MARK WILLIAMS: We’d like to welcome tournament host at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, Mr. Jack Nicklaus. Thank you for joining us. It’s always a pleasure to come back to your tournament and have you host us if the most wonderful way. This is an annual experience for everyone in the media to visit with you.
If you could talk a little bit about the golf course, I don’t think there are any changes that have been made that I know of.
JACK NICKLAUS: Nothing significant. I think one of the things we’ve worked on the last year or I should say Paul (Latshaw), before Chad Mark, who is the superintendent. Chad, make yourself known to everybody here. And Chad has come to us via Kirkland in Cleveland and Inverness.
And Paul has gone to Merion Golf Club. He wanted to be close to his father and that was his primary reason for going. And so I sort of encouraged that. I thought that for Paul that was the right thing to do.
We will get along here fine, and I think we will get along fine with Chad. Chad will do a great job for us. Welcome Chad to the Muirfield Village family.
The golf course, as we started some of the programs before Paul left, we didn’t change anything with the playability of the golf course. We worked on the poa annua population. I think we’ve got a pretty darn good run at it. It’s reduced down a lot. I think that the 18th green used to look like it had smallpox, now it looks like it’s got “smaller-pox.”
But it looks better, and most of the greens of the golf course look good. We had most of the fringes, we couldn’t get all of them, but got 14 of the fringes, stripped the grass, had a lot of poa annua, and put that back in bent.
And along the fairways took an 84-inch cut of bluegrass, which was the transition between the rough and fairway, to try to get a clean definition of that. I think if you look at the golf course and look at the fairways, you’ll see the nice, clean, green line around. I think it really looks nice.
That’s basically all we did to the golf course. There’s nothing else that amounts to much. The golf course is in terrific condition. I think hopefully—and we always manage to get a really nice rain on Tuesday or Wednesday, so that really makes it soft again, which is what we don’t want.
But I think Paul added another mile of drainage. How many miles of drainage do we have in there now, do you know? We put in twelve or thirteen miles of drainage throughout the fairways and throughout the golf course, to help the golf course dry out and be able to not have the situations we had 25 years ago.
But the golf course is good. I think the golf course is going to play nicely. And I think we’re going to have a great tournament.
MARK WILLIAMS: Can you talk about the field.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the field is good—no question about that. We always have a good field. Looking forward to watching the guys play.
Q. Would you care to comment on Tiger Woods situation?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not really.
Q. That was fast enough. Thank you very much.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, obviously I don’t really know what happened or what went on. But I feel bad for Tiger. Tiger is a friend. He’s been great for the game of golf. And I think he needs all of our help. And we wish him well.
Q. As a follow-up, and this is just strictly a golf-related question with Tiger. You’re a sports fan. Every time Tiger won a major championship, he got a little closer to you and your name was mentioned. Mostly due to injury, he hasn’t played many majors since he won the 2008 U.S. Open. Did golf miss an opportunity from a historical standpoint and entertainment standpoint not to be able to see Tiger get closer to you and chase that record and get a little closer?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes.
Q. Would you have liked to watch that?
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, I don’t know how you comment on that. Tiger, I’ve always thought, was going to break my record. Do I think he probably won’t now? I don’t think unless—I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really have no idea what his operation—you’re asking me questions that I can’t answer.
Did I enjoy watching him play? Absolutely. Did I enjoy that every time Tiger did something, my name was mentioned right beside it? It kept me relevant. It was as good for me as it was for him. Do I like to see anybody—as I’ve told Tiger and we’ve talked about it a hundred times—does anybody want to see their records be broken? Of course not. But do I want to see somebody not have the ability because of physical problems not to be able to compete to have that chance? I don’t like that at all.
And I feel bad for him that that’s happened. And I still wish him well to be able to get—I’ve said many times, I don’t know what’s going to happen after fusion surgery. Fusion is hard to play golf after, it’s a very difficult situation. But I’m not a doctor. I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t believe that he probably would have had that if he had any other choice. But I still haven’t—I’m not there and I haven’t been part of it. I can’t really answer it. But am I sad end that he’s not playing? Absolutely.
