2016 Masters Tournament: An interview with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today we witnessed another historic beginning of the Masters Tournament, and it is indeed a true honor and privilege to welcome two gentlemen to the media center who have been so vital to the growth of the game as we know it today. Their iconic legacies live firmly in the memories of those who were lucky enough to witness their remarkable play throughout all their entire careers.

All of us at Augusta National are forever grateful for the indelible mark these men have made on the Masters Tournament. This duo combined to win nine green jackets and in an outstanding 97 Masters appearances, they either won and finished second an impressive 15 times and compiled 23 Top 5s and 37 Top 10s.

These men are truly two of golf’s greatest ambassadors ever and have displayed the highest level of integrity, character and dedication to the game of golf we love so much. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jack Nicklaus and Mr. Gary Player.

We’ll now open it up for questions, please.

    Q. Whose drive went farther?
JACK NICKLAUS: Gary won his tournament this year. I hit a pop up.

    Q. You mentioned that you played in 97 Masters Tournaments. Do you remember what the first shot that you took on the first tee, the first time you came to Augusta was like?
GARY PLAYER: He’s asking you first.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know. I don’t remember.

GARY PLAYER: I don’t remember.

JACK NICKLAUS: I’m sure I hit it left. There were not any trees on the left when we played, and if you hit it left, it didn’t make any difference. You just made sure you didn’t hit it in the bunker.

GARY PLAYER: Talking about the trees reminded me of Sam Snead, who is the greatest athlete that ever played golf ever by a mile. He’s stood on the 13th hole and he was playing with Bobby Cole and he said, you know, I always drove right over those trees and Bobby Cole was amazed because the trees are so high and tall, those pines. And Bobby goes, You knocked that over the trees?

He says, Yeah, but the trees at that stage were only this big, which is what actually happened (indicating three feet high).

    Q. There was a lot of emotion on the tee with Arnold Palmer. Can you just talk about the experience today compared to other years you’ve been out here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that everybody was happy to see Arnold out on the tee. I think Arnold was happy to be on the tee. I think he would have preferred to hit a golf ball, but I think that he I talked to him at the Masters dinner. I said, Arnold, when you’re out there, what if we just take you up and had you hit, I don’t care if you putt it off the tee, I think everybody would love to have you do anything.

He said, Let me think about it.

I said, Okay.

So this morning I talked to him and I said, What do you want to do? He said, I’m good. I said, fine, let’s leave it alone. So I think probably the right thing. Arnold’s balance is not good and that’s what they were worried about.

But I think he was delighted to be out there. I think we were delighted to have him there. I think both Gary and I felt it was more about Arnold this morning than anything else, and I think that was just fine.

GARY PLAYER: I endorse those remarks, obviously. The three of us traveled extensively around the world promoting golf—not getting these enormous appearance monies that they do today, which is wonderful that they do get it.

I think that we had a very unusual friendship amongst competitors. It was so fiercely competitive, and we made it very clear we wanted to beat the hell out of each other. And when we did, we looked the other man in the eye and said, Well done. So we built a friendship, traveling extensively around the world. They came to South Africa to my farm. They went down gold mines, we went to game reserves, we stayed at his house, we stayed at Arnold’s house. We’ve had a unique friendship.

We won, plus or minus, don’t expect me to tell you exactly how many, but we won 50 major championships, senior and regular tour, and we must have won over 350 golf tournaments.

And to have longevity has been a special gift. And to come here today and to be on the tee with Arnold being a part of us, it was gratifying and sad, because everything shall pass. But it was nice to have him on the tee. I dedicated my first tee shot to him in respect.

It’s a very special moment, and I think the love that is extended to us wherever we go in the world is most gratifying that so many people would be on the first tee to see one shot. One billion people seeing one shot around the world is quite extraordinary.

My daughter was on the beach yesterday and saw the hole in one. People from Zurich and Australia all sending us a message.

It’s quite remarkable, just a very, very exciting moment to stand on the first tee and to be received the way that we’ve been received.

    Q. Given the number of tournaments you won, the enduring friendship, can you see the likes of Spieth, Day and McIlroy lasting as long as you guys and winning as many tournaments, or do you think it’s more competitive now?
JACK NICKLAUS: It’s your turn.

