MODERATOR: Jack, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a few minutes on the front end to recognize a few people in the crowd to start out.
So we’re here to say hello to everyone and thank you for being here for the 40th Memorial Tournament. And I thought I’d kickoff Jack’s press conference by recognizing a few special people that have been part of the Memorial for many years. We have Bob Baptist, the Columbus Dispatch, right here in the center [applause]. Rusty Miller from AP [applause].
Rusty and Bob have decided to retire from their professions, and they decided to retire before The Memorial tournament because they were just tired of working, or they wanted the free passes, something along those lines. But they have been great to their respective organizations, they’ve been great to The Memorial tournament over these many years, and we appreciate everything that you guys have done. And in recognition we’d like you to come up and Jack is going to present you with just a small token of our appreciation and thanks. Come on up [applause].
Thank you, Bob and Rusty. Thanks, Jack.
Before we turn it over to Jack I do want to make sure that I recognize a few other folks in the crowd. Again, this is our 40th Memorial tournament. And by our records, we think we have two folks in the crowd that have been to every Memorial tournament. I’d like to ask Paul Spohn to stand up and be recognized for being here all 40 years [applause].
And Joe Walker from the Troy Daily News [applause[.
Thank you both for being here all 40 years, that’s amazing, you two and Jack Nicklaus.
I’m going to hand this over to Joel Schuchmann.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We’d like to welcome you to the pressroom for the 40th playing of The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. I’m sure we have a lot of topics to cover, but if you would like to give us a few reflections on your 40 years you’ve been running this golf tournament and then we’ll take some questions.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, let’s just start out to say that I think “we’ve come a long way, baby,” you might say, in many ways.
Forty years, a lot of things have happened. I don’t know where our pressroom was when we started, but we didn’t have one. It was the cart barn? Underneath the clubhouse? Yes, that’s where we were. To what was then a short golf course by today’s standards, to a golf course that’s— to a driving range that’s beautiful. A lot of things have happened.
Anyway, it’s been a good run. We’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve had Presidents Cup. We’ve had the Ryder Cup. We’ve had the Solheim Cup. We’ve had U.S. Amateur, we’ve had U.S. Junior— I think we had a Junior, haven’t we? Yeah. We’ve had a little bit of everything here, as well as The Memorial tournament. We’ve tried to be active and responsive to the game of golf and having our facility being viewed by a lot. And we thank all of you for your continued participation and support.
This year the golf course is— as usual, every time everybody [who] walked in the locker room yesterday and had been on the golf course, [said] “Jack, the golf course is just great, it’s just absolutely fantastic.” That’s Paul Latshaw, our superintendent, that’s done a great job every year.
We haven’t made any changes since last year except for 18, which is more of a cosmetic change than anything. Was it 6 or 7 we moved? Just 6. I thought it was 7. Maybe we combined one. Did we combine one? Really? I thought there was 10. I can’t count very well, I guess. We took out a few bunkers at 18. The reason we took it out is, when we changed it two years ago, we changed the 18th tee, moved it backwards. The only reason I moved it back was because I wanted to make sure that— we’re trying to figure out how to make the fellows play the golf hole the way it was designed. So we moved it back, and for the last two years SHOTLink has shown us that — and particularly last year, in particular, we had one ball outside of the three bunkers that we kept. No ball was in any other bunker.
Those guys get the big kick out of three years ago or so, Robert Garrigus came in the locker room, guess what I played into 18, played it 76 yards from the hole. Okay.
And the next year he came back, he said, hey, guess where I hit it this year? I hit it 66 yards from the hole. I know a few other guys did it, too. I said, Robert, that’s not how the hole is supposed to play. I can play it the other way. Now he can’t.
Anyway, we took at all the bunkers. I thought they looked bad on television. I didn’t like to look down at the aerial shot on television, seeing the bunkers to keep someone from not playing the hole the way I wanted it to be played.
Now they play it way it was designed and that’s good. It’s 47 yards longer, which it was last year, too.
We didn’t really make any other changes on the golf course. Everything else is pretty much the same. We have a new locker room for the players this year. We took the lounge back in the same size it was originally. Moved the lockers we had in it and put them upstairs where we had a little fitness area. We put the fitness area to the actual fitness area, so we used that. And I think it works out very, very well from the clubhouse standpoint. I’ve had nothing but compliments on that.
From our standpoint, you know, the golf course is good. We’ve got a good field. We’ve got a great course. Please have some good weather [looking up]. I think we’re actually forecast for reasonable weather; I don’t think we’re forecast for bad weather. Anyway, things are looking good.
What can I do for you?
JACK NICKLAUS: Rob, you’ve been here for—
Q. All except one.
JACK NICKLAUS: All except one. That’s why you didn’t get acknowledged, I’m sorry.
Q. Jack, last year was a bit of an exception, 22‑year‑old won this event. But typically it is not an event that guys in their 20s or younger guys win, what would be the reason for that that you see?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I could go through the usual smart aleck remark and say they didn’t shoot low enough scores, but I think that really the golf course takes a little bit of learning. It’s a golf course that is— through the years I’ve gone through every hole doing what I want to do as far as figuring out how to play the hole, force people to play the hole, want to give them options to play the hole.