Q. There seems to be a lot of talk and traction about moving the PGA Championship to May, the PLAYERS back to March. Just curious, it’s more than one moving part here. Have you had any discussions with the Tour, with Jay (Monahan, PGA TOUR Commissioner), about making sure your traditional spot is protected, where the field is not affected or anything else like that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes. As a matter of fact, we just finished having a meeting. We’ve talked about what scenario—the way I’ve looked at the game of golf and the way I’ve looked at the Memorial Tournament is that I don’t want to be selfish with the Memorial Tournament. I think that anything that we can do to help advance the game of golf or advance the TOUR; advance professional golf; advance amateur golf; just advance the game—we’re willing and more than happy to try to help and work with that, which is what I told Jay earlier. And he understands that.
I’ve met with the PGA of America on this. And I’ve said if you wish to have us be part of a solution, rather than part of the problem, we’re happy to work with you to do that. I think the PGA TOUR loves us being in this date. It’s a marquee date for them. I think if the PGA came to May, which is a distinct possibility that it may, that has not obviously been settled by my means, but if it did come to May, the PGA TOUR would probably compete against the PGA and the U.S. Open, which are at least going to be a week apart on each side, which in many ways, from the standpoint of the Tour, makes it better for the Memorial Tournament, because the Memorial Tournament would be the only tournament they have to promote in there in the middle. So it would probably be better for us. And that’s okay, too.
If they wanted us on Olympic year—we’ve talked about Olympic year, the PGA Championship could come to Muirfield Village. That would be fine to me to help them out. As I say, try to help if there’s a way.
If we took a year off the Memorial Tournament, I’m not sure that I’d want to do that or not, I’m not sure that Nationwide would want to do that, I’m not sure that’s what we want for our brand, our tournament, but whatever is best for the game of golf and however it works I’m more than happy to talk about it and try to do it.
We have nothing that we think that we’re so big and important that we can’t help. That’s always been my attitude. I learned that from my wife. And those of you who know my wife can understand that. Barbara has never put herself first, ever, in anything. And it’s maybe starting to rub off on me. But that’s just the way I feel.
I think Jay has got a really tough problem. He does not have a contractual problem to move the FedEx Cup earlier. He just thinks right for the culmination of the Tour to move the finish up like the week before Labor Day, which is probably when they would try to finish. To do that, he’s got a lot of other moving parts.
And so my feeling is that wherever we can help, we’ll try to be part of it. But he really assured us that his main goal, that he wanted us to know, that he wasn’t going to try to slight us in any way. More than that, he wants to encourage us and promote us.
Q. You came out pretty ready on Tour, seemingly, at least in terms of winning. Today’s players, Jon Rahm, come out like they’re 30.
JACK NICKLAUS: It’s been awhile since young players came out and played well. It’s only been the last three or four years that’s happened. Tiger at one time was the only guy under 30 who had won more than one tournament. And now there are multiple guys that have done so.
Q. Your theory on what’s going on there?
JACK NICKLAUS: Good question. I don’t really know the answer to that. My theory, which is what it would have to be, is I think that the guys are coming out better prepared today. You look at Justin Thomas, you look at Jason Day, you look at Jon Rahm, you look at Jordan Spieth. Jordan Spieth came out flying. Give me another one. Hideki Matsuyama. There are lots of them.
A lot of guys come from other places and have matured—their golf game has matured maybe a little— from their countries, wasn’t as mature— wasn’t as mature 20 years ago as it is today, although Spain had some pretty good players with Sergio (Garcia) and Seve (Ballesteros) and so forth. But I just think the guys are better prepared.
Q. What about the idea of no Tiger, less intimidation factor, is there anything to that?
JACK NICKLAUS: That’s been over the last five, six years that’s happened. When Tiger got injured and he had some time off, all these young guys came along and learned how to win without that intimidation factor as you’re talking about.
