Jack Nicklaus Masters Tournament Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and good afternoon, Jack. It’s good to be back up here with you. You and I have done this a number of times over our two careers here. It’s good to be here again with you.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you, Billy.

THE MODERATOR: As you all know, it’s a true honor and a privilege to have this guy with us. He’s a six time Masters Champion and he holds the record for the most tournament wins. He became the first competitor here to defend his title, and that was in 1966. We have a plaque honoring him on the course between 16 and 17.

And this year marks the 30th anniversary of his unforgettable sixth Masters victory in 1986, when he became the oldest player to claim a green jacket at age 46. And his caddie, Jackie, is with him in the room today. I know you will all remember the wonderful photographs of that wonderful, wonderful round of golf.

He’s a member of the Golf Hall of Fame. He’s accomplished 73 PGA TOUR victories, including 18 major championships. He’s a five time PGA Player of the Year award and a great friend and a member of this course, a great friend of this course and a great friend to the game of golf in many, many different ways.

So Jack, it’s once again a great pleasure to have you back at Augusta and have you take some time to answer some questions that these guys and gals probably have for you.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay.

THE MODERATOR: Would you like to make a statement first?

JACK NICKLAUS: I thought I was just here yesterday and it was 25 years. I guess five years have passed since we last did this.

You know, time passes so fast anymore. Seems like it was just yesterday we walked off the 18th green and Jackie and I gave each other a hug, which to me is probably my most memorable moment in golf, having your son on the bag and being able to share that with him. That was a great time and great fun.

And actually, I guess the Golf Channel has a special tonight at 9 o’clock, I guess, when I’ll be at the Masters dinner, so I’ll miss it, but I got to watch about half of it on the airplane coming up today. It was very memorable. Anyway, I’ll drop it right there and give it all to you.

Q. There’s been some talk that Augusta National officials might lengthen the 13th hole. They apparently acquired some land at Augusta Country Club. What would be the pluses and minuses of that and do you think it should be done?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you’ve probably got three or four different ways to handle that situation. One would be very simply just make it a par 4. They could do that, which they are not going to do.

Number two is what they’re proposing to do, and of course that depends on whether Augusta Country Club will share their property with Augusta National or not. That’s another question. Depends on what the tariff is, not sure about that.

The third thing they could do, and they’ve got plenty of room to do it, is recreate the green back about 30 yards. They could do that very easily. Probably make the same hole.

Four, they could take and reroute the stream bed, push it out and put a few more trees in.

So they’ve got a lot of options of what they could do. I’m sure that from a traditionalist standpoint, the best way is probably to lengthen the hole, and then you don’t change anything else. They have done that once, bought some land from Augusta Country Club and did that.

I think with the length the guys hit today, it’s the only reason— I tell you, the simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball (laughter). The golf ball goes so far, Augusta National is about the only place, the only golf course in the world that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to make to keep up with the golf ball. I don’t think anybody else could ever do it.

It’s just so impractical to continue to allow the golf ball— well, the golf ball hasn’t gone that much lately, but what’s happened is the golf ball has not changed a lot since probably 2005 or 2006, I suppose. As I said, they’ve basically hit the limits to that, but the guys haven’t hit the limits.

I used to be called Big Jack. I’m really huge now, about 5′ 8″. But now the guys are all 6′ 3″, 6′ 4″, 6′ 5″, big long arms, and can hit it nine miles and they just take it right over the top of the trees. Sam used to take it over the top of the trees when he was young. He hit it a long way. The trouble is the trees were only this high there.[laughter] [indicating low]

Q. Can you talk about your role as Honorary Starter and your reaction when hearing that Arnold wouldn’t be striking a drive this year?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, my role as an Honorary Starter was one that I was reluctant to get involved in, as most of you probably know. I was like everybody else; nobody wants to get old, although the alternative was not nearly as good.

But once I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it. Gary looks forward every year to winning his Masters and trying to out drive me [laughter]. I think he was successful last year. I think I hit one in the neck and he hit one out there by me. At least that’s what I was told, at least by Gary [laughter].

But we’ll miss Arnold as far as hitting the golf ball. I guess Arnold is coming out to the first tee. We’ll see. I have a sneaking suspicion, if Arnold wants to, he will be welcome to hit a ball if he’d like. But whether he will or not, I don’t know. We’ll miss him on the first tee, but Gary and I will try to do the best we can without him.

