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'Golden Bear' Discusses Wide Range of Subjects at Muirfield
In a wide-ranging session with reporters that lasted nearly two hours, Jack Nicklaus covered a variety of subjects during his annual get-together with the media on the eve of the Memorial Tournament.
The $6.2 million PGA Tour event, hosted by the "Golden Bear," began Thursday at, yes - the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Nicklaus touched on several issues, including his playing days, how the traditional - and sub-7,000-yard - Merion Golf Club will hold up at the 2013 U.S. Open, and the recent Sergio-Tiger brouhaha that has been dominating the golf news of late.
Below is the full transcript of Nicklaus's conversation with the media on Wednesday.
MODERATOR: We want to welcome Mr. Jack Nicklaus here to the interview room at the Memorial room presented by Nationwide Insurance. We all look forward to this press conference. Mr. Nicklaus, with that said, maybe some opening comments about your excitement for this year's event.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we've got a couple of new things, obviously, with - we're excited to be able to honor Raymond Floyd this year. And I think he's a very worthy honoree and a heck of a player and competitor. We're delighted to have Raymond here. Secondly, it's a big year for us, here, obviously with the Memorial Tournament and the Presidents Cup later this year. And then with the new clubhouse, that's sort of - we just sort of connected that with this. And we started out with a little tiny project, it turned out to be a huge project, as usual. And we're delighted that we're moving forward. So, anyway, the golf course is in good shape. Spring came a little late here in Columbus, as most of you know. It came through part of this country a couple of weeks late. Had a little bit of struggles getting through the weather you've had or we've had, I should say. But I think everything is in good shape. With that, I'll open it to you all.
Q. Could you talk about the need for the clubhouse project and what your opinion is of the final product?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the need was that - my wife is telling me my hair is blown out. I have to fix my hair. Is that better (laughter)? She's back here doing this, she used to do this when I lifted my head when I putted (laughter). You're not supposed to - she goes like this to tell me I lifted my head on that last putt. All these years I've been doing that (laughter). What were we talking about? The clubhouse? Anyway, one of my best friends here in Columbus, Jack Lucks, was with me and he comes out and he's a member here and Jack says, Jack, you know, you've got a great golf course, the tournament is great, everything is going on. You've got a 1970s California ranch clubhouse which doesn't fit now or in the future. And I said, well, I know that, Jack, but it's like you have what you have and that's what we did back in the '70s when we did this clubhouse, I sort of liked California ranch, but I don't know if that fits too much in Ohio. And I kept looking at it and it didn't really.
What we tried to do was do something that would make it a little more timeless, something that would sort of move on to the future. And somebody would say what era was that. We hope we come back and say it would not necessarily be any particular era. And we tried to bring the clubhouse up to today's standards. There's not a very large clubhouse to start with. We didn't service a lot of things very well with the entertainment with the golf tournament and the sponsorships and the people you have coming in. I think we needed a little bit more updated. It was something that we didn't know whether we wanted to embark on because when I finish a Memorial tournament, it's only one year to the next Memorial tournament. And then with The Presidents Cup coming on, we did our plans and we said, can we get this thing started and get it done by next year's tournament? We started it July 1st, hoping to start June 1st last year, but we didn't get started with permitting and everything. We got started July 1st, a little bit of late start.
And then about three months later, we decided to add the suites to connect the buildings together. And I said, well, that's not going to happen. Well, it all happened. The construction company did a fantastic job. Our architects were actually from down in Florida. We worked with Brian Idle's company, which is Peacock and Lewis. We worked with them for a long time. Bob Acree was here all the time. It came together, and they did a great job. And Nicholas LaRocca, our manager, has been on top of it on a daily basis. Without Nicholas, I think we wouldn't have a roof on the building yet. But it's done and it's here. I think it's terrific. I think it serves our purposes very well. From the press standpoint, there was a couple of things that I wanted to accomplish from the player and press standpoint. I wanted to accomplish when the players came off the 18th green and they could come into the scoring area that was private. They come out of the private scoring area to an area where they could be interviewed out there. You had it outdoors before with the kids all yelling, you know, Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods, whoever it was, I want an autograph.
