you have the Masters, you feel like you’re coming out of the winter. You feel like it’s the start of the golfing season.
Obviously playing the PGA early would make that the start of the golfing season. I don’t think obviously you could do that very many times, but you could do it occasionally, which they did in ’71. You go to the U.S. Open; the U.S. Open is in June and it’s moved all over the United States. At that time of year, you can still have fronts moving through, you still have weather conditions, you can still have wind. You can have a lot of things that happen. The British Open has always been subject to wind and weather and everything else, so you never know what can happen at the British Open. Even this year, you had heat at the British Open; it was hot.
And then in August, you go to the PGA and generally speaking, the only thing that happens in August is sometimes are thunderstorms, but the weather is fairly benign. Weather is not a big factor and generally speaking, you try to get a golf course hard and fast, and it’s difficult with the rain in August to do that and keep it that way.
So I think it’s a little bit more difficult for the PGA Championship to have other outside factors affect its championship, which I think are things that affect the other three championships and I think adds to their lore. The PGA doesn’t have that.
And I agree with you that occasionally the PGA being played early in the year would get a little bit more put some imagination in the start of the golfing year for the PGA Championship, but I don’t think that should be the norm. The norm is where it is and that’s probably okay.
Q. I’m calling from Oak Hill Country Club and here in a room with the general manager, Dan Farrell, and the our current General Chairman for this year’s PGA Championship, Marty Glavin, and Marty marte has a quick question for you.
MARTY GLAVIN: Jack, both Ron and I were just talking, we were marshals at the 1980 PGA when we were just kids practically. We remember it like its with a yesterday, and to say the least, we are pretty excited about what’s to come in the next couple weeks here and hope that you have a chance to stop in, and it would be great to have you.
My question is: Knowing the field that’s going to attend this year’s PGA Championship, do you think anybody in particular has a game well suited for Oak Hill? And the second part of that question is: Do you think your score of minus six in 1980 will hold up?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Trevino has the game for it. Nicklaus has the game for it. Curtis Strange has the game let’s see, who else won at Oak Hill, Jay Haas, Shaun Micheel in 2003. You had a lot of players that it suited their game.
As I said earlier, it’s not the golf course the player has to suit his game to the golf course. And the guys that can adapt to it are the guys that always have been the good players. I mean, Mickelson will adapt well to it. Tiger will adapt well to it. I think there’s a lot of guys that will adapt well to it.
You have so many good players today that I think will like Oak Hill, will enjoy playing the golf course, and could have an opportunity to win. To try to pick one of them out of there is pretty difficult right now. The British Open, you can eliminate a lot of guys because of conditions. The U.S. Open, you have the same thing and the Masters, the same thing. But I think more people, because of the summer conditions and the nature of what happened with the PGA Championship, it opens it up to more people having an opportunity to win.
So I think the PGA is a pretty open ballgame right now, and Oak Hill, I don’t know what kind of summer you had up there, but my bet is that you had enough rain that you have a pretty good crop of rough, and you don’t have extra wide fairways, I think you have generous fairways, but not overly wide; you probably have the opportunity to firm your greens up, whether the rain will soften that or not is another issue. I think you’ll have a great championship and I think you’ll have an opportunity to watch a lot of good players that will try to win this tournament.
KELLY ELBIN: Your score of 274, 6under par in 1980, could you see someone bettering that score this year?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I certainly hope not.
I don’t know how the golf course is set up right now. I would suspect in this day and age with as far as golf balls go and as straight as they go and the number of good players, I would suspect that number would probably fall, but who knows, you never know what’s going to happen.
Q. Wanted to revisit with you the 1963 Championship. Was that the hottest weather you had ever played in since then? And also, that gave you all three major championships in the United States. Was that a big deal to you, that you had all three Majors back then?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it’s the hottest I’ve played a major in. I’ve played golf in hotter weather, but not the norm. We played a lot of times in hot weather. Most of them have probably been in Texas, too.
But you get Tulsa, PGA Championship there was unbelievably hot. I suppose St. Louis, there’s a lot of places we play hot. Dallas was as hot as I can recall.
But anyway, second part of your question was what, I’m sorry?