Q. As silly as this question sounds on the surface, do you think that this tournament, in some shape, form or fashion, has grown even bigger in stature in the last five or ten years?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the Masters Tournament continues to grow in stature. I think this tournament, probably more so than any other tournament, and it was pretty hard to grow beyond where it was five years ago. It’s not a silly question. I think it’s a good question.

I don’t think that— When you have a situation where you’ve got one golf course, one location that you’re going to stay at year after year after year and you continue to do the things and be the first one of the year, the only tournament to control your own finances and everything else that you’re doing with it, you have the ability to do a lot of things. They have done it and continue to do it.

Billy Payne has just done an unbelievable job of taking the Masters to one level and moving it to another. I just think he’s just done a great job. I think that the Masters gets the recognition that it deserves. It’s a great golf tournament. It’s a great sporting event. I think the Masters and Wimbledon are the two favorite sporting events. I go to Wimbledon most every year because it’s so much like Augusta. It’s just a real class, high quality, run properly event. It’s just something very special.

Q. The fellow you crossed paths with coming in here, he obviously has a very profound history overseas with the British Open. What do you think his legacy is here specific to this tournament and this place?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I listened a little bit the latter part of it. I first played— I don’t know that I actually ever played with Tom prior to playing here with him in 1975. I may have, but I don’t recall. I played with him as a kid. I played with him in an exhibition when he was 15 years old, but the first time I think we played in a tournament, it may have been here.

He was in contention right to the end, and I think he hit two balls in the water at 16. While Miller and Weiskopf were back on the green putting and watching what was going on, Watson was walking back and forth to the tee and sort of— I know he felt terrible because he was not in the middle of the tournament after he hit in the water and all of a sudden he’s holding up the whole field with everything else that’s going on.

He certainly didn’t hold up the field after that. He was very kind to me. He said Jack made bogey in ’77 on the last hole to make it easier for him to win. Well, he made it very difficult for me. It’s the only time in my life that I can ever recall that I had a game plan of something I was going to do that was affected, and I changed it because of what somebody did on another hole.

Tom birdied 17, and I was sitting in the fairway, I had 164 yards to the hole. I had a 6 iron in my hand and I’m playing for a front left pin placement. I always hit the ball to the right of the hole or middle of the green or into the face and let it come back. You’re going to leave yourself, if you hit a decent shot, you’re going to be 15 to 20 feet at the most no matter where you hit it.

I got there and I changed my mind over the ball and said, I’ve got to get the ball to the hole. Why did I have to get the ball in the hole? I tried to put the ball on the green, make a chance for birdie and [at] worst make him at least have to par the hole. And I hit it fat and put it in the bunker. It’s the only time it ever happened to me.

Even at 35 years old, you’re not too old to learn, and I certainly learned from that. I never answered your question, though.

I think Tom’s legacy at Augusta is very firm. What has he won, twice? He had chances to win other times. He’s a great player. He’s one of the best players, I’d put him as one of the best five or six players that ever played the game, and certainly winning here and the way he won at the British, he dominated the British Open for many years and being there, the way he played, won five times.

Watson is a great player. I remember the first time he looked at me like a kid with blinders on. He was going to get someplace and didn’t matter who was in his way or what was there, he was going to get there. That’s the way he played.

Q. Earlier in his press conference today, Jason Day talked about how he considered quitting the game because he was frustrated—

JACK NICKLAUS: Do you really believe that? [laughter] [That] somebody as talented as he is would ever think of quitting this game obviously would have to have his head examined because he is a really good player. I heard him talking about his trajectory— His trajectory is higher than anybody else’s in golf. Has a beautiful golf swing, great plane, great attitude, great short game.

If he was ever thinking about quitting the game, it had to be when he was about 11 years old. [laughter] That was before he played his first Masters.

Q. We all know that you’ve never been content to just live in the past. You’re always looking at new things to do. In fact, there was a report out today that your company is interested in buying the Cold Spring Country Club. What keeps you involved in looking forward?

JACK NICKLAUS: We are not buying the Cold Spring Country Club.

Q. Will you be involved in that?

JACK NICKLAUS: We are involved, but we are not buying.

Q. What keeps you going?

JACK NICKLAUS: I said years ago, when I stopped playing golf, that most people work all their life to play golf, or work all their life and retire to play golf. I said I played golf all my life to retire to work. I never had the fulfillment and the opportunity and the pleasure of being able to business wise accomplish things I couldn’t while I was playing golf and I really enjoy it.