When they finished with it - when they finished with that, they can either come in here or go outside where the kids are. Or if they're really ticked off it about they played, they can go to the clubhouse and watch from the clubhouse. That's their call. I think most of the guys, 99 percent, are going to go out and sign autographs. There's going to be an occasional one, if he wants to get by and go do something else, he can. He's got 30 yards to the range, which he's always had. He's got upstairs and across to the clubhouse or out and into the clubhouse quickly, too.
We're giving the players options. We've given them a better option of getting out of the locker room to get to the driving range. Along the fitness center, they basically have just a cross to the entrance road to get to the driving range. It's a very small public area to get across. We tried to improve the experience for the players. We also - we didn't sell clubhouse badges this year. We thought the clubhouse should be a place of not chaos, but something with a little bit of a sanctuary for players, for members, for members' guests, for the players' guests, and our sponsors, so that they could - two days ago I had lunch in the main dining room. It's the first time I've had lunch in the main dining room since we started the tournament. And it was not a hassle. It was fine.
So we took the pavilion here, and the pavilion became our clubhouse. And prior to this time, the pavilion has always been for guests. We made that for basically a clubhouse badge. They get the same overview. They get the service, they get all the same things. I think most people that were in the clubhouse before they basically hung out in there. That's not what we wanted it to be. We created the Golden Bear Village across the way for different sponsors and sponsorships, which we think - we will grow on that, that will be the next area to continue to grow, to serve our purposes for entertainment and entertainment of customers and the patrons.
So we're gaining. When we did the driving range a year or so ago, we did the 16th hole, which I thought was a better situation. We put more hospitality out near the 16th hole. We figure the 15, 16, 17 area is where most of the matches are going to be. The Presidents Cup, we thought we had a pretty good idea of trying to get that a little bit more - get more people out there to be able to see what's going on out there. There is some method in our madness. We really - we feel very confident that what we're doing is good for the tournament and facility and the whole thing.
Q. I realize you were only ten when Hogan won the '50 Open. I'm curious if you can speak to any recollections you have of that even looking back on that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Actually not (laughter).
The first time I was aware of a golf tournament being played on a professional and national level was 1953. And I remember I was in the clubhouse in the pro shop and Hogan won the Masters, and that's the first time that I recall that. And then of course I remember I was in the pro shop again when he won the U.S. Open. And I don't know that I even heard him winning the PGA when I was 13 years old. Not the PGA. It was the British Open, but I was 13 years old. But that's my first recollection of that.
Q. As you became more of a fan of the game you were playing, what would you say was the significance of him winning there, coming off the significance of that injury?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you're obviously writing something, I don't know what you're writing about, Doug, but I think that Hogan came back from a pretty significant injury to win it. The he won at Riviera, was that where he won? And I thought - as you go back Follow the Sun may be one of the worst movies you'll ever want to look at. I watched it 20 times. I enjoy the story and I love what happened. Glenn Ford and is it Ann Baxter, is that who played?
Q. You've seen it 20 times. You should know this.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that's what it was. I enjoy that movie. I'd go watch it again if it was on.
Q. Since Raymond Floyd is being honored today, what's that memory that you really have that stands out of him, either as just a competitor or that moment in the tournament that reminds you of him?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Raymond and I started - Raymond is like two and a half years younger than I am, and we started roughly the same time. Raymond won when he was 19 years old on the Tour, I believe at St. Petersburg. So that was like - was that in '62 or '63, the first tournament, do you remember? You're supposed to have that information (laughter).
JACK NICKLAUS: Was it really? He won before I did? I thought it was '63, but I'm not sure. I don't think he won before I did. Now we've got sound, okay. But Raymond was a good young player. He just - he started slowly. And even though he won, it took him a while to build up to being a good player. But when Raymond got - what I always remember about Raymond, which is what you asked me, is his competitiveness. When he got in contention, generally speaking, he won. If you ever want to have a short game to copy, he has a short game to copy. He had a great short game.
Q. Mr. Nicklaus, with Merion coming up, players have played Merion and said they only have to hit driver on two or three holes, how important is it to you in design a setup that the driver be used a lot during a round of golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, if they're only using it two or three times, you're not going to win a golf tournament. That's my opinion at Merion. You've got 2, 4, 5, 6, 14, maybe 15, but 16 and 18 you're going to use your driver. That's a number of times. And you have holes that you're going to back off on maybe. You may try to drive the green on 1, you may hit the driver. But I think that Merion will do very well for the U.S. Open. I think it's - I was there last spring. And I think it will do very well. It's going to have some holes that they're going to abuse the golf course with, but they're also going to have some holes on the golf course that are going to abuse them. It's not one of the golf courses that are in the middle road. It's either tough or they'll birdie the hole. Merion is a great golf course. I'd love to still have the golf game to go play it.