GARY PLAYER: People always liked— At the time I vividly remember thinking when we played, oh, it was more competitive when Ben Hogan and Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret played. If you want to get a shock, there’s a picture in this clubhouse somewhere that must have been taken, I would say, in either the late ’30s or the early ’40s, I don’t know when, and you just look at those players on that wall, how competitive it was before we played.

And then we came along, there were a lot of wonderful golfers that could win majors, and the same applies today. Professional golf is so healthy and such wonderful guys playing and so talented and so many of them, I wouldn’t condense it down to three. It’s very, very close and any one of them could come through and eventually become one of the big three. And will they win as many tournaments as we did? I sincerely hope so.

It would be wonderful if Rory McIlroy could win the Grand Slam this week to join us. It would give golf a shot of the arm. Professional golf is very healthy, but amateur golf, which is the heart of the game, is unhealthy. Rounds are going down, golf courses are closing up, they’re not developing many more golf courses. So we need something that is going to give it a shot in the arm.

These young guys are terrific guys, wonderful swings, and have such wonderful opportunities in life. I mean, they have got their own jets. They make a million— What is the first prize this week? $1.8 million. My goodness me, more than I won in my entire career winning all those tournaments on the regular tour, but that’s great. That’s how we must progress. It’s fantastic and very exciting, and I can’t wait to see— I’ll be here the whole week to watch with what happens.

JACK NICKLAUS: I can’t remember what your question was. [laughter]

    Q. Are they going to win as many tournaments?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably. [laughter]

    Q. I’d just be curious, when Rob mentions, and Gary, the global travels you have, outside of the British Open, what do you consider to be the most important international event you won?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably the Australian Open. I think the Australian Open, we always thought was sort of the fifth major back in the time when we were playing. Gary won it seven times, and I won it six times. So we went to Australia a lot.

I don’t know how many— Did Arnold win it?

GARY PLAYER: Yes, he did, in Queensland.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t think Arnold won as often as Gary and I did. We were playing at, was it Kooyoong? Is that where you shot 63 the first round?

GARY PLAYER: I had two 62s (laughter).

JACK NICKLAUS: You shot 62. Then I shot, what, 63 the second round or something?

GARY PLAYER: I’m sorry if I interrupted.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, this is a good story. This is a cute story. If you’ve got time, it’s a story.

GARY PLAYER: You see, the Jewish people have got a great saying, it’s all [speaking Yiddish.

But I shot 62 the first day. Jack shoots 66. We are going back to the hotel and he says, How the hell can I shoot 66 and be four behind? But he says, Tomorrow, I’m going to get your little South African hide.

So the next day I shoot 70, he shoots 63. He’s 129, I’m 132.

I said, Now, wait a minute, let’s turn the shoe on the other foot. How can I shoot 132, it’s an average of two 66s and be three behind you? I said, Tomorrow, I’m going to get your big fat, American tub of lard. And I shot 62.

But we didn’t have these scoreboards like they have now. So his caddie runs across and says, Jack wants to know how you’re doing.

I said, I’m 10 under.

He says, No, not for the tournament. For today?

I said, I’m 10 under.

So Jack sees me, he says, You damn liar, you’re trying to put me off.

Anyway, and the right man won. [laughter]

    Q. All true?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t remember what the question was. [laughter]

You asked something about international travel?

    Q. I was just wondering if you could confirm … 
JACK NICKLAUS: I thought the Australian Open; didn’t you? I like the Australian Open.

GARY PLAYER: You’re talking about other than the four majors.

JACK NICKLAUS: We sort of look at, and then I think the Tour has come along and put in some significant tournaments which basically has brought the world together for world championships and things, where the guys are playing more together. Travel has made it so that we can play together and we don’t have to travel all over to do that. But it’s a different day. Canadian Open used to be in there, too.

    Q. I didn’t want to bring that up, but go ahead.
JACK NICKLAUS: We always looked at the Australian Open and Canadian Open as being the next couple. Outside of the four majors, that’s the way it generally used to be.