Frankly, my way, the way I’ve done it, I gained experience while playing golf of doing a lot of things. But the fun I’ve had, I’m really mature from a standpoint of business age obviously, but I’ve enjoyed it. We didn’t have a golf course contract in the United States since probably 2006. We’ve got seven or eight this year. We’ve got a lot of work coming on this year. And most all of it new work, which is amazing to me. And it’s fun to look at the opportunity to— I love to be able to create. I love— My goal has always been to grow the game of golf and places, the opportunity—when the economy went south in the United States—the opportunity to go to China, go to Russia, go to the Middle East, go to New Zealand, Australia, South America, places that we normally wouldn’t go.

And to have the opportunity to do that and be involved in different cultures, being involved in seeing how people do things in other parts of the world, having to go to some of the places and know that they don’t ever pay their bills; you’ve got a few of those places. And you go to other places where they pay their bills like clockwork.

I really enjoy that. It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t have a clue what your question was. [laughter] I don’t know whether I answered it or not. [laughter]

Q. I’m just curious, we know about the economy turning down in 2008, but what’s going on now that you have seven or eight new courses?

JACK NICKLAUS: I have no idea. I think the game of golf hit its peak in about 2006. Correct me if I’m wrong here, I think we lost about five million golfers after 2006, from about 30 to 25 million.

Q. And we almost lost Jason Day apparently, too.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, he was only 11. [laughter]

But then I think golf’s made a turnaround. I think the game is coming back. I think they figured out how to take the old golf clubs and golf courses and either redo them, restructure them, rebrand them, or whatever they might be, and the game of golf has had a resurgence. And the people that have come back into it are people that really want to play golf and be involved in the game.

He was talking about Cold Springs, which is up near Oheka Castle up in Long Island, that’s a project that they’ve taken an old castle which was a golf clubhouse at one time. It was Otto Kahn’s place. I guess the Great Gatsby thing came from there and so forth.

Anyway, what they did with the golf course, the golf course and club split, been apart for 50 years and they are now bringing them back together. We’re involved. It’s an old Seth Raynor course, but we’re treating it as a raw piece of property.

I can’t name some of the others, but we haven’t inked the numbers on them. We’ve a variety of places that we are doing. We are halfway done with Montecito, which is an old golf course in Santa Barbara, but we’ve treated it like a raw piece of property. So for all intents and purposes, it was a raw piece of property, none of the routing that was there was used.

So to have those opportunities to do those kind of things; and why, I think a lot of time, people are tired of sitting on the sidelines. They said, I’ve sat around for about seven or eight years here, and nothing’s happened and I’m not getting any younger—not talking about me. I’m talking about a developer—I’m not getting any younger; I’m going to go ahead and do my project. A lot of that has happened.

And a lot of people, some new people have decided that’s what they want to do. It’s been fun to see it coming back. I’ve been working overseas and now I have to figure out what I’m going to do in the United States because I’ve been working overseas.

Q. In your 40 plus years competing here, is there one shot that historically gave you fits?

JACK NICKLAUS: Gave me fits? Tee shot 2 a little bit because you really don’t want to visit the Delta ticket booth down on the left. You don’t want to do that that early in the tournament. I was not as aggressive on that tee shot as I would have liked to have been.

There’s a lot. You can go shot after shot after shot. The third hole, where the pin is on the left. The fourth hole, you avoid that bunker. The fifth green is perched up there going off on all sides. There are a lot of holes that will give you fits.

I thought there were probably a half a dozen shots on this golf course that you have to watch out for. The tee shot at 2, second shot at 11, tee shot at 12, tee shot, second shot on 13, second shot on 15.

Outside of that, the rest of the golf course is not that difficult, but you’ve still got to watch out for it. As far as giving you fits and concern, second shot at 11 probably. Because it looks so inviting and you know that you really can’t be stupid and hit the ball at the hole. The wind comes across there and all of a sudden it balloons up and gets in the water pretty easy, so you just can’t do it.

But that’s about it.

Q. Would you talk about what went through your mind, the thought process, after the bogey on 12 in 1986 in the fourth round?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, after being totally ticked at myself for doing what I did, making bogey and making a spike mark worry me, it probably was a pretty good kick in the rear end to say, you know, hey, you got yourself back to where you have a chance in this tournament and now you’d better have to go back and play.

I couldn’t play 13 conservatively. I turned around the corner on 13 with a 3 wood and hit a 3 iron on the green, which is a nice shot because you have overhanging limbs on the right side and took it under the trees. I didn’t make eagle but it sort of gave me— making the bogey at 12, even though I’m kicking myself in the rear end, I knew that I had to turn my thought process around.