And it’s like any golf course that’s got a little bit of thinking in it, it takes a little bit of time to learn it. And I think for some of the young guys, it’s maybe a little more difficult for them to learn it to start off. They’re used to just standing back and rip it. You really can’t just stand back and rip it here, even though you can on a lot of holes hit it pretty hard. You have to put the ball in lay.
If I went through the golf course and gave you hole‑by‑hole, if the golf course is playing the way it should play, which is reasonably fast, there’s only probably four or five holes you really are going to hit a driver if you’re a big hitter. The rest of the time you’re actually putting it in position. That’s the way I played the golf course when I played it. Golf course is longer than when I played, but essentially should play pretty much the same.
Q. A lot of the entourage is out here growing, players have as many as half dozen or more people in their inner circle, everyone from strength coaches to swing coaches to mental coaches, nutritionists, etcetera. What do you make of that? And when you were younger, what did your entourage consist of?
JACK NICKLAUS: My wife [laughter]. I answered that part right there. Barbara and— you know, what do I make of it? I see it makes a higher payroll, to start off with.
But times have changed. Guys do different things differently than what we did them. We used to go to tournaments and we’d all stay at basically a hotel or motel fairly close. And the wives would one day I’ll take care of the kids today, you go watch your husband play, and the next day the other one watched the kids. And that was our entourage. Nobody really went to a gym. I don’t think— Football players didn’t go to gyms back when I was playing.
Today they just found that, I suppose, you keep up with the times. Once guys started going to the gym and started having fitness and health coaches and nutritional coaches, they started doing that. Swing coaches.
Jack Grout was my teacher for all my years I played. Jack Grout never set foot on the practice tee never one time when I played golf. Was Jack Grout there a lot? Yeah, he went to a lot of golf tournaments. Jack Grout was back in the bleachers, and if I wanted something I just walked back in the bleachers and say, what do you see, Jack Grout. He’d say, your head position is a little off. And that would be about it. And it was a pretty simple thing.
But today, first of all, we weren’t playing for that much money, I guess. We were playing for what we felt was a lot of money, but today they’re playing for so darn much money, that they get every advantage that they can get, that’s what they do.
If I were playing today I might be doing the same thing, I don’t know. I really like a little bit more privacy.
Q. In your prime you went to golf courses, Major Championship sites before the majors. How many rounds did you feel like you needed to really learn a golf course? Was it maybe perhaps different for each one?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it’s different for each one. Depends on what I want to do.
If I went to the British Open, I went for the time change, getting used to the conditions as much as the golf course. And also it depends how much fun I wanted to have, too. I mean, I used my practice rounds the week before tournament preparation, maybe 8 or 10 guys that went, and we always would have a game. And we’d always have — the needle was out and who could collect 20 pounds and so forth and so on. That’s what we did.
But today— not today, you’re asking about me— if I went to the U.S. Open, it was getting to learn the conditions and what was there. The PGA was the same thing. The Masters, obviously I knew what was there. But still I always liked to go in— Augusta, I always liked to go in and play 72 holes, and I liked to shoot a score. I would go in the week before and I wasn’t just hitting balls around, hitting a few extra shots, sure, I kept my first ball, and I always liked to keep a score, and say can I shoot 276, 275 week on this golf course under the conditions it’s in. And I used that as my sort of barometer of what I was going to do and how I thought I could play and move forward.
Guys today don’t even play practice rounds too much, and so it’s a different day.
Q. In the spirit of this wonderful piece of property, I have a links golf question. What is so difficult about— to embrace and accept about the ground game and the unlucky bounce, and how long did it take you to it adjust to that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Links golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I was a high ball hitter, and to me I grew up on target golf courses. I sort of enjoyed over the season playing the golf courses that you had to bounce it in. But I had trouble learning.
I remember the first year I played at British Open, it was ‘62, but I played— let’s see, I played a tournament in Britain in May earlier in the year. And I played the Walker Cup and I played the British Amateur. I played a few tournaments.
But I just liked that kind of golf. And I thought it was good for me to challenge me. It forced me to play a different game. It forced me to do different things, things that I wasn’t used to doing.
I remember when we went to Muirfield in ‘66, where I won my first British Open, the rough was literally— it was two feet high. There was no semi. It was fairway, two foot high. And you put your bag down and you’re going to lose your bag. If you’re going to hunt for a golf club, seriously, you’d have a hard time finding your bag again.
That was a golf course that I wasn’t supposed to win on. It was one that was sort of set up so that you really had to be very accurate. And that week I played— I hit I think 17 drivers that week. The 17th driver almost cost me the tournament. The 17th one was on the 14th hole and I drove it into a bunker. And I played 3‑wood the other three days and I didn’t put it in the bunker. And I was sitting there, why would I do that? It’s a matter of discipline. Seaside golf is just a different game, and actually I enjoyed it. I loved it.
Q. The Open at St. Andrews, how did your appreciation of it maybe mature over time? What did you enjoy about the Opens in St. Andrews being in town and being different than other places?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I enjoyed playing there because it was sort of the home of golf. It’s where it all basically started, from the modern game. It’s why I chose to end my career there. It was— that was just a very special place to me.