    Q. I know it’s a long, long time ago, but in 1962 when Arnold and Jack were playing at Oakmont, did you have a rooting interest?
GARY PLAYER: No, no, no, they were both my dear friends, and I wished may the best man win.

It was a challenging time for Arnold because Arnold is this great American icon, and here comes this young man who is beating him. And Jack, you see, I vividly remember, because I remember when he was playing, and Arnold was such an icon, and Jack eventually joined him as this great icon, but he had to beat him first, which he continued to do. And a lot of the people were very unkind to Jack, very, very unkind.

I remember at Baltusrol, them having a sign behind the green, do you remember, hit it here, Ohio Fats. And honestly it was quite cruel because Jack has always been this wonderful gentleman.

In fact, for me, the greatest sportsman I’ve played with in golf is this man right here. When you beat this man, he put his arm around you and said, he really meant it, Well done. Of course he knew he’d get you the next week. But he was an incredible sportsman. They would say hit it here, Ohio Fats, and Arnold would hit 20 foot from the hole and they’d go, Man, and Jack would hit it ten foot from the hole, and it was half the applause.

In fact, Jack might not remember, we were playing the third hole here at this golf course and they were giving the same kind of treatment, and Jack said, The more they do this to me, the better I’m going to play, which he adhered to. And eventually, of course, Jack became this great icon, as well, but he had to beat him first. And it was tough for Arnold and it was tough for him.

So I understood the situation and obviously pulled for them both. But it still wasn’t as difficult as when I played that they wanted to kill me every day and they threw ice in my eyes. I lost The PGA of America at Dayton, Ohio, by one shot. I will go to my grave knowing I won ten majors. They threw ice in my eyes, telephone books in my bag. I had a putt this long, this long on the 9th hole, and they screamed as I took my putter back because they were on the edge of the green, I missed the hole by that much.

They charged Jack and I. Jack and I were playing together. On the 10th hole, they came out of the galleries, charging and skidding on the green, threw balls between my legs when I was putting and I lost the tournament by one shot.

So we all have difficulties to encounter in our career one way or another.

    Q. It was a unique period obviously, every period of time is unique, you were coming up during this special age where television was making golf available to the masses, you were the three dominant personalities. How privileged do you feel to have been part of this very unique relationship with the three of you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the game isand I think television was just starting and Arnold basically, Arnold and Gary were a little ahead of me. I think television, and sort of having a rivalry between the three of us, captured the golfing public and it gave golf something to talk about. It was kind of interesting. It was fun. We were thrown together into a lot of situations. It was difficult in some ways, because if we didn’t play, then they said, Oh, the tournament is no good this week, three of those guys aren’t playing. It’s sort of silly.

Today, you’ve got— You’re talking about three good players, but you can look, right there with it is Rickie and Matsuyama and Dustin, and so many young players that are really so good today. I think the game today has got more good players in it than it’s ever had. I think that we went through a bit of a period after— We had a bunch of good players when we played, and then I think they went through a little bit of a lull and I think that they have more good players today than they have ever had.

GARY PLAYER: When I was fortunate enough to have dinner with President Eisenhower one night, he said something that stuck in my mind. He said, America is a global society, which coming from South Africa, my dream was to always have the best record around the world. And I was going to practice and travel and go to these countries, because I was searching for a great education, as well as the experience of playing on different conditions.

And for us to achieve what we have, I think the word that comes to my mind is gratitude, that you are blessed with such a talent to do what we did. I mean, you’ve got to be pretty fortunate to think how many people exist on this planet and yet you are one of the three best records in the world, my goodness me, it’s a special gift.

It’s like every time I did it, the other day, I get out of the car, I walk up Magnolia and I say a prayer of thanks that I could be here and achieve what I have achieved not just on in golf course, but around the world. We are very, very fortunate indeed.

We’ve tried, we tried to promote the game. We traveled around the world, without being repetitive, without big appearance money, because we loved the game, we love people. And I think we can go to our graves knowing that we contributed to society plus to golf.