Q. Following up on a Merion question, what do you recall in 1971 playing with Jim Simons in the final - on Sunday?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not much.
Q. How about remembrances of him as a player? What do you remember about him as a player?
JACK NICKLAUS: Jimmy was a good competitor. He got a lot out of his game. He was not a long hitter, not a great striker of the ball, but he certainly had the ability to get it up and down. And when he got himself in contention when he got his putter and chipping going, he was always competitive. That's what happened here. He got himself competitive and he got himself in contention and won the golf tournament. I don't remember that much about playing - I remember playing with Jim, obviously, but I don't remember what happened in '71 in relation to his golf game. He was still an amateur then, wasn't he? That's pretty good to be in the final round of the U.S. Open as an amateur right there in contention. But he was - Jim was a good competitor. What else can I say?
Q. Other than the fact that Tiger is obviously the best player of his time, what is it about this golf course that has allowed him to play so well here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, it obviously fits his eye. There's some golf courses that fit people's eye. You hear a lot of guys say that golf course doesn't suit my game. A golf course is up not supposed to suit your game. You're supposed to suit your game to the golf course. That's why they have different golf courses. If you had the same golf course all the time, we wouldn't have to move around, we'd play all the tournaments in one place. But Tiger seems to play very well here. He's got several golf courses he plays well at - Pebble, St. Andrews, Augusta, plays very well at Bay Hill.
And a lot of his golf has been representative golf at those tournaments. And you have a tendency, he did the same thing I did when I was playing, I used to play the golf courses that I liked, the golf courses I thought would best suit my game, not only prepare me for the four major championships but also golf courses that I would gain confidence playing on. And then what I would try to do is add a couple of tournaments a year that I hadn't played and move those around. And that was what I did and I think he does pretty much the same thing. I'm delighted that this is one of the golf courses that he likes (laughter).
Q. Jack, as someone who played that course in the final round in '81, how impressive was David Graham's 67 in your mind? Where does it rank in final rounds?
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't play with him, I don't think.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't remember much about it. Matter of fact, I don't know anything about it.
Q. He hit every green.
JACK NICKLAUS: Did he?
Q. Birdied 14 and 15.
JACK NICKLAUS: I was on the golf course somewhere while he was doing that, probably finishing a little earlier than he did (laughter).
Q. You don't remember seeing his numbers or scores?
JACK NICKLAUS: Zero.
Q. Can you talk about him as a competitor, what it was like when you did get to play against him?
JACK NICKLAUS: David? David was a good competitor. David was a good player. He won here and he won in a lot of places. David was sort of a - I don't know what you call it, almost like a club guru or something. He loved to fiddle with clubs and did a good job. He worked with me for a long time when I had MacGregor. And I had great respect for David's ability to work with golf clubs and to play them. I thought he did - from his background, he came from a very meager background in Australia. I thought he did a great job in life and a great job on Tour. I thought he was a great player.
Q. Going back ten more years, can you talk about '71 in Merion, your recollections of how that played out and obviously -
JACK NICKLAUS: I lost (laughter).
Q. Anything about the golf course that changed over the years?
JACK NICKLAUS: (Laughter). I frankly don't remember much about it, to be very honest with you. I know that - I remember coming down the stretch of the last round, I made some really good five and six foot putts that I needed to make to stay in the tournament. And then I missed a very makeable putt at the last hole to win the tournament. And in the playoff, I left it in the bunker in the second hole. I left it in the bunker on the third hole, I had two bad bunker shots and that put me behind and I lost. Outside of that, outside of catching a snake, I don't remember much else (laughter) that's about the honest truth.
Q. Jack, what is your impression of all the time - all the attention that golfers are paying to fitness these days? In your own career when you slimmed down, did it help a particular aspect of your game or just overall stamina?
JACK NICKLAUS: When I was in my 20s, I was about 210. And at that time I was just shy of six foot. I'm about five eight now; I shrunk four inches. But they used to call me Big Jack. I was anywhere but big by the standard of the guys today. The standard of the guys today is six two, three, four, they are big strong guys with big arms and can hit it a long way. I was powerful in the lower part of my body and I used my legs. I forgot what your question was.