I think if you take St. Andrews and look at it, it’s a very gray town, nothing really attractive about it, just looking at it. Then all of a sudden you put that green field out beside it, or brown field, whichever, you start bringing people into the town, they start playing golf, and all of a sudden this gray old town just turns out to be one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Beauty is in your own eyes.
So you sort of get used to feeling— you get a sense of feeling of who had been there, who had played there, what they did. I love St. Andrews. I think it’s just a great place. And it’s fun to play. And I think that there’s something— if you take Augusta, basically, is Bobby Jones’ rendition of St. Andrews. And it was second‑shot golf course. I like second‑shot golf.
This golf course here was very much a second‑shot golf course. I think it set the trend for a lot of things that people did. And it’s just more special than any of the other golf courses just because of its history.
Q. A couple of things. One, outside of ‘86 at the Masters, where there was things written about you that were motivational, can you think of other times people have written things about you that you took maybe offense to and used it as motivation? And then secondly, can you think of a time in your career where you thought that you were maybe under achieving for your talent level?
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, Alex, I never read the paper. I’ve never read anything you wrote, Alex [laughter]. That’s probably a good thing, right?
No, I never really get motivated. I think the thing about McAllister and ‘86 was a lot of, you know, hoopla. And I just happened to play well. I wouldn’t say that that motivated me at all. It was kind of fun to talk about it. I never paid much attention to that.
Matter of fact, generally speaking, when I was at a golf tournament, I never even read a newspaper. I always tried to stay away from it. I think it’s— I don’t want to add another element to what you’re doing. I had my mindset on what I was doing.
Q. Did you ever personally feel that you may have underachieved for your talent level at times?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think I underachieved all my life. I think that’s why I got better. And I think that if you feel you’re overachieving or getting more out of what you should get then you stop working. I always feel like I’m never getting what I should be getting out of what I’m doing. So you’ve got to work harder to make sure you do that.
I always wanted to climb a mountain. I always wanted to get better. I always wanted to do that. And I think once you start to believe your own stuff that’s when you start going the other way. So I just sort of tried not to believe anything about what I would read or what I would hear or what I even thought. I just said I’ve got to get better. And I just kept trying to do that. And I always felt like I never really achieved what I should have achieved. I still don’t think I achieved what I could have achieved in my career.
But my career was a good career. I certainly wouldn’t trade it. I’ve got five kids, I’ve got 22 grandkids that all call me Pepaw, they all know who their grandpa is, and I’ve got a great relationship with all of them. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I wouldn’t trade any championship for any of that. That to me is far more important. Could my record have been better? Yeah. My family would not be what I think we enjoy today.
Q. Were you ever, Jack, motivated by other players or pushed by them? And how? What did they have to do to get your attention?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t really— never was really motivated too much by the other player. I knew that I always had— once I came in, I was a challenge for Arnold, once I seemed to win more than Arnold did.
It didn’t seem like it was— and then I had Lee Trevino and I had Watson come along and Miller and Weiskopf and all the guys. It seemed like I was always one that was at the top of the hill that they were trying to knock off.
The motivation for me was to make sure that I was better, to play my best golf and to fend off any challenge that I had. And I said many times, there’s not much I can do about how well somebody else plays. Only thing I can control is me, and so— and if I don’t play well, then it really makes little difference what anybody else shoots because I’m not there, anyway.
So my whole focus, the toughest competitor I faced was me, and trying to— and make sure that my game and my ability to play was up to snuff and could go to there. So that’s sort of what I always tried to do. And the name that was there didn’t really make any difference to me.
Obviously I had a great competition with Arnold all my life. I always have had. And I think that’s been a very healthy competition. Arnold is going to be here today, which I think is really neat. He’s coming in for Doc. And he was great for me. And I think I was probably good for him in many ways, because he didn’t have anybody to play against.
And Gary was good. Trevino was good. I loved competition. I loved to have the other guys come.
Q. Who was your last competition? If you start with Arnold and go all the way through Gary and Lee—
JACK NICKLAUS: Who was my last competition? Who was my last real competition when I played?
JACK NICKLAUS: I suppose Tom. I wouldn’t know who would be beyond that. Certainly when I played at Valhalla in 2000 with Tiger, I realized that he wasn’t my competition. I certainly wasn’t any for him. I realized the baton needed to be passed.
Q. How proud are you of this tournament, the 40 years and the world’s greatest players play here every year?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we’re trying to do the best we can to present a golf course, a golf tournament, a hospitality, something that would be to the level that I think that they would like to come and play. Not all of them come every year. There’s a lot of other places to go. But I think for the majority of the time, we’ve always had most of the players here and we always had great fields. And we’ve always had great competitions.
I think that if somebody can’t come, I’ve had most of the guys who aren’t here this week have come to me and said, Jack, I’ve got this problem. I said, hey, wait a minute, don’t worry about us. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. I ended up having to make those decisions at times of what was right for me. So I respect what the guys have to do and where they go and how they’re pulled in so many directions. But I think for the most part, the guys have been here.