    Q. Arnold wasn’t able to swing today, but when you think of him driving the ball in his prime, what’s your memory?
JACK NICKLAUS: Arnold in his prime really wasn’t a very good driver. He was long, but he hit it in the trees and I think that’s where his popularity came from, the recovery shots and the excitement because he played golf like everybody else played. But he was an unbelievable putter. Arnold was as good a putter as ever putted the game until all of a sudden you keep hitting 10  and 12 footers five feet by the hole, pretty soon that’s going to get to you. And that’s basically what ended up getting to him.

Again, I forgot your question. [laughter] Oh, it was a driver. Arnold hit the ball low and drove it— I remember the first time I ever saw Arnold, I was 14 years old and playing the Ohio amateur in Sylvania, Ohio, outside of Toledo, the Tuesday.

I was the only one on the golf course. It was pouring down rain and I was out practicing. I came in and there was only one person on the practice tee. And I had no idea who it was and I watched this guy, looked like Popeye hitting these drilling 9 irons that were going about 12 feet high. I said, you know, look at this guy. I said, man, this guy’s strong. Boy, can he hit. He’d really drill it.

So I watched him for about 20 minutes or so and then I walked in the clubhouse and said, Who in the world is that out on the practice tee? I said, That guy looks some kind of strong.

He says, Oh, that’s our defending champion, Arnold Palmer. That’s my first recollection of seeing Arnold. He hit the ball a long way.

Then Arnold, as his career went on, became a better driver. Matter of fact, he became one of the straightest drivers we had on Tour after he got by his prime as far as winning major championships. Is that sort of your question?

GARY PLAYER: The first time I saw him was at the Tam O’Shanter in 1957. The wind was blowing, and if you could have had a combination, which is coming in time, let me tell you. We are in our infancy with distance off the tee. You’ll find somebody with his legs, you measure 29 inches around the top and Arnold’s forearms that are like this [indicating].

JACK NICKLAUS: 32.

GARY PLAYER: Pardon? 32. That’s after you took the steroids, right? (Laughter).

JACK NICKLAUS: I meant Arnold’s forearms.

GARY PLAYER: Arnold’s forearms are like this, and I saw a guy [indicating], and he’s got a follow-through like this. And I saw him bend down, it was a windy day, and he picked the grass up like this and threw it up in the air and didn’t even look.

I said, Why do you do that?

He said, All the good players do it, so I do it.

I said, Wow, this guy. But he oozed with charisma. He had a short career in majors compared to Jack and I, but even though it was shorter, boy, he was so charismatic and a great icon and did so much for the game.

    Q. To that same point, you remember seeing Arnie at age 14. You mentioned yesterday I think on television, some of the kids, you would think, they don’t even know who I am, I’m just signing the autographs. But do you get a sense of what you two and Arnie mean to not just the young folks, but even some of at adult folks, and what it will mean to these kids as they grow up to say, I saw Arnold Palmer, I saw Jack Nicklaus, even if it’s just hitting one shot right now today? In your position, do you have an understanding of just the magnitude of that for those people?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, sure, absolutely. Of course you do. I’m going to tell a little story which is a little off, but it’s the same story.

The other day, I was doing a I’m doing a special that was shown, which I actually haven’t seen the special yet, on the ’86 Masters. The producer of the show, Izzy, was doing a thing and we were talking about as a kid, the things you did as a kid. And the first baseball game I went to was in Yankee Stadium. I went in to see some cousins of mine, and we took them to Yankee Stadium. That particular night, Bob Feller pitched for the Indians and Satchel Paige relieved. Joe DiMaggio hit a Grand Slam home run.

Anyway, Izzy went back and the next time he came back, he had a shadow box made. They went and found the program from the game, newspaper from the game, 62,000 people saw that baseball game. They found a baseball that Bob Feller and Satchel Paige signed. I think Vic Raschi pitched for the Yankees that night. All things that happened from this game.

This is something back in my youth, I got as much thrilled by that as anything that— Because you’re talking about the kids today, going back and looking at something in 1948 that I thought was pretty neat to get something like that. I’ll find a really nice place in the house for that because that was really a neat thing, this big thing he did, it was just terrific.