KELLY ELBIN: He said that you joined Hogan, Nelson and Sarazen as the only to win three Majors in this country, what that meant to you at that time.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I never really thought much about it at that time. I was a young 23yearold trying to win tournaments, and you know, I suppose if I go back and reflect upon it at 23 years old to have won three major American championships is a pretty special achievement at age 23.
But I was too stupid to think about that at the time, or not smart enough, whichever you want to put it, and I was disappointed that I had not won the British the week before, and so I wouldn’t know what was in my head at that time, but that’s 50 years ago, and my head was just trying to win the golf tournament, and that’s what I was trying to do and I was fortunate to do that.
KELLY ELBIN: We have a keepsake, in addition to winning the championship, you won the long drive contest earlier that week and to my understanding, you still have a keepsake from that.
JACK NICKLAUS: I have a money clip that’s in my pocket right now and it’s been in my pocket for 50 years. It says, “Driving Distance Winner” is what it says across the PGA Championship. That drive was 341 yards, 17 inches. I do remember that, too. That was an 11degree wood driver, 32 and threequarterinch shaft, Dynamic Edge shaft, and they had everybody used the same golf ball, so nobody had a preference on what golf ball was hit.
KELLY ELBIN: Everybody used the same golf ball in that long drive competition?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, it was the same make golf ball. I think they were all Titleist but I’m not sure.
Q. I apologize for this question, you’ve been asked a thousand times: Can you talk about Tiger, all eyes on him when he plays and he seems to have his game coming around a little bit; will he win another major and is Oak Hill the place?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know anything to all those questions. Obviously Tiger has had a very, very good year. He’s not finished off a couple majors he’s had an opportunity to be involved in. Would be pretty hard pressed not to make him if not the favorite, one of the favorites going into Oak Hill.
He’ll play Oak Hill well and he’ll control his golf ball well and manage his game well, just as he does every week. Will he win more Majors? I think so. When? I don’t know.
Q. Of course you had ’86, I guess six years, you were later in life, but golfers do go into slumps and I guess maybe with Tiger, we are jumping on him because he has been so dominant. Is what we are seeing here maybe just more normal than we want to be maybe with Tiger?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know. That would be very difficult for me Todd answer. I don’t know what is happening between his ears. Each person handles things differently.
Certainly, winning four times this year, he had to have something that was working properly between the year r ears coming down the stretch in those tournaments. But something prevented him from winning the Majors he’s played so far, but then again, certainly maybe ought to give Adam Scott and Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson a little bit of credit for playing better. That’s sort of the way I look at it.
There’s more than there’s 150 guys or so start the PGA Championship. They are all good players. They all are experienced players and they have all won tournaments, not all of them, but a lot of them have won tournaments. You doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a oneperson tournament but there’s a lot of guys playing.
Q. Another question relating to last week’s British Open, slow play became something of a hot topic there, and I just wondered from what you observed through your own Memorial Tournament and other events on the PGA TOUR, how much of a problem do you think slow play is, and do you think it could be enforced more strictly?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was a slow player when I first started and I had to learn how to keep up and be part of it. I was penalized twice in my career. I think the first time justifiably, the second time, I questioned because the two guys I played with I thought were slower than I. So I sort of you know, you never think that you’re the culprit.
But I remember Joe Black came to me when Joe was running the Tour years ago, he said: Jack, I’m running the Tour and it’s my objective with all the players to try to make sure that they know what their shortcomings are as far as being able believe to keep up in the game.
He said, I have noticed that watching you play he watched me every week you would wait until the other player was done with the shot before you prepared for your own shot; and you were on the green and you would wait until the other players played before you did.
I said, well, Joe, I was trying to be courteous, I didn’t want to get in somebody’s way. Joe said, we don’t care how long you stand over a golf ball to hit a shot. If you’re prepared, you can stand there, because nobody is going to stand there for a minute. So if you stand there with a ball four or five seconds so I started doing all my preparation before my shot while the other guys were hitting their shot, obviously if I was first to play the second shot, obviously I had to prepare ahead. But generally speaking I was not first, so I had the opportunity to prepare for my second shot while they were preparing for theirs, and when I got on the green, I start walking around the green, and I found out that it didn’t bother the other players.