Q. Do you like the way that Rory handled it, the fact that he couldn’t be here?
JACK NICKLAUS: He’s basically who I’m talking about. Rory came to me and talked to me and said he was really in a pickle. I said, Rory, don’t worry about it. You and I are very close, we have no issues. I said if you have stuff you’ve got to do in Ireland and you’ve got to do that, I said you’ve got to do what’s right for you. You’ve got to get yourself ready for the U.S. Open, that’s what you’ve got to do.
And that’s fine with me. And I think from the way I handled it, I don’t think you’ll see Rory miss here very often.
Q. You played with great Japanese players like Isao and Jumbo. How do you compare Hideki with them?
JACK NICKLAUS: I haven’t played with him. I’ve seen him play.
Q. How do you compare in general?
JACK NICKLAUS: Hideki is strong. I think he’s probably very much the same length as Jumbo. Jumbo was very long. He’s probably more accurate off the tee than Jumbo. He was sort of a combination between Aoki and Jumbo in that he’s a big, strong kid with a marvelous putting touch. He has an unbelievable putting touch and short game around the green.
And I think Matsuyama has that. He’s got a great golf game. And he’s been there almost every week. Every time we turn around, you turn around and look in the paper and on the television, his name is there. He’s not winning lately, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there competing. So he’ll continue to compete and continue to play well. And he’ll continue to represent Japan well.
Q. Do you think learning English would improve his game?
JACK NICKLAUS: Might confuse it, frankly [laughter]. He probably knows a lot more English than you think. He just doesn’t want to talk about it. And it’s probably okay. I don’t know whether it will improve his game or not. But I think that people to play places— he’s played pretty much in the United States. And you have to feel comfortable about where you are.
I give K.J. unbelievable credit. K.J. could speak very little English when he came over here. K.J. lives in Houston. K.J. now converses quite well. And Hideki is a young man, he’ll pick it up. And to me it’s amazing how other players come from all over the world and they end up learning our language. How many Americans go to Japan or Korea or some place and we learn their language? Not very many. And I give guys a lot of credit to be away from home, to earn a living in a foreign country, and to fit in with what’s going on. It’s not an easy life. And these guys have done a great job.
Q. You’ve talked about the need for golf to embrace a younger demographic. Is there a Memorial doing anything to address that initiative? From a fan standpoint, whether it’s social media initiatives and whatnot?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t follow your question.
Q. Let me try to rephrase that.
JACK NICKLAUS: When you get into social media, you’ve lost me totally.
Q. Twitter, Facebook, etcetera?
JACK NICKLAUS: I know what you’re talking about. What is your question, though? Have we addressed that?
Q. My question is are you doing anything to get a younger fan base here at the Memorial?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think you better ask Dan Sullivan that question, because I think that you always want to have a younger fan base. I think the game of golf, the whole game of golf is trying to create a younger fan base and a younger playing base. The game of golf has had its issues over the last few years in that we lost— from 2006 at our peak, we lost about, I don’t know, five million golfers from our peak. And you’ve got to bring those golfers back. And I think that was the economy that caused that. I don’t think it was young, old or so forth. But to bring people back in there are issues it must to be addressed.
The game of golf is too slow, it’s too expensive and it’s too difficult. Those are the three elements that I see that are the problems of the golf. I think the USGA and the Tour and the PGA of America are all addressing those issues. And I think they’re making progress on it. I think you’ve seen a lot of junior programs in a lot of places do it. But it’s not only the junior programs I’m concerned about keeping elder people in the game. You find that the game gets so difficult that the older people want to drop out of the game. You want to keep them in it, too. You want to keep everybody into the game. And those issues are being addressed constantly.
Dan can tell you far more, and probably do that privately with him afterwards, but I think he’s got a lot of things that he’ll tell you we do relates to social media that certainly we didn’t do ten years ago, correct?
DAN SULLIVAN: Two years ago.
JACK NICKLAUS: Two years ago.
Q. Your first U.S. Opens before you won the Amateur you qualified for, what do you remember about going through that qualifying process to get there and then playing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was 17 when I qualified for the U.S. Open at Inverness, and I was a high school kid that just— I just graduated from high school. And I remember going up to Inverness and I was playing— we were playing with Freddie Wampler and Tommy Jacobsen was my pairing. Why I got such a good pairing, I don’t know, because those were both pretty good players at the time.
And I started off in first hole, hit a 3‑wood, 7‑iron, got to 35‑foot putt, dropped it right in the hole. And I parred the next two holes. My name went up on the leaderboard and double bogeyed the next hole never to be seen again (laughter).
So my experience was short lived, but I always loved playing— being a young guy qualifying. My qualifying experience, I can’t even remember where I qualified. I qualified probably Clovernook in Cincinnati, is that correct? And I qualified when I was— I qualified every year from the time I was 17 on until— I think I won the Amateur when I was 19, so I didn’t have to qualify. And finished high enough in The Open that I never had a qualifier again.
Q. Jack, aside from Nick and football, of your 22 grandchildren, what sports do they compete in? How many are in golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: None of them are really in golf. Gary’s boy, GT, played high school golf last year as a 6th grader, but he’s playing other sports. Golf is not important to him right now, but it will be. Pretty nice little player.