So to answer your question, even at my age, I get a big kick out of stuff like that, that these kids— Years from now these kids will have the same kick about. That was your question.

    Q. Could you tell us what your feelings were about Jack’s performance in 1986?
GARY PLAYER: You know, I’ve got a different philosophy about sports. I listened to the Golf Channel yesterday, and I’ve never heard such crap in my life. [laughter] I mean, I’m listening to—

JACK NICKLAUS: What was the question?

GARY PLAYER: What did I feel when you won the Masters at 46 years of age.

JACK NICKLAUS: I’m sorry, okay.

GARY PLAYER: I’m listening to Brandel, and I’m listening to—what’s his name from New Zealand, Frank Nobilo—talking about all the guys, you’ve got to win in your early 20s, and as you get into your 30s, you’re starting to deteriorate.

Have they no idea what is transpiring with the human being? Have they have no idea what’s taking place in the world today? They’re so oblivious to what’s around them.

So I’ve always said that a man at 50 would win the Masters and I was ridiculed. Raymond Floyd needed to birdie No. 17 with a 9 iron, and he would have won the Masters at 49, nearly 50. But be that as it may.

I win the Masters at 42, which I thought was quite impressive. He comes along and wins it at 46. But don’t forget, Julius Boros, won the PGA at 48. People forget about these things.

So it was amazing, it was amazing. And you know, we are inundated with listening to commentators, all they talk about is long distance off the tee. Long distance is not what wins golf tournaments. It’s from 100 yards in, because 70 percent of golf is played from 100 yards in.

Now Ballesteros at the timeremember we had the screensBallesteros hits his drive at 15 and I think he’s leading Jack at that stage, whatever the case would be, and Ballesteros hits his drive at least 330 yards because he hits his 5 iron for his second, put it in the water.

Simultaneously, Jack holes this vital putt at No. 17 which enables him to win, and he wins it at 46. It was incredible. It was a marvelous effort, particularly on a tough golf course like this. But the man was a hell of an athlete, not only at golf but at other sports, as well.

And it was very, very— For me, it was encouraging because I’ve had a different philosophy on the body and fitness and what the human being is capable of doing, as far as longevity is concerned.

So I was not surprised because I know what an athlete he was and what we’re going to see in the future, we are in our infancy right now. But what a remarkable effort. The thing is, coming to the conclusion of it, the world’s tendency of thinking you are old playing golf at 40, it changed the whole concept, which is fantastic.

    Q. Arnold had a shot at it in ’60 and you had a shot at it in ’72. Do you think we’ll see someone win the Grand Slam?
JACK NICKLAUS: I’ve always said, it’s possible but not probable. I mean, Tiger, for all intents and purposes, did that. He didn’t do it in the same year, but for all intents and purposes, he did it within a year’s scope.

I held the PGA, the Masters, the U.S. Open and lost the British Open by a shot. I would have held all four of them, too, in ’72, because the PGA was played early in ’71.

But yeah, I think somewhere along the line. Although, in today’s game, the game’s different. The game is all different. I think that Hogan, Nelson, Snead era, played in a shot making era. I think we were probably in the latter part of the shot making era, although I think we were in the same basic era. And Tiger actually was taught from that era.

Then as Tiger went on, I think one of the reasons that Tiger excelled is that the equipment started to be more important than the player. But Tiger won so much, not because he was really good; he was really good, but he was really good because he could play the old equipment and play shots that other people never had to learn because equipment didn’t force them to learn it.

And today, the guys, you could take the guys today, they wouldn’t have a clue what we played with. I mean, one of the fellas came out this morning and looked at my irons on the practice tee and said, You can play with these?

I said, Well, I’ve played all my life with them. I’ve got the same clubs I played with when I was playing.

He said, Why don’t you get some of those irons that can help you? [laughter] I really thought it was just fine what I had it. [laughter] I did all right with them.

But that’s the mentality today. In other words, the golf ball doesn’t curve, so they really just hit the ball and hit it at the flag. If they play all right to left, they play all right to left. They get a golf club or a golf ball that suits what they do and play it. I’m not saying that’s bad, it’s just different.