So I stopped becoming a slow player and I became a player who managed what his problems were, and managed it so I could fit in with the field. I think that’s what the players have to do.
I guess there was a Japanese player got penalized last week, and I don’t know whether there was anybody else or not, but you know, when you’re taking I guess he took over two minutes to play one shot and had to be warned.
Most of the American players who play this every week have figured out a little bit how to beat the system, but they know when they need to speed up and they know how long they have to play.
But is slow play a problem in the game of golf? Yes, it’s absolutely a problem in the game of golf. But you know, it’s not just the players that cause the slow play. It’s the difficulty of the golf course, the length of the golf course and the distance the golf ball goes, and you’re playing a lot of golf course and it takes more time. You’re playing more difficult conditions and taking more time, and you know, I understand some of those.
However, and I go back, of course, I’m kind of a nut on the main culprit slow play, to me, is the golf ball and the distance the golf ball goes. There’s nothing wrong with the golf ball. You’re just trying to figure out, how do you speed up the game.
Most games that you watch play in about three hours or less, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, I don’t know, soccer, whatever it is, none of them it take more than about three hours to play. Whereas golf, it used to take three hours, three and a half hours, British Open you used to play the last round in three hours or less. Today they take close to five hours.
It’s all equipment, the golf ball. Are you going to change it? Oh, you might change it a little bit. But the longer a golf course it is and the more demanding it is, the more time it takes to play it. And the more time it takes to play it, the harder it is on the public to watch and the harder it is to manage and the harder it is for the pros to become role models for the young people watching who are going to say, I’m going to emulate a pro and copy what he does. And all of a sudden that kid takes five hours, 5 1/2 hours and it just sort of escalates right through the game.
Should we do more about it? Yeah, we should do more about it. But I think it would be reasonable to figure out why it happens and I think it stems back, again, as I’ve said because of the golf ball to the length of the golf course and the difficulty because of equipment.
So if we changed equipment back, which we are not going to do, but if we went back and left equipment alone but changed the golf ball and brought it back, you played a shorter golf course, not only from the Tour standpoint would it be good, but a shorter golf course all through the game would mean less maintenance cost, less cost to play the game, quicker play, less land, less fertilizer, less everything, which would make the game more economical.
It’s a vicious circle and it’s one that the USGA and R&A are addressing. I wish they could come to the conclusion a little quicker, but I know they are addressing it. When they come to a conclusion, I hope they do it the proper way that is in the best interests of the game of golf. They made other rulings, we have gone through the long putter thing, and the anchoring, the anchoring of a putter. That was done for the best interests of the game of golf.
Now, is the golf ball too long for the interests of the game of golf? That’s what they are studying. Now whatever answer they come to, I’m not sure exactly how they are going to come about it, but the game of golf needs to be played quicker, you’re absolutely correct.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you for the question. Jack, thank you. We have a few more questions for you.
Q. When you started the Memorial, did you have to lean on players to come and play or did they just kind of line up and were happy for the chance? What kind of input did you have on assembling the field?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have never asked a player to play in a tournament since day one. The way I always felt and the way I always selected my golf tournaments was, I am selected them based on the quality of the tournament, the quality of the golf course, the quality of the competition, and all we try to do at Muirfield was present the best golf course we could present, make sure that we took care of the players so that they were able to play that golf tournament in the proper conditions in the proper surroundings, and make sure that we felt like and they felt like that it was a significant event to play in and it was good competition.
And when you do that, the players will come. We have never I’ve never had to ask a player to come to the Memorial Tournament. Obviously I want the players all to come. There’s some players who choose not to come but not very many. Most every year we have 90% or better of the good players there.
We have had a wonderful tournament and a wonderful field, two weeks before the U.S. Open is a great time to play golf and the golf course is presented similar to what they will find at the U.S. Open. Maybe not quite as difficult, we try not to do it quite as difficult, but all those are things that I look for when I chose my tournaments. I always wanted the best test I could get. I always wanted it difficult. I always wanted to challenge myself, and I always wanted to learn from it, and I think that’s what we try to do at Muirfield.