And all of a sudden they’ve learned how to win. And if Tiger came back, he’s going to have to learn how to win, because these young guys, they’re all pretty darn good players. And they’ve all had the experience to win.
Even Dustin (Johnson) falls in that category, Jason Day falls in that category. I think I named most of the other guys. And Rory—we didn’t mention Rory. Rory would be another one, sure. They’re all young guys that came along at a time to compete against Tiger and there was no Tiger there and they learned how to win maybe to a large extent because he wasn’t there.
And you probably had some guys when I played that came along that didn’t have a chance to win that didn’t develop their careers, either. But that’s the nature of the game. That’s the nature of competition.
When I started on Tour back 55 years ago, there were about a half a dozen players who probably had every bit as good credentials as I did. Phil Rogers’ credentials were probably better than mine, and maybe Dick Crawford, he won two NCAAs prior to the one I won. And the only difference was that I came out and I won. I won the U.S. Open. It was my 17th tournament, but I won. And Phil won before I did. He won the first tournament I played in. But he had played the previous fall a little bit.
But I happened to develop. And pretty soon I became a little more dominant, and it suppressed a little of the guys that were coming along. That’s what you’re talking about. But when you’ve got a guy who’s dominating and winning a lot, there’s not a whole lot of room for other guys.
And all of a sudden, Lee Trevino came along, and once he started playing well, too, there wasn’t a lot of room for young guys to come along and do it. That’s really the nature of your story, right?
Q. The question of the finishing stretch here at the course, ranked as the three hardest holes to play. In last year’s tournament, what do you think of those last three holes, 16, 17 and 18, the way it sets up for an exciting finish?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, 14 and 15 are probably our two holes that you really can make a good score on. You can get murdered at 14. And a lot of guys do get murdered at 14. But generally speaking, you’ve got 15 behind you. And if you can get a par and a birdie or a birdie and an eagle or whatever you might get, you get a pretty good run going into the stretch.
And once we finished 15—we used to be able to finish out, I have to play 16 before 17 and 18. We changed 16 and now 16 is not a way to get to 17 tee.
16 has probably turned out to be the strongest hole on the golf course. I don’t understand why it’s so strong. It’s not all that long. It might be 200 yards in yardage, but it doesn’t play that long. It’s downhill. It plays, generally speaking, downwind. And generally speaking right-to-left, which fits the green. There’s a lot of things there.
Now, granted, it was a young green, and a little firmer usually when they start. The first couple of years it was a little firmer. But that green should be pretty much the same as the others now. And I don’t really see any real reason except that it’s a really good golf hole. If it had been a hole that we stuck back at 230 yards and everybody would be complaining, you don’t hear everybody complaining about it because the hole is there to be played. I mean they’re playing an 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, they’re not playing some monster hole. It’s a hole they should be able to play well. It’s much like the 16th at Augusta. It’s probably a little tougher than the 16th at Augusta, as matter of fact, a lot tougher.
But it sits in the same place and they should be able to have—17 is a strong par-4. And 18 is a strong par-4. With those three holes, I suppose what I tried to do was strengthen up the finish of the golf tournament, and I think I accomplished that.
We played in a Memorial Club outing on Saturday and, good gracious, I think the first five—I’ve never seen this on the golf course, I don’t know how we got there, but the first five handicap holes on the golf course are on the back nine, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are on the back nine. I don’t know why we did that or who did it. Who did that? Larry, who did that? Explain that in English. You don’t go front nine, back nine, front nine, back nine? Okay. So the other one, the USGA does it, you took the five toughest holes —
(Comment from the audience.)
JACK NICKLAUS: Do you understand that? I don’t, but that’s okay. It’s close enough, thank you.
Q. If the PGA of America came to you and asked if you would let them have this venue for a PGA Championship in May –
JACK NICKLAUS: I addressed that earlier.
Q. But I just wanted to confirm that that you said you would.
JACK NICKLAUS: I said we would consider it. You know, I’ve already talked with Pete about it. Pete and I met down in Florida three or four months ago. I said, Pete, if we can be of any help to you, we’d certainly consider doing it.