Q. Good evening. Would you talk to us about your relationship with Gary and Arnie and how it’s evolved over the years?

JACK NICKLAUS: We started out playing golf and now we’ve gotten old. That’s about as quick as I can do that. [laughter]

I first met Arnold when I was 18. Arnold was 28. It was Dow Finsterwald Day, 1958, at a little place in Athens, Ohio. We played an exhibition, first time I played with Arnold. We had driving contests on the first tee. I drove it over the green on the first hole and won the driving contest, but Arnold shot 63 that day while we were playing, so he won the round and that was okay.

I didn’t play with Arnold again until 1962 in Phoenix, my first round there. We were all three with McCormack at the time, with IMG. We were thrown together with exhibitions and tournaments and events that wanted to have the three of us there.

First time I saw Gary play was 1958 at Southern Hills. I remember watching, he wore all white that day and he was playing his second shot to the 9th green and I remember watching, and he went right like that at the top of the backswing. And I said, well, that’s something I don’t have to worry about. He finished second in the tournament that year to Bolt.

The next time I saw him, he was right there. He changed his golf swing, much the better. I don’t think at his stature he would have gotten there had he not.

But anyway, we all were thrown together in many ways because of McCormack. We enjoyed each other’s company. We enjoyed kidding each other mercilessly. We played so much golf together and if one of the other one shot 75, we couldn’t wait to get to the locker room. We were waiting at his locker to ask him where he got all his birdies that day. We were unmerciful about that kind of stuff, but that was the fun of it because you didn’t want to let your guard down. You didn’t want to let your guard down because— You wanted to shoot a good round because you knew who was going to be sitting beside your locker giving you a real thumping.

Arnold used to come pick me up in his airplane in the early ’60s in Ohio. We would go and play in exhibitions all over the country. Gary didn’t do as much of that but he did some of that with us. I suppose in many ways, Gary was a little closer to me because our families were pretty much the same.

Gary has six kids and I have five. I think Gary, I think we both have 22 grandkids. From that standpoint, we were a little closer. Arnold, more from competition because Arnold and I had more of head to head competition. I didn’t have that much head to head competition with Gary.

That was a long answer.

Q. Obviously you won your 18 over 25 seasons. Tiger won his 14 over 12. Why do you think you were so durable? Obviously injuries and other things derailed him a little bit. Why do you think you were so durable and held up longer than he did?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know whether I held up longer. I think I probably choked more in the middle. [laughter] Anyway, a little light answer there.

I had a lot of opportunities to win and didn’t. Tiger didn’t have many opportunities to win that he didn’t. He won most every time he had an opportunity. I think he led in last round in— I guess he led going into all 14 of his majors, didn’t he, every one that he won. I led going into the last round in 12 of them, and— I won ten of those 12 that I won, were with leading.

But I guess I was just lucky from a physical standpoint. I never really had many injuries. My first time I ever withdrew from a golf tournament was 1981. I was 41 years old. It was Firestone. I was in fourth place going into the last round and my back spasmed and went to my knees, and they had to carry me off the practice tee.

Two years later, I had the same thing happen here in Augusta in 1983. I was playing with Gary and Fred Couples after the first round, shot 73. The only two times I had a problem.

I was able to manage my problems that I did have. Did I get sick or something like everybody else? Sure. Did I have injuries? Sure. Did I play through them? Sure, like everybody does. But they were never injuries that kept me from continuing to play.

I think really early on, my schedule— And Tiger has done much the same. Early on in my schedule, I sort of focused on the major championships and I felt like my year was four tournaments and that whatever I needed to prepare for those four tournaments, that’s what I did. And so that’s the way I looked at it.

So when you do that, you’re not abusing yourself too much. You can play a longer time. And why— Tiger and I both won young. And he may span 25 years himself. I don’t think he’s done. I think Tiger’s going to win more tournaments.

Q. When he said that three or four months ago, he said anything going forward would be gravy to him, when you saw that—

JACK NICKLAUS: Would be what, gravy?

Q. He seemed resigned to his winning days being behind him. Were you surprised by that?

JACK NICKLAUS: That’s probably an easier answer than I’m going to get back out there next week and really doing it. He’s probably tired of saying that. If he says the other, then all of sudden everybody writes him off for a while and then he’s got to show up for his 1980 and his 1986. I think he’ll show up for that a little bit.

THE MODERATOR: Jack, normally I would wish you good luck on your round tomorrow, but since you’re not playing tomorrow—

JACK NICKLAUS: I am so playing tomorrow. I’m going to play in the Par 3 and I’m going to drive it on every hole (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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