And to answer your question, the more we have of that, the harder it is for somebody who is really good to separate themselves and that’s why Tiger separated himself because he was not only really good, but he had the advantage of the equipment, if he wanted it, but knew how to play the other. I think he was sort of the end of that era.

And so today, to get somebody to really dominate like Tiger did or I or Gary or Arnold did, I think it’s a little bit more difficult. Does that answer your question?

GARY PLAYER: I’ve got a driver now that I’ve got it on ultimate hook, and I still can’t hook the ball. And yet as a young man years ago with all that inferior equipment, I’d hit at least two or three hooks a round, because if you weren’t exact, that would take place.

And Jack was the only one when we played who could take a 1 iron— Arnold hit a 1 iron, but he hit it like a bullet. Jack was the only one that could come to 13 and hit that 1 iron high in the sky or the 2 iron high in the sky. Arnold and I couldn’t do that.

And now I’ve got a 5 wood in my bag, and it’s equivalent of a 2 iron. I promise you, it just goes straight up in the air. Well, what I would have loved to have had— I lost the Masters in a playoff to Palmer. We were at 13, both right next to each other. He went for it and I laid up because I had a slightly bad lie and had a 2 iron. If I had the club I have now, you hit it, it goes up in the sky like that. It’s a vast difference.

How about Bobby Jones, this phenomenal golfer, using a broomstick, basically, as a shaft, and the scores that he did with a ball that went 80 yards less than now, that’s when you really realize what a golfer he was. You always told me what a golfer he was. I never quite appreciated until you explained to me.

JACK NICKLAUS: What was amazing, I thought, about Jones, and I could be wrong in this, but I think I’m correct, he played all his life not knowing what his swing weights were and weights and so forth. And he had one club in his bag that he always trouble with, his 4 iron, if I’m not mistaken, or 5 iron, doesn’t make any difference, it was totally out of balance with the rest of his golf clubs. He was good enough that he could feel that and knew that, but they didn’t have any way to test it back in those days. I think that’s correct. Somewhere around that area.

    Q. You spoke a few times saying that you, Jack and Arnold traveled all over the world to promote golf. There’s more number of countries playing golf, do you feel that the current crop of golfers are not doing enough or are they doing enough to promote the game of golf?
GARY PLAYER: No, I think today, we get a true world champion because they are playing tournaments all over the world on a tour, and to say you’re the best golfer in the world because you’re the best golfer in America, that doesn’t apply, or you’re the best golfer in Europe.

Now, it’s a very different thing when you get off a plane and you go to India or South Africa or to Kazakhstan or whatever it may be with different food, you can’t read an editorial, the language is not the same, the culture is not the same, and to compete under different conditions, it takes a special talent to do that.

I was just fascinated the other day. I was mesmerized, in fact, because when I came to this great country, it took me 40 hours, stopping four times, and no jets, sitting up like this, no disposable diapers. I can remember washing my children’s crappy nappies in the toilet and rinsing them out and putting them back on. So it was a different time.

I went to Australia, it took me 40 hours, and I heard a guy the other day say, my game’s going off because I’ve been playing international golf, and he’s making a million dollars and he’s traveling in his own jet or first class being served, and I’m reading that this is hurting his game. Well, I know what would happen if he played when I played. He’d not have broken 90. [laughter]

I think athletes are inclined to forget across the board, if you make a $100,000 a year, you’re doing pretty damn well. Probably 9 percent of America make that and now they are making millions. You have to be very careful what you say, I think.

    Q. The career Grand Slam, you all were in your 20s, and as we look at Rory this week, how important do you think it is to get it done sooner than later in terms of it weighing on you? Jack, I think you had probably   
JACK NICKLAUS: In terms of you guys weighing on it. I mean, really that’s where it what happens. When we did it, there was no press issue on it. When I finished the career Grand Slam, I don’t think there was one word even written about it.

    Q. Did you think about it?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, absolutely not. You know, the best player never to win a major, by the time you read that and you have a list of them, half a dozen guys that are out there that are vying for that enviable position, you know, but they see newspapers. They see magazines.
When we did it, we never even saw what you guys wrote. It was never publicized. I never even thought about it. I still haven’t thought much about it.