Q. Just as a follow-up, your answer was all of those gyrations between PGA of America and PGA Tour, you would do anything necessary to help golf, I just am trying to understand what you’re doing is helping golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that’s a pretty good question. I don’t know—I think really what they’re talking about, from a Tour standpoint, the Tour ratings on the TOUR Championship have been dismal, right? You guys would know that better than I would.
But they have been dismal. I think that it’s their largest purse, $10 million or whatever the bonus prize is, and I think they wanted to have it mean more. And so to compete against college and pro football, it’s very difficult to do. And they felt like they were getting lost. I think they felt like they needed to move back into the last week in August to be able to do that.
Does that cause problems? It absolutely causes problems. Will they get the problem solved before they do it? I sure hope so. They have a couple of tournaments in there that they’re probably pretty weak, that they will probably ask—those tournaments might ask to be relieved, might want to be relieved of the burden they have of being played in the middle of the season from a purse standpoint so they could move into the fall. That could well happen, too. And it might open up some spots.
That’s sort of Jay’s problem now. And I think Jay is wrestling with it. But I think they’ll come up with a solution that nobody’s going to agree with. But after you have it for a couple of years, you’re going to see the reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing and what they’re trying to do and accomplish. And I certainly don’t think that the Commissioner’s office is trying to do anything that’s going to hurt the game of golf. All they’re going to do is try to help the game of golf. They want to help make a better Tour, and I understand that.
At the Memorial Tournament, do I like four major championships and three World Golf Championships and a PLAYERS Championship and a year-end championship? Of course not, but it’s competition. America is built on competition, and to a large degree, the ones that do the best job survive.
So we welcome it from that standpoint, to be able to try to do the best you can, to have the best event. But also I want to see what really is the best ultimately for the game of golf and what’s the best to make the Tour more viable and successful for more people. Does that make sense?
Q: We’re talking about professional golf. Nothing here helps the guy that’s down the street paying $35 for golf. I don’t know that grows the game?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know you’re growing that day-to-day on the Tour. You are a certain degree. What’s the conflict there?
Q. When you do tournament golf, I would use it more generically.
JACK NICKLAUS: I’m talking about professional golf. But I think golf in general is also much better—I don’t know, what’s a good rating, two, three, four, five, something like that? Golf would be better served to more people in the public with a two-five rating than a one-three rating. More fans would watch it and get excited. I think that’s where it comes from. More and more money is put into the Tour and the Tour is your showcase, the better showcase you have, the more people get interested and like the game of golf, and it promotes the game of golf for the average golfer and the amateur. That’s how I look at it.
What other excuse do you have other than to have 150 guys running around the world making $20 million a year? There’s no real reason for that other than to promote the game for the kids, the kids have the role models, the amateurs go out and imitate, and the women go out and say, “Isn’t she a great player,” while watching the Ladies Tour. It’s all part of a showcase to promote the game of golf, which in turn grows the game. That’s sort of where I’m at.
Q. Already today your records have come up with comparison to Tiger’s. The NBA finals start Thursday, seems there can’t be a conversation about LeBron James without it involving Michael Jordan. What are your thoughts through all those years when your record and Tiger’s have been compared and yours was compared to Hogan’s? What did you feel about that comparison, valid, invalid, did you think it was silly?
JACK NICKLAUS: Which one?
Q. The cross era comparison of great athletes and your view of that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I’ve always felt like Tiger would have been a champion in Bob Jones’ time. Bob Jones would have been a champion in our time. Hogan would have been a champion today or he’d have been a champion 30 years before that.
All these guys who are really, really good players I think they would have been a champion no matter when they lived, as with Michael Jordan or LeBron. Would you like to see them play against each other? Of course you would, but that’s obviously not going to happen.