Actually, the best player is Nick, oddly enough. Nick will shoot in the 70s most of the time. But he’s more interested in a little different shaped ball. Nick is, obviously, in Buffalo, the NFL. And Charley is at Rutgers on the lacrosse scholarship. Jackie’s youngest, Will, just signed— he’s a freshman in high school and he signed with North Carolina and a lacrosse scholarship.
So we have that and then we’ve got— we’ll have a couple of them that play other sports and so forth. They play football. I don’t have any of them playing basketball, which is really sort of amazing to me, because I loved basketball. I don’t have any playing baseball. Lacrosse has taken over. Lacrosse is where— down our way that’s all the kids play. They play lacrosse all year‑round. They obviously play football. But they play a little tennis but not much.
Q. Is the lacrosse and other sports siphoning off would be golfers?
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably a little bit because it’s played in the springtime. Our high school where the kids go to down there, last year they had 80 out for lacrosse and 20 out for baseball. Baseball has not cut the mustard down there anymore.
Q. I don’t know how much you could speak to this or how much you see anymore, but what do you think separates players today? And whatever that is, is it different than what separated the great players from ’60s and ’70s?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t really know what separates them today any more than it separated them then. You’ve got a good player today, and they are playing the same game that we played. I don’t know that there’s anything— you separate yourself by how much confidence you get. Winning breeds winning. And if you have the ability— I look at how well Jordan is playing. I mean, here’s a kid that’s had 25 top‑10 finishes in his 21 years. I didn’t even start playing by then on the Tour. I start to think back on that. What a head start he’s got.
But he’s got— he has it in his head right here he can play, and that’s what a player has to do. I think it’s a little bit more difficult today to get that in your head because you have so many more good players. But they also have a lot more places to play. You not only have the American TOUR, but you’ve got the European Tour, you’ve got the Asian, Japanese, South American. I don’t know how many Tours— how many Tours does the Tour support, Tim? Five Tours?
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Well, we— directly we have four, and then we work with several others.
JACK NICKLAUS: So when we played we had one. If you didn’t make that, go home. Now they have five Tours to develop their players, teach them how to win, teach them how to play, teach them to prepare them for the PGA Tour.
The game of golf— tournament golf is in great shape today, I think. I think it’s doing very, very well. And frankly I think the game of golf with what’s happened, I think it’s turned the corner itself. So I think we’ve made our corrections and got over that. And I think the game is growing again, at least from what I see.
You saw golf courses that were closed and now they’re being redone and opened back up again. You’re seeing that all over the country. I talked to a lot of the guys doing design. They’re not doing new golf courses, but they’re all doing 10 or 12 of the old designed golf courses, to regenerate better quality. And most of the golf courses are in pretty good locations. They’re almost like inner city golf courses that had deteriorated over time or got caught in the economy, but now they’re being rebuilt and branded and they’re doing very well.
Did that answer your question? Pretty much?
Q. I was curious if you could walk down the range when you first came out here and see a guy’s ball flight and say, man, that guy is something special. It would seem like today they all hit—
JACK NICKLAUS: They all hit it pretty special today, but I think that— it was just like when I started, I came out in 1962 and there was a big— who was going to be the best young player come out? Was it going to be Jack Nicklaus or Phil Rodgers or Crawford, who was a two‑time NCAA champion? Who was it going to be? And a couple other guys. Nobody knew.
And I happened to win. I gained confidence, and I became the dominant player of that time because I learned winning bred winning for me. It could have just as easily been Crawford, it could have just been Phil. Phil is still winning a lot of tournaments. First tournament I played in o the Tour, Phil was a rookie and Phil won it. I won $33 in LA, and he won the tournament.
But it just— you just don’t know who it’s going to be. You see the young kids that are coming out right now, you see how well Jordan has done. You see how well Justin Thomas has done. Patrick Rogers will probably earn his card this week, if he makes the cut. I think he gets his card. He’s got a great future. As far as I’m concerned, I think he’s a wonderful player. You look at guys who just aren’t tipping over the top and you think they should.
And Jason Day, he’s a terrific young player, but he’s not tipping over the top, but he will. Every time I turn on the television I see somebody who— okay, who was that? Chris Kirk.
I mean, you can give me some names, but you can walk up and down the practice tee, you’re right, you see a lot of really, really good golfers today. And you saw a lot of good golfers before. But you walk up and down the practice tee and I would see X player, and I won’t say names, but that’s a great golf swing. But what has he done? He hasn’t got it here yet that he can win. He’s got to win. He’s got to be able to develop if.
Q. When you talked about Crawford and Rodgers, did you think ‘it was going to be me’?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was hoping it was going to be me. My goal was to be the best I could be. I certainly had Rodgers or Crawford or one of those guys come along, and then all of a sudden became— I started playing pretty well, and it became Arnold. I mean, that’s where you go. I jumped over a couple of people in the middle there. You really don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. You win your first tournament being the U.S. Open, that puts you in a pretty special place to try to go to the next level.
Q. You had the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup here in the past, a couple of USGA events, is there anything coming down the road you can mention in the future, any large events coming here? And second part, LPGA is looking to get into more iconic golf courses, Pinehurst, Westchester, anything in the future for a LPGA event here?
