PNC Father/Son Challenge pretournament interview: Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II

Q. On playing the PNC Father/Son Challenge
JACK NICKLAUS: We’ll enjoy it. We’ll have a good time. As long as he plays well, we’ll do well because I can’t play well. I’m terrible, but that’s alright.

Q. On his mindset entering the tournament
JACK NICKLAUS: My mindset? We start out with the mindset that we want to play well as a father and son. As the week goes on, if we play well, we’ll keep that mindset. If we don’t play well, we’ll move along with the mindset to have a really good time and enjoy each other’s company which is something we don’t have a chance to do very often.

Q. How special is this for the fathers?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, all the fathers enjoy playing with their sons. I believe we’ll be the oldest pair this week.

JACK NICKLAUS II: By a long shot, 131 years. I think my math is correct. We win that category.

JACK NICKLAUS: What’s going to have to happen is Jack is going to have to drive the ball well. He’s going to have to hit his second shots well. He’s going to have to chip well and put well too. If we do that then we’ll have a good shot.

JACK NICKLAUS II: You will play well, so if I can do all that, we’ll play well.

Q. There’s nothing else like this event in professional sports.
JACK NICKLAUS: It’s fun. It’s different. Kind of neat. It’s the only time in the year when we do that. At home we play a Father/Son and I have the opportunity to play with all the boys. We have a lot of combinations. I’ve got four boys and 14 grandboys. We put them all together as much as we can. Here I can only pick one at a time so it’s Jack’s turn this week.

Q. Does Orlando conjure up any Arnold Palmer memories for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Arnold changed the rules for this event, which was good and we lobbied for that, for Father/Grandson. Arnold brought Sam in and his other grandson Will and we played with both of them. He was hitting the ball like I’m hitting it now.

Q. Did you watch Tiger last week?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn’t see. I saw maybe a couple swings. I thought he swung the golf club fairly decently. He didn’t really play very well, but it was nice to see him back. He was pleased to be back. He’s gotta figure out what he wants to do and go play. The talent is there.

Q. We talked about the talent in the 1970s. What’s the state of the game right now with the depth of talent?
JACK NICKLAUS: There’s a lot of depth out there. The TOUR, while Tiger was going through his problems, a lot of guys came along and developed. Rory, Jordan, Jason, even Dustin who is a little bit older. All those guys, Rickie, they came along and learned how to win. Tiger’s coming back and he has that to contend with a bunch of guys who learned how to win because he left a void for them to do so. That will be tough for him. The depth of players out there today is great. Matsuyama, when he won the Memorial Tournament a couple years ago, we said he’s going to be a very good player. Then he had a lull, but he’s played well this fall. You have a ton of European players who are really good now. The depth of world golf with young players, golf is in a healthy place right now. Tiger is going to come back and play well. Phil is not done.

Q. What is the most difficult aspect of the game for you as generations change?
JACK NICKLAUS: The most difficult thing for me is keeping yourself focused on what you’re doing. I didn’t win after I was 56, so it’s been 20 years since I’ve won an event. As you go play, you try to get your focus and desire. You don’t do it to the level you would do it if you wanted to win. You have to work at it and be on top of your game.

Q. What did Arnold Palmer mean to you?
JACK NICKLAUS: He was a great friend of mine. Probably my fiercest competitor in my early days. In the later days, he was my friend. We had a lot of laughs, good times. Neither one of us talked much about golf. He meant an awful lot to a lot of people, and to me. He will be missed, particularly in the Orlando area.

Q. Jackie, what are your best memories of playing the PNC Father/Son Challenge?
JACK NICKLAUS II:  Honestly, the chance to walk down the fairways with dad and try to compete a little bit. That’s what it’s all about for me. We’ll try to win, but realistically, with 131 years of age between us, that’s a stretch. Someone has to win. I have my son on the bag too, so there’s three Jack Nicklauses inside the ropes.

JACK NICKLAUS: A pair is not gonna beat us. We have three Jacks.

Q.  What does it mean to be on the course with your dad?
JACK NICKLAUS II: It’s incredible. I wish more of my kids could be out here either to caddy or play with us. He might have one of the grandkids out next year. The first grandchild was born in 1990 and he won his last major in ’86. The grandkids didn’t get to see grandpa doing what he did best for so many years. It’s neat for me to see that and to be out here with him.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh my gosh. I have to play again? I’ve had enough of golf [laughter].

JACK NICKLAUS II: The grandkids are lining up.

Q. Your Buckeyes are in the playoffs. Can they win the national title?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when they played Michigan — and Michigan’s a good football team this year — they had 44 seniors and Ohio State had 43 freshman playing. When I talked to Urban at the start of the year this year, I said, ‘How are you going to be?’ He said, ‘Not real good, just OK. Next year we’re going to be really good. And the year after that, really, really good.’ So I think Urban feels like, if he’s in the playoffs this year with a team he felt was so-so, he’s got a great future. Can that future carry him through the rest of this year? That’s the question.

Q. What kind of wisdom have you tried to share with your children?
JACK NICKLAUS: It’s been 40, 50 years since I shared any wisdom with you.

JACK NICKLAUS II: That’s not true. Maybe not about how to hit a golf ball, but not how to live life. We get that every day.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t care how old your children get, you’re always a dad. His son is 26 and he’s caddying for him. Out here caddying for his father, so I’m sure he’ll get words of wisdom from his father too, just like I gave him words of wisdom. You’re never done being a dad, that’s the way it works. My wife is never done being a mom.

Q.  Jackie, in a field this special, there’s nothing like it. Is there a particular player or son that you enjoy seeing?
JACK NICKLAUS II: I wouldn’t single out one person. A lot of the kids that are playing, I grew up with. Literally, we were in toddler care while our dads were out playing. It’s such a neat event. One thing I enjoy is watching the mannerisms because they are so similar to the dads. We are built very differently, but I wish I could hit the golf ball like him. You look at the Trevinos, the Stadlers, the Floyds, Irwins, right down the line. That’s funny to me. From a distance, it looks like they are the same person.

Q. You supported Donald Trump. Do you have plans for inauguration day?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think we’re going to go. I talked to him a couple days ago. He said, ‘Now you’re going to bring along that son of yours.’ He always talks about the speech that Jackie gave at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony. He said it was the best speech he ever heard and to make sure Jackie brings his wife.

Q. Jackie, are you writing Trump’s speech then?
JACK NICKLAUS II: No, he does great on his own. I had an easy subject. I presented Dad with the Congressional Gold Medal and Mr. Trump was there. He was very kind. He gave me a nice compliment. He thought it was a great tribute to a father.

JACK NICKLAUS: Donald, I have talked to him quite a bit. He’s been a good friend for a long time. I texted him after the election and I said ‘congratulations, Mr. President. The Nicklauses are all happy for the Trumps,’ and I said, ‘It’s time to bring American together, make American great again as you wish. But on a more important note, we haven’t redone that 18th green at Trump Jupiter and that needs to get done.’ He got a kick out of that. He said, ‘You have a memory like an elephant.’ I’m very happy for him and I think he’ll do a great job. I really do.