The only way to do it is by putting statistics and wins together to compare, and the only way you compare Michael to LeBron at this point in time, Michael has won six NBA titles, and LeBron has won three. But basketball is also a team sport. LeBron wouldn’t have won any NBA titles if he didn’t have another four guys on the team, nor would Michael Jordan have, even as good as they both are.
Golf is a different thing. Golf is an individual sport. And it’s easier to compare Hogan’s record to Tiger’s record or my record or Bob Jones’ record, because it’s an individual. Even though the times are different, I think it’s good to compare those things. It’s good to create the controversy and stimulate the conversation. It’s good for the game.
What you guys are doing is not fake news (laughter) it’s actual news that actually is a fact. And how you compare it, and how you put it together is something that’s very interesting for your readers to read. Frankly, I frankly it and I’ve never minded it. Obviously I have 18 professional major championships, so I don’t mind it at all (laughter). You understand where I’m coming from. I think it’s good for the game. It’s good for basketball. It’s good for football when they compare it. I think it’s good for all sports to compare. And you can argue which team is the greatest baseball team of all time, was it the Reds and such or the Yankees? You can always argue that. And nobody is going to come to an answer on that. But I think it’s good to read. It’s good fun. And it’s how you guys and gals make a living. More power to you.
Q. I’m following on the schedule question, as well. If the PGA did move to May we would have a different order of the majors for the first time, really, other than the one time that —
JACK NICKLAUS: 1971.
Q. When the PGA went first. What do you make of that? Would that be okay? Is that anything—
JACK NICKLAUS: I think frankly the push would be much beneficial to the PGA of America, I really do. I think that golf in August almost starts to get a little bit tired. It’s near the end of the season. And I think the FedExCup probably falls in that category, a little bit tired from a spectator point of view. They’re looking for something different, they’re looking for the World Series— not quite yet. They’re looking for the star of football. They’re looking for other things.
And when you’re talking about the Masters coming around in April, you know, you’ve had a nice prelim of January, February, March, you’re really ready to see it. And I think the Tour sees that by moving from May back to March for them, for their PLAYERS Championship, that might be a benefit from an interest standpoint. So that’s probably okay.
The Masters always has the benefit of being the first tournament. If the Masters were in August, I don’t think it would ever be the Masters. It never would have gotten the notoriety and become what it is. So to move the PGA up into that slot, I think would be very beneficial to the PGA of America.
And I don’t think it will diminish the British Open one iota. The British Open is an iconic venue and tournament by itself. The British Open is fantastic anytime you play it.
So I think it would probably bring the majors a little closer together, April, May, June and July. I think that’s good, too.
I think tennis struggles a little bit from being in January and then having nothing until late July—yes, you’ve got from here, and Roland Garros and then Wimbledon. But you can’t play Australia at another time. I think bringing them together probably makes them more of a season. And then I think The Players captures on one end of and I think the FedExCup captures the other end of. And that spreads a little bit, too.
If they can work it out and make it sensible, I think it’s probably a pretty good move.
Q. You talked about Rory a little while ago. I’m sure you’re disappointed he’s not playing this week. In recent years, you’ve come to know Rory well. Are you concerned about him picking up these niggling injuries that are forcing him out of competition?
JACK NICKLAUS: He is. What did you call them?
JACK NICKLAUS: Whatever you want to call them, they’re little injuries and they’re irritating. But they do affect you. And I’m obviously—I have a little different philosophy.
And I sat down with Jay this morning, we talked about guys withdrawing from tournaments with injuries and so forth. And I said, you think I had any injuries when I played? Do you think Arnold had any injuries when he played? Do you think Gary had any injuries when he played? How many tournaments do you think that we entered that we withdrew from, during the course of our career? (Indicating.) I never entered if I wasn’t going to play.
Today they’re playing for a lot more money. There’s a lot of money in the U.S. Open today. A lot of money in the Masters or any of the other ones. And I understand what’s happening, and I don’t frankly have any problem with it because it’s pretty much the norm today.