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, we’re always open to the Tour or the PGA of America. We’d love to have The Presidents Cup back again. Tim and I have talked about it, but there’s no specific conversation. But we’d love to have it back. We’d love to have the Ryder Cup again. Frankly, we’d love the Solheim Cup. We’ve tried, as I said earlier in this, we’ve tried to make our golf course available to where people would think that we could help contribute to the game of golf.
I think that to try to do a LPGA event on any kind of a regular basis would be very difficult. Could we have a ladies Open or something like that? Sure, we could do that. But we think The Memorial tournament is a pretty significant event. I know that two years ago when our guys were trying to put on, and Dan will tell you, Nick will tell you, how hard it is to put on the Memorial tournament and The Presidents Cup in the same year. It’s really difficult. It’s a lot of work.
Fortunately, our tournament is the end of May, first of June, and The Presidents Cup is end of September, first of October. We have enough separation that we can do that. Very hard to have separation to have anything else. We talked to the PGA a few years back, and I just think it’s too close. It makes it very, very difficult for us to have both of those type of events.
I think we were really quite happy with The Memorial tournament. And if we can be of service to have one of the other events we’d love to have them, but I don’t think it’s something that we’re out seeking on a daily basis.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Nicklaus. At this time we’d like to bring up additional guests to discuss The Presidents Cup 2015 that will take place in South Korea at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course.
Each of the four gentlemen on the dais have central roles in The Presidents Cup and have been significant figures in the tournament’s history. The first PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. Under his leadership, the Tour created The Presidents Cup in 1994 and the biannual event has involved into one of the most anticipated events in golf. Jay Haas, captain of the U.S. Team in 2015. K.J. Choi, vice captain of the international team in 2015. And Jack Nicklaus, four‑time captain of the Presidents Cup team, hosted a Presidents Cup in 2013 here at Muirfield Village, and the course designer of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, host site of the Presidents Cup in 2015.
We’d like to get some updates here, and we’d like to start with Commissioner Finchem.
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Thank you, and good afternoon everyone, or late morning, whichever it is.
This is an opportunity just for us to give you an update on the Presidents Cup as we move in that direction. I’d like to preface that by just thanking everybody here in Columbus. I’ll say it again at the ceremony today about outstanding work that was done to present The Presidents Cup in 2013, notwithstanding record rainfall. Just amazing to see the galleries stay out all week given the amount of rainfall we had.
Jack indicated a minute ago that it was difficult to do, but you couldn’t tell too much that because of the phenomenal job that was done in the staging of both tournaments. I just have to say parenthetically that given that experience, it’s opened up the attitudes of certain tournaments around the country in terms of having another event in the market because they saw what happened here in Columbus, it was a great week.
We are headed to Seoul and to play at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon City, Songdo. This is going to be, among other things, an extension of Jack Nicklaus’ involvement and influence in The Presidents Cup, four times captain going back to ‘98, hosting here in 2013, and now going to his golf course in Seoul.
Jack, in addition to doing all those things, he and Gary Player creating that momentous indication of sportsmanship in 2003, in South Africa, will always go down as a memorable moment in the history of the Presidents Cup.
I’d certainly like to recognize and thank Stan Gale, who organized, put together and manages a lot of Songdo and the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. He has helped us now for a number of years with the staging of Champions Tour golf there a couple of years and preparing for what’s going to be perhaps the largest golf event in Asia historically. So thank you for that, Stan, and for your partnership.
The first Presidents Cup going to Korea gives us an opportunity to showcase a number of things that maybe folks, particularly in the United States, but also globally, given the global television transmission, don’t know about Korea. First of all, its culture, its economy, its school system.
Secondly, its golf background, which is relatively young but very effective in terms of developing players like K.J. Choi and the current group of men and women, Korean players, who are playing.
And then third, we will be playing The Presidents Cup at about the same time as the 65th anniversary of MacArthur’s landing in Incheon in the Korean conflict. And since that time there’s been this incredible partnership and a lines between the United States and South Korea.
President Park remarked to Jay Haas and Nick Price, when they were there last fall to announce her honorary chairmanship, that she viewed in her opinion the ties between South Korea and the United States as perhaps the strongest of any two countries globally.
So we want to tell the story about the interface between our military command in South Korea and the leadership in Korea, which we think is very powerful and worth the effort to let people know how that works.
Before I say a couple other things, I would like to say that the last year or so has been an eventful time for The Presidents Cup generally. We announced in the last year that we will be going to Liberty National in New York in 2017, Harding Park in San Francisco, again, in 2025, where Jack was the captain in ‘09. President Obama welcomed both teams to the White House last spring to commemorate the 2013 Cup and we enjoyed seeing these great players have an opportunity to eat an apple in the oval office.
South Korea’s President Park, who I just mentioned, after she met with Jay Haas and Nick Price, has had a variety of public comments about golf, including a direction in her cabinet meeting a few weeks ago to the Minister of Culture and Tourism to take all necessary steps to grow and foster the game of golf in Korea, which was a very significant departure from the attitude of the government to date, where it’s been somewhat frowned upon for government officials to play the game of golf. We think that’s a good message not only in Korea, but in Asia, generally, where we have the constraints of growing the game.