GARY PLAYER: I disagree entirely (laughter). In fact, this man is one of the reasons I won the Grand Slam. I was going to Greensboro and Jack said— Jack, I vividly remember him saying, you want to win the Grand Slam, you better come with me and practice at Bellerive.

JACK NICKLAUS: I said win the U.S. Open.

GARY PLAYER: I’m remembering better than you are [laughter], but we can pull each other’s legs.

He said to me, You’d better come with me if you want to win it. I was reluctant because I didn’t have much money, I didn’t. And I went with Jack, and that’s one of the reasons that I won it.

But to me, I was very much aware of it, because Ben Hogan was my golf idol as a young man growing up, and I followed his record and I watched what he had done. And Gene Sarazen, I had played golf with him in 1955, and he was telling me about it. So I was aware of it.

But the thing is, I won the Grand Slam, and you’re correct in saying in our 20s. I won it at 29, and I said to my wife, I said, nobody will ever do that again.

Jack came along and won it at 26. Now here is the greatest feat ever accomplished in golf: Tiger won it at 24. How many pros have played in the four majors at 24? I mean, it’s phenomenal.

    Q. If you could go into a little more detail how much you enjoy doing this every year on a Thursday morning?
JACK NICKLAUS: Actually I really would rather go have breakfast because I haven’t had that. But what, hitting the ball?

    Q. With the family.
JACK NICKLAUS: To start off with, I was reluctant to want to do it. I really wasn’t ready to be a ceremonial golfer yet. It took me awhile to accept my position as far as that goes. I think we all still think we can play. I think when I first started doing this, I think I still had in my own mind that I could play, but I was wrong. I know that now. Well, I knew it then, too, but didn’t want to admit it.

Now I come here and I bring my grandkids to caddie for me. Gary is doing the same. Gary had two of them yesterday and I had two yesterday. I think we both got— I finally doubled up this year, because I said, I’m not going to get through all 22. Gary and I both got the same number of grandkids. They get a big kick out of it, the two that caddied for me, Jackie, he’s youngest, Will and Nan’s youngest, Kelly, they are six days apart in age. They both just said, God, that was a great experience, really enjoyed that. They had a good day. And so that’s my fun to come there.

And then hitting the ball off the first tee, Gary out drives me every year now, which is okay. He keeps himself fit and he practices hard for the first tee shot. [laughter] He brought out a yellow ball today that was marked a little differently. I think it probably said illegal. [laughter].

GARY PLAYER: You better not tell Callaway that, you’ll get a lawsuit. [laughter]

JACK NICKLAUS: We have a lot of fun about it. We enjoy the Par 3. We had a good time yesterday. It was nice last year that Ben could join us because Arnold couldn’t play. Nice that Tom joined us this year. My guess is that Tom will probably join us for several years to come.

It’s become a nice thing that we’re being included in and sort of recognizes our accomplishments to the game a little bit and keeps us a little bit relevant to what’s going on today.

The players, several players were down on the tee that came down and came up afterwards and said they really enjoyed it and so forth. Rickie Fowler gave me a hard time about, he says, Did you reach the bottom of the hill?

I said, Almost.

You know, those kind of things, which are kind of fun. It’s fun, because I really like the kids of today that are playing. Kids like Rickie and Rory and Jordan and Jason, Dustin, and so forth and so on, Justin Thomas.

Justin Thomas came back last week after he got—or two weeks ago, he got beat in the Match Play and he called me from Houston. He says, I’m struggling, he says, mind if I stop by and talk to you a little bit. He came over Saturday night, we spent a couple hours watching the basketball game and talking. I get a kick out of that, the kids want to do that. But I had the opportunity to help him and it keeps me saying, hey, maybe I still know something or I’m still relevant to what’s going on. It’s kind of fun. And the first tee ceremony does the same thing with that whole thing. It’s kind of fun.

GARY PLAYER: For me it’s a very special moment, because I think the greatest event that exists in the Bible, the book of Judaism and the book of Qur’an, is the word love and it exemplifies it when you tee off before 8:00 in the morning and people at 7:00 in the morning are pouring in to watch one tee shot. So the respect and love they give us is something very, very special, for me.