Would they have withdrawn 30 years ago? Probably not, because that wasn’t the norm. We played through it. We had a ton of injuries and we played through them. But that’s sort of the norm today. And the guys, they’ve all got—I made my own decisions. I didn’t have an entourage. I didn’t have a fitness trainer. I didn’t have a nutritionist, whatever you all have, somebody to cut my toenails in the morning, I didn’t have any of that. I did that myself (laughter).
So that’s pretty broad, wasn’t it? But anyway, I think that that entourage helps make that decision for the player, telling them, you know, “We think physically this is probably not right for you to play.” And that’s what their job is. If you don’t like what the doctor tells you, you change doctors, and so they listen to their doctor.
It’s okay. It’s annoying to see that happen from a spectator standpoint or a tournament standpoint that somebody does withdraw from tournaments. But the first thing Rory did was he texted Barbara and me and told us what was happening, what he did and that he reinjured his rib and he was really worried about it. I sympathize with that. The U.S. Open is a big thing in his career. And I sort of thought the Memorial Tournament was, too. And he supported us. He’ll come to play every year he can.
I think part of the problem today with athletes is that they specialize at a very young age. I know the PGA of America is embarking upon a program to try to get kids to play multiple sports rather than one sport. I played multiple sports. Arnold played multiple sports. Gary played multiple sports. And I think all sports develop your body better, and it wards off injury better.
Today you get an eight-year-old and they say, “Oh, no, they can’t play that sport. They’ve got to stay and play summer soccer or something that’s going on. How can they get to the next level if they don’t play that at five years old?” Come on, give me a break. That’s what they have today. You’ve heard that—you constantly hear that. I think it’s wrong.
I played every sport. I came home every Monday after playing a tournament and played in a rec basketball league until I was 40 years old. Did I play everybody? Of course I didn’t play everybody. I wasn’t home. But I played a lot. Do I think that kept me healthy? You’re darn right. I played a lot of tennis right through the golf season. Did that keep me healthy? I think so. Everybody said you can’t play tennis and golf together, phooey, that’s ridiculous. To me, I think other sports help you develop your body.
Guys have specialized and all the exercises they’re doing today are specialized for the game of golf. They’re not specialized for a broad spectrum of the body. And I think when they get that I think it hurts— they get a little injury and it’s so specific, it’s not broad.
That’s where I come from, as far as I think guys need to do something else with their stuff, rather than going and doing just specific exercises and you hurt yourself.
Q. Rory attempted to play soccer a couple of years ago and injured his ankle.
JACK NICKLAUS: I know that, but he was having some fun with some kids, he wasn’t doing that on a regular basis. And frankly, that happens. I used to sprain my ankle every year walking off the 10th green at Augusta. I did that four years out of six. Stepped on a pine cone, rolled down that hill, and sprained my ankle. I just taped my ankle up and went and played. I think I even won one of those years (laughter).
You’re going to have injuries if you play, but your body is physically more developed if you’re playing more stuff. PGA of America is doing a program on that right now; I think it’s really good.
Q. In light of Erin Hills and hardly anybody having played it, when you went to a golf course for a major championship that you had never seen before or played before, did that change your preparation and if so, how?
JACK NICKLAUS: I always went in a week ahead of time. If I had a golf course that I hadn’t played before, then I went in a little bit earlier just to make sure I got to know the golf course and knew all the idiosyncrasies of it and what it does.
I still went in and played usually four days, sometimes five days at Augusta before the Masters, every year. Now, would I go into a U.S. Open and do that? Probably. If I was going to Erin Hills, I’d probably go in four or five days next week and spend a lot of time there. You’ll have different wind conditions during that week. You’ll have different firmness or rain or whatever you have. You get used to how narrow the fairways are or how high the rough is. I have no idea what Erin Hills is. That’s what I would do.
Now, if I’m later in the year and I’ve played a lot of golf and I’m going to a PGA Championship and the PGA Championship is at Oak Hill, which I’ve played quite a bit — maybe not Oak Hill, because they haven’t played that much there, Firestone, where I played a lot of golf, I might go in for one or two days. But I would still go in the week before, because every year things change. Every time they bring an event back, they do something that they change and you need to get ready for.