We certainly are excited about the way the teams are shaping up. We have K.J., the vice captain of the International Team, and the American cup captain, Jay Haas, here today to answer any questions you have. The International Team currently configured today in the top‑10 would be representing six different countries, with Ben Hahn, who just won the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth three weeks ago, is one of the those players.
The United States has, again, this year, a good mix of youth and experience, with Jordan Spieth heading the list of younger players currently eligible.
The hallmark of the Presidents Cup has been sportsmanship and I think with captains like Jay Haas and Nick Price and the assistants that are coming together for them with Fred Couples and Davis Love on the American side, and Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty joining K.J. Choi on the International side that sportsmanship will continue.
I should also mention that The Presidents Cup is in many ways an extension of what golf has done globally for charity with all of the net dollars and proceeds being distributed by the captains, assistant captains and the players. To date, $32 million has been given to charities in over 15 countries and 35 states here in the United States, and that tradition will continue in Korea. And as well I know Chairman Poongsan, the general chairman of the Presidents Cup, will be here at the Memorial this weekend to pay a visit and see some of the players. And he will be chairing Ryu as a trustee on the First Tee Board, and we will be announcing during The Presidents Cup in Seoul the beginning of a First Tee Chapter in Seoul Korea to try the First Tee model to assist President Park do that she wants to see done, which is to grow the game of golf in Korea. So there’s a lot going on in preparation, we’re very excited about getting it there.
MODERATOR: We’d like to get couple comments from Jay Haas, who by the way has played The Memorial 29 times in his career. You know this course very well.
JAY HAAS: It’s a pleasure to be here sitting next to this gentleman here, and this one here. This has been a favorite of mine throughout the course of my career and wish I was still playing sometimes. But I watched a few guys hit on the practice tee yesterday and know that I’m not worthy of playing their kind of golf.
But to be representing the U.S., to have the confidence of Tim and the U.S. players to be their captain is something that I’m thrilled about, very honored, humbled, to be in that position. And as I go up and down the practice tee and look at the list of players that are very solid on the list or just on the outside looking in, it’s comforting to watch their games and to know that we will be well represented in South Korea this fall.
MODERATOR: Next up, K.J. Choi, who will be interpreted by his manager, Paul Kim.
K.J. CHOI: First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the press for coming today. I remember in 1999 was the first time I was invited, kindly invited, by Jack Nicklaus to this event.
As many of you know, when I first started golf at a young age, the first book that I read was Jack Nicklaus’ golf book, and 2007 was a full circle to come and win this tournament.
I’m very comfortable here, but also in light of the Presidents Cup, I feel a lot of pressure as well as the obligation to make sure that the event runs properly.
I will do my best this year as vice captain and help Nick Price, and also the international players will do their best to achieve a great outcome at this event.
As the event draws closer, I feel that the players on the International Team are playing very well, and I feel that the event should be a huge success.
I have a special request as the press and we’re leading up to the event in the next several months, I ask that the press highlight and focus on the event and globally they’ll be focusing on Songdo in Korea as well as highlighting The Presidents Cup, which will be the first time in Asia, as well as Korea.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you, K.J., thank you Paul. Last but not least, Jack Nicklaus, who has many if not more ties than anybody in terms as The Presidents Cup, and we’re coming to one of your golf courses in Korea.
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, Tim, thanks for being here, K.J. and Jay. I’d like to sort of start back and give you a little history. Stan Gale came to me, gosh, I don’t know, eight or nine years ago, and told me he had an idea that had been brought to him about creating a new city, basically, just outside of Seoul in Incheon, very close to where MacArthur landed in Incheon Harbor. Songdo was called Songdo IBD, the International Business District. English is the language of business there.
Today you have a home for about 85,000 residents, about 50,000 workers come in every day. It’s been an unbelievable place. We created a golf course there that we’re very proud of. The city was basically sort of almost a replica, not a replica, but an idea of downtown Manhattan, really. It has a Central Park in it, which people utilize constantly. It has our golf course. I think there probably will be more golf courses in the future. It’s got how many skyscrapers, Stan?
STAN SULLIVAN: 400, residential and commercial towers.
JACK NICKLAUS: 400 commercial and residential towers since 2006 or ‘07? Unbelievable what has happened there. And to have The Presidents Cup go there will just be a big focus on Korea, the game, internationally, and all the hard work that Stan has done. I’m sure Stan will be available if anyone wants to talk to Stan after we’re done about what has gone on there and what the history and the future is.
But I’m delighted that the golf course turned out to be what we call the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. I’m very flattered by that. And I’ve spent a lot of time there. It’s a nice golf course. It’s a good test of golf. We’ve had two senior events there. The first time the PGA Tour has gone Internationally with a Tour, the Senior Tour. And it will be a good test and a good location. The accommodation is terrific. The airport is— one of the things that they did— 17 kilometers, Stan?
STAN SULLIVAN: Yes.