Q. We often hear players talk about how mentally grueling major championships are, and I know there are several times in the 1960s where The Open Championship and the PGA were played in consecutive weeks. Can you just talk about what that was like from a player perspective mentally?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I thought it was tough. I thought that The PGA of America used good common sense when they moved it back. Well, the British Open moved back, too. They moved back to separate from Wimbledon and get more distance between the U.S. Open and itself, and then the PGA moved from July back to August, which I thought was good common sense also.
When they were played backtoback, it was difficult. As I said earlier in this session, Hogan was not able to play the fourth major championship because it was the week after The Open Championship at Carnoustie and he could not physically get back to play in it.
I think that was very difficult on the players and I think it was difficult in trying to put on a Major Championship and having it be successful.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk this week about Phil and what he accomplished this past weekend and maybe how it staged changed his status in the world pantheon of golf; how would you assess that? Is he playing maybe the best he’s played since you’ve seen him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, he’s obviously playing well and I would think that he would have to be the favorite going into the PGA on record as how he’s played.
But I think that if you look at the history of the guys that are playing today, only Tiger has won more Majors as an active player than Phil. Phil has won I guess five now. He’s won three of the four Majors. Has not won the U.S. Open Championship.
Phil is going to go down in history as one of the great players of the game, there’s no question about that. There’s no argument about Hall of Fame. I think that his ability to see that he needed to adapt himself to the Scottish conditions was much to his credit.
Phil has always tried to take his game and play his game and put it on a golf course, and that doesn’t always work. And here he is into his 40s and he’s finally realizing that driver did not have to many could out of the bag. He found a golf club that he could keep it in play with. He found that he is a good enough player, matter of fact, a terrific player that doesn’t need to hit it ten miles. He can hit it into the fairway somewhere and play like everybody should want to play and be successful.
I give him great kudos for what he’s done over the last couple weeks. I’m very happy for him. I know that for him to go it win at the British Open as high as he hits the golf ball, like I was. I won at Muirfield and I was a high ball hitter and people said: Jack will never win, particularly Muirfield, it’s a golf course he can’t play.
And I proved them all wrong there by being a little smarter than some of the other guys on that particular week, I didn’t use a driver very much. We had to use a driver back in those days because the golf ball didn’t go as far.
At Muirfield this particular time, these fairways were much faster than when I won. I give Phil a tremendous amount of credit and I’m very proud and happy for him.
Q. You said that you wanted to prove people wrong at Muirfield and we know the famous story about 1986 and Augusta. How much of your career was driven by internal drive and how much by proving outsiders or critics of yours wrong?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I would say none of my career was trying to prove outside people wrong. I didn’t really care about that. Matter of fact, I rarely ever around a tournament read a newspaper or watched the news. I tried to keep my mind focus on what I was doing and what I was trying in my own head to do.
My drive was always to try to be the best I could be, and I will have to say honestly that there are a lot of weeks that I probably didn’t have that drive, and you know, I didn’t play as well as I should have and I didn’t prepare as well as I should have but I think I’m a human being like everybody else.
Some weeks, you’re just not very good and some weeks you are. You know, when I got myself motivated to play or when I got myself in ’86, I didn’t prepare properly for ’86. I prepared okay. But once I found myself in contention and found that going into the last round that I had a chance to win that golf tournament if I really played a special round of golf, I was really motivated to do that, not by something somebody else would say. It was by motivating myself.
I had my son, Jack, on the bag, and my mother and my sister were at the Masters that year for the first time since ’59. My son, Steve, called me in the morning and said, what do you think it’s going to take, Pops?
I said, 66 will tie it, 65 will win.
He said, 65, that’s the exact number I have mind, go shoot it. I had a lot from within my family sort of getting me excited but that was all from my own head. Certainly I take very little objection to what the press would have to say about what you’re doing. I think if you paid attention, that would drive you crazy, as you know, and the media attention today is tenfold what it was when I played, maybe more than tenfold.
So I think that you’ve got to have your focus on what you’re trying to do yourself. That’s what basically I tried to do.
KELLY ELBIN: 18 time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus, thank you so much for your time today.
Thanks for your involvement with the Pick the Hole Location Challenge this year and I believe we’ll see you up at Oak Hill on Sunday of championship week.