JACK NICKLAUS: So I played in my 20s, and I was at the Ryder Cup match in 1969 and playing 36 holes, the last day I got tired. The first time in my life I got tired. My doctor always told me, Jack, he said you're healthy, he said you play well, he said there will be a time when you need to know you'll need to lose weight. Don't worry about it. I got tired in '69. I told Barbara coming home on the plane I'm going to lose 20 pounds. Rosie was my doctor. I came home and a friend of mine had just used the Weight Watchers diet. I said let me try your diet. I've never tried a diet before. I used the Weight Watchers diet and I put on my shorts and a pair of golf shoes and went to the golf course with four or five clubs and would hit and run around the golf course. I did that for two weeks while I was doing the diet. I was worrying about my golf game being hurt by it. And I went from - matter of fact, I called a tailor. I was with Hart, Schaffner and Marx at the time, I said I would like to have somebody down in two weeks to adjust my clothes. I'm going to lose 15 pounds, but I will lose 20 ultimately.
I lost 15 pounds in those two weeks. I lost five as a slipped off the diet. I actually ended up losing another five. I went from 210 to 185 eventually, which is where I played most of my career. I went down to Kaiser International at Silverado, which was my first tournament and I won that. I went to Las Vegas the next week and won that. Went to Hawaii the next week and I finished second there. It didn't hurt my golf game too badly, so I didn't worry too much about that.
But I was never - until I got probably mid 30s did I ever do much running. I did a little bit after that. And a little bit in my late 30s started using a little bit of weights occasionally. Not a lot, more to keep my legs stronger. But I was not like the guys are today. The guys today, they actually do have a program workout. We didn't know what we were doing, we went out there and said I think we'll do this and we did that. Not even the football players lifted weights when I played. So we didn't have any of that kind fitness programs were not there. I would have liked to have had it because I was pretty disciplined while I was playing in what I did, and I think it probably would have helped me. But it would have probably given me another week on Tour (laughter).
Q. Jack, you have a lot of different things going on in golf - between the Vijay issues, suing the Tour, drug program, the anchoring things, the fact that certain players have publically made it known that they're not really happy with each other, we all think this is kind of new to golf. Can you talk about your days and if this is actually that new to golf?
JACK NICKLAUS: We were trying to figure out how to get somebody to write about anything when we played. I think today you have to figure out how do you keep somebody from writing about anything. It's a big difference. I've never had any issues with you guys here because I think I've tried to work with you and tried to do what you've asked for. And I've always handled the press that way. I've always said you guys have a job to do and I said I think it's my job to be able to spend the time with you - it's necessary for me to spend the time for you to get your information.
But in turn for that, you've really never - nobody has ever hammered me very often. Occasionally a new guy comes on the block and hammers you for something. You consider the source and forget it. But for the most part, today you're in a fish bowl. And if something happens, I mean I always harp on Mike and Mike. I happen to like the show and I happen to like to listen to it. But they get on a subject and that subject is all week. And a lot of people listen to it. A lot of people write about it. You guys write about something, news services are sent all over the place. And there's a lot of mountains made out of mole hills. It's a different day. Everybody is there and everything is public. So I don't blame the guys sometimes for being a little quiet. The first subject was Vijay, I think. And I don't really know anything about the Vijay thing. Frankly, zero. And so I really don't have a comment on that, because I don't have one. Then you asked me about -
Q. But I think my question is more like what's it like back in the day when you were playing? Were there a lot of things that are similar to today that people didn't know about it because they didn't talk about it?
JACK NICKLAUS: If I were to go have dinner with Shed 30 years ago, and we sat and talked about something that was going and so forth, it would never appear in the newspaper the next day. Or if anybody overheard. I mean, there was an article in the New York Times from the Masters about me, about saying that Tiger doesn't talk to me. I was asked the question of how much does Tiger talk to me about his record, and I said we haven't had more than a minute or two conversation about that ever. So all that comes out, and the article comes out, the guy wasn't even there. The article comes out, Tiger doesn't talk to Jack and they've never had more than a minute or two conversation. Well, I've talked to Tiger a lot, but not about that subject, and that was the question that I answered.
So things get moved beyond where they are. The Sergio Tiger thing, I mean it's stupid