JACK NICKLAUS: They decided to build a bridge across Incheon Harbor from the airport to new Songdo. 17 kilometers. They built it faster than we built the golf course, and that’s— it used to go all the way around, now it’s 15 minutes at the max to the airport. From the airport it’s convenient. The hotels are good. The clubhouse is beautiful. It will be a great place for a Presidents Cup. I’m sure that the Tour will enjoy being there.
I’m sure that Jay and K.J. and Nick and everybody will have a good time there. So welcome AT the end of September, first of October, to Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea and The Presidents Cup.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We’ll take some questions.
Q. I know you’re into a time constraint here coming up, I wanted to ask you briefly, first, if you could give a little more description of the golf course, itself, the primary, I guess, or the major—
JACK NICKLAUS: The golf course? The golf course— total Songdo city is pumped out of Incheon Harbor, 100 percent pumped land. We created the whole thing. When we started the golf course, we had seaside. We don’t have seaside anymore, they pumped more land.
But the golf course is sort of in three ways, I sort of took it off of the ocean to where I tried to get more of a seaside look, more of a dunes look, going into a rock look and a few waterfalls and things. And the trees and the latter part of the golf course was like a forest look. So I tried to create like a transition from the ocean back into the land, that’s how the golf course has been created. A little different in Korea they require you to plant trees. So the seaside got changed, too. But that was the philosophy of the golf course.
The golf course is probably, I’m guessing, probably 7,400 yards long, I would think. It’s a good test of golf. It’s very pretty. The skyline view looking back at Songdo from the golf course is very amazing.
Q. Tim and Jay, Tim, you talked about I guess President Park of Korea and initiatives. Can you enlighten us at all how involved the Korean government has been in the Sangmoon Bae issue, and where that might stand in regards to him playing in The Presidents Cup?
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: We don’t have an answer yet. It’s still being worked on and under discussion, and so we’re waiting. I think we were told recently that we should have an answer here in the next couple of weeks. We don’t have an answer yet.
Q. Jay, in regards to I think there’s been discussions with Commissioner, you and Nick, in regards to how the format might be for The Presidents Cup this year, if there were going to be any changes. Have you come to an agreement if there will be any changes or not?
JAY HAAS: We’re still talking about that. I think in the near future the decisions will be made and we’ll let you know soon, but we’re still in discussion about that.
Q. Tim, it is June.
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: It is June. There’s been healthy discussions, and we do this every Cup. At the end of the Cup, we talk about both players, you people, fans, think about the format, what could be done differently. And there’s a number of things that have been discussed over the last six months and we hope to wrap it up here pretty shortly.
JACK NICKLAUS: Let me give you my two cents, which I shouldn’t. I think the format of the Presidents Cup is fantastic. And whether they adjust it slightly, that’s fine, I don’t have an issue with that.
But what The Presidents Cup does is that every player plays every day, you can’t hide a player. I love that. We play one round on Thursday, one round on Friday, two rounds on Saturday and then where you can rest two players in the morning and two players in the afternoon and two rounds on Sunday. It’s been a great format. The way you choose the players is matching back and forth, which I think is terrific, it creates a lot of excitement.
When we played in South Africa— first of all, we played in Australia, where I was captain. Tiger wanted Norman. Norman didn’t want Tiger. And Peter Thompson, we were going through, and finally we got down to four players left, and he had to choose, he was stuck. So I got Norman for Tiger. And Norman says, why would you do to me? I said, you’re not on my team. My player wanted you. We had a little bit of fun with it.
South Africa, they wanted to have Ernie and Tiger play against each other. Gary and I said, well, we think we can make that happen, there wasn’t any conflict there.
Canada, Mike Weir wanted to play— they wanted Mike Weir to play. You can do more things with the pairings. You can have more creativity. You can do more things with the local market with the format that we had. If they change it, I think they’re going to probably keep most of those elements in it. But I thought the format was terrific for The Presidents Cup.
Q. Just to follow up on that, since you jumped into this, both Ernie and Nick Price, Adam Scott, I could go down the list of international players feel like it could be more competitive if you look at the record, it could be more competitive if they made some adjustments where you could actually hide players because the merit seems like team isn’t as strong as the U.S. Team?
JACK NICKLAUS: I’m sorry, I’m not into that, I just told you what I thought about the past. In my opinion I thought that the International Team was the strongest team in the world. I thought the American team was stronger than the European team. And the world team was stronger than the European team. The European team kicks the rear end of the Americans every time in the Ryder Cup and we’ve won the World Cup. If you can make any sense out of that, let me know. I don’t think it’s format, I think it’s no different than when I felt the Ryder Cup is played better.
Q. I’m curious how the television is going to work over there in terms of timing and who is broadcasting to who? Is it about 12‑hour difference in October, from East Coast?
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Yes, it’s 12. We’ll be doing some live, some tape delay. We’ve got a fair amount of coverage on television. I think we have that matrix and probably give it to you. Probably give it to you right after we announce the format (laughter).
But like I said earlier, we welcome everybody’s input on these questions and we look for a speedy resolution. That will lead to being able to give you the detail on the telecast.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: That concludes today’s press conference. Thank you, gentlemen, for participating. Thank you for attending. We appreciate it. Look forward to seeing you at the Presidents Cup in October.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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