Q. Tiger was pretty old school in that he has tried to play through a lot of the injuries that he’s had. What is the lesson to be learned from his physical woes and at what point in the last few years has your concern for him shifted from like will he get back as a player to his person, what’s happening with him as a person?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, Tiger started having injuries—I’m not sure when he started having some injuries, but he was probably mid-two thousands, probably, started having some nagging stuff. And I always loved Tiger’s golf swing when he was younger. As he got stronger and bigger, I think his golf swing changed a little bit, and I think that that probably caused some of his problems. A little bit about what we just talked about a minute ago.
And I think that when he won the Masters in ’98 or ’97, he was a fairly skinny, supple young man that no matter how he swung it, nothing was getting in the way.
As he got bigger and stronger, I personally think those muscles can cause a change in what you do. And you don’t have the forgiveness within your body for that.
I keep going back, because obviously what we did 50 years ago is probably wrong, because they don’t do it today, but even 50 years ago, even football players didn’t lift weights. The injuries in football today, and in basketball and all sports is just rampant. It’s not just Tiger, it’s all sports. You see these guys hurt all the time. Nobody was hurt back in those days. Sure, somebody might have torn a knee out or broken an ankle, but you didn’t have guys not playing football or basketball with little injuries, they just played through it and just forgot it.
But generally speaking, the body was trained to be able to do those kind of things. Tiger, when he started having those injuries, I think Tiger’s swing is such that — I remember talking to Tiger, I called him right after the 2008, I guess when he won, but had a broken leg, and I called him afterwards and we talked. And I was telling him that I felt that—of course I’d been talking with Pete Egoscue (an anatomical functionalist) quite a bit, and I felt Tiger—he couldn’t accept weight into his right hip. If you go back and look at him back in those days, and how fast he got off his right side, you could see how high his right side was at impact and how quick he got there. And I told him what I thought, that it would be beneficial if he would see Pete and help his longevity and help him physically. He did not go see Pete.
However, the Memorial Tournament came along that year—I think it was that year—yeah, sure it was, because it was 2008—so that was probably 2009 I talked to him. And we played in a Skins game before the tournament. His swing was fantastic. He was loading into his right side. And he hit 52 out of 54 fairways that week. Best week of golf I’ve ever seen Tiger Woods play. He said, “I didn’t go see Pete, but I listened to you. I did it with my people and we figured out how to load up my right side and keep it, so that I really didn’t hurt myself coming into the ball.” I said, “I’ve never seen you swing so nicely. You played beautifully. I’m proud to see what you did.”
The next week at Bethpage, he started swinging back the other way, and didn’t play well, as I recall—or two weeks later. And he was back off of it again.
Tiger’s always done it his own way, but he listens. I don’t think he’s ever not heard people when they talk to him. After the Masters this year, I talked to him at the Champions Dinner this year. And he said, “I’m really hurting.” I said, “Well, Tiger, I know you’re hurting.” I said, “I’ve been trying to get you to Pete.” He said, “I’m ready.” So a week after the Masters, he saw Pete and spent two hours with him. And Pete worked with him and he had his trainer with him. His trainer asked very good questions, his trainer is quite knowledgeable. He called me and he said, “He won’t be back.” I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “I didn’t get—he says he can’t stand up. He can’t stand up for ten minutes, he’s got to sit back down, his pain is too excruciating. Maybe on a scale—his game, on a scale of one to ten he was an eight. I got him to about a six. I can take him out of this, but it will take another three or four sessions. But he’s got to be patient.” And four days later he was operated on.
So I understand when a guy is hurting as bad as he was and probably is, that he went and did what he did. Now a fusion operation—he didn’t do a fusion operation for the game of golf. He did that fusion operation to take him out of pain. And he now feels like he’s out of pain, at least—I haven’t talked to him since then—but he’s out of pain, supposedly, and that’s what his main function was.