Talking about the 22 grandchildren, we’ve to win tournaments to break even; they eat so damn much. But Jack, I wouldn’t be too concerned about me out driving you too much because you did it to me for 50 damn years. I have a slightly different philosophy to Jack. We all have our own little ideas and quirks.

My dream, my ultimate dream is when I stand on that first tee, ideally, yes, I go to the gym, and yesterday I did 1,300 sit ups and crunches, I pushed 400 pounds with my legs and I ran on the treadmill flat out, because I do want to get on that first tee because there are a billion people watching it around the world. My dream, my dream to fulfill is to get a message to the young people in the world that your body is a holy temple and if you want to be productive, you want to be happy, you want to do something for your country and contribute to society, you’ve got to be in shape. So exercise and education, it’s my dream to get across and that’s why I do it.

    Q. You met Bobby Jones when you were 15 years old; wonder what that relationship with Jones meant to you and still means to you all these years later, even after he’s gone.
JACK NICKLAUS: Most of you probably heard that philosophy. I grew up at Scioto, in Columbus. I started playing golf in 1950, and Jones had won The Open in Scioto in 1926, and there were many members there at that time, including my father, who watched Jones win The Open in ’26. So all I heard growing up was Jones, Jones, Jones, Jones hit this, Jones did this, Jones did that. But I had not thought much about it. He was sort of my father’s idol.

In 1955, I qualified for the U.S. Amateur and went to Richmond, Virginia, James River Course, the Country Club of Virginia. Jones, he was a speaker there at the dinner that night. In the afternoon before the dinner, he was sitting behind the 18th green in a cart and I hit the ball into the green and I didn’t have a clue who it was. I mean, at 15 years old, did you know who Bobby Jones was? Probably not, other than what I heard.

Finally I heard, oh, Mr. Jones–I had heard nothing but Bobby Jones all my life. So I went over and he says, I’ve been sitting here now for a couple hours, you’re only the third person to reach this green in two.

That’s about the whole conversation. He says, I wish you luck and so forth. He spoke at the dinner that night, and after the dinner, he was walking with two canes at the time and he came down the hall to catch me, why, I don’t know. He says, I just want to tell you, I’m going to come out and watch you play tomorrow.

And, oh, okay. I’m playing with Bob Gardener, who is a pretty good player, Bob is a former Walker Cup and World Cup player. I had him 1 down after ten holes. Of course, Jones comes along and I immediately go bogey, bogey, double bogey. He turned to my dad and said, Charlie, I don’t think I’m doing Jack much good and got out of there.

Anyway, there were several other occasions when I met Bob Jones, but then the first time I came to the Masters, there was a little note in my locker inviting me and my father down to his cabin, which he did every year, which is something— So I grew up with Bob Jones. As I grew up, grew up with Bob Jones watching me a little bit. Gave me a nice compliment when I won in ’65 playing a game in which he was not familiar.

So many things that he has influenced my life. I love what he did here at Augusta, the way he’s handled his life, the way—the reverence towards him as a person and as a golfer. It was something to follow and have a guide, which he did.

So one cute story, which I think you may have heard, when I turned pro, I turned pro and about three or four days after I turned pro— The letter was obviously mailed before I turned pro. It was a letter from Bob Jones and it said: Jack, you have an opportunity to follow in my footsteps as an amateur and be— The world needs an amateur to lead the game, and there hasn’t been one since me that can do that. He says, I see that opportunity that you have.

And he says, however, I understand with the lure of professional golf today, and what it might mean, and I can understand if that’s what you want to do because if you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best. However, I just want to throw in my two cents. He says, I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Spalding all my life [laughter], which I got a really big kick out of. He was giving me the Amateur lecture and also giving Spalding a kick, which was kind of funny. So there was another side of it, too, that was fun.

But I enjoyed that very much. I had a wonderful relationship with Bob Jones. Always enjoyed, obviously— Never saw him hit a shot, but always enjoyed the relationship we did have.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you, Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. Player, thank you all so much. It is always a complete joy to have you down here with us.