Now, whether he can play golf with that, it’s very difficult to play golf and do the things he does without a drastic change of his golf swing after a fusion operation. I mean I wish him well. I hope that he does well. I hope he plays. The Tour needs him. And the Tour would love to see him come back.
Q. But there were four painkillers in his system yesterday, that suggests that —
JACK NICKLAUS: I know zero about that. I said all I knew about that here before. But maybe the operation—what I saw in the press is what you probably reported, that he was out of pain, hadn’t felt that good in years. That’s all I know, until I read yesterday.
So I don’t know anything about that. But I’m a fan of Tiger’s. I’m a friend of Tiger’s. And I feel bad for him. So anyway, I think that he’s struggling. And I wish him well. I hope he gets out of it and I hope he plays golf again. He needs a lot of support from a lot of people, and I’ll be one of them.
Q. As the years have gone by and you’ve gone from someone who played in this tournament for so many years to shaking the hands of your former competitors on the 18th green when they won, to now so many of the guys in the field weren’t born when you won, how is your relationship with the golfers?
JACK NICKLAUS: I’ve kept relevant, captain of the Presidents Cup, through The Bear’s Club, we’ve got 29 or 30 of the kids down there that come play at The Bear’s Club, who are members there. I see them all the time. I spend time with them. I enjoy their company. They seem to enjoy mine. I can’t imagine at 22 years old coming to a 77-year-old and asking for advice, but I’ve had a lot do that. I sat down with two this week that came to me and wanted to know how to play the golf course, and wanted to know what I would do. And I’m very flattered by that, that they would want to come to see an old man and do that.
Q. Who were they?
JACK NICKLAUS: That’s not necessary. But they’re young guys. And I’m really—I think I’ve kept relevant. I’ve tried to. I’ve tried not to become an old fogey about it. I’ve tried to stay somewhat within what they do, and I knew being captain of the Presidents Cup, Tim wanted me to come back and captain another Presidents Cup after that. And I said, “No, I’m starting to get where I don’t know the players. I don’t want to be not relevant to what they’re doing.” So I stepped aside.
And was Freddie the next captain? I think Freddie was. Maybe Freddie would have been, anyway. But I was being considered. And I said, no. Because I want to be part of what they’re doing because they want me to be part of it. I don’t want to force myself into anything. I’m there. I’ve always been there for young guys. I was there for the old guys. I had a lot of guys that I remember playing in a tournament against them and saw something on the practice tee, went over and talked to them about it, told them what I saw, and they went out and beat me in the tournament. That’s okay. I still had to go play. They still had to beat me.
But, anyway, I always felt that if they saw something in me, sometime they would return the favor. But, anyway, I just enjoy being part of it, and I’m 77-years-old and I’m enjoying what I’m doing as much as I ever have.
Q. I’ve talked to a few guys out here who are juggling with four and five kids on Tour and how they’re getting that done. Can you talk to how you did that so successfully?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think you should talk to Barbara Nicklaus about that. Because I think that I was blessed with an amazing wife who understood what I had to do. She also understood that I didn’t want my kids to grow up not knowing their dad. She knew that if she didn’t bring them to golf tournaments and be with them that they wouldn’t be able to spend as much time. And she wanted them to know what I did and what my life was.
My kids were never a problem with me. They supported me forever, and still do. I never came home on Monday and had to be the bad guy. Barbara always took care of that for me. She didn’t want me to come home and be a disciplinarian, and have the kids mad at me for three or four days and then leave for another tournament. So I was blessed with a special wife.
And so it wasn’t any big magical deal to me, but it was also learning that I cared about my kids and I cared about the balance of my life. I cared that golf is a game and it’s only a game. And that my family was far more important and that’s what I was here for. And golf was my vehicle to support them and to be a part of their life.
MARK WILLIAMS: Mr. Nicklaus, thank you for spending time with us. Thank you for hosting us.
JACK NICKLAUS: Have a great week. Thank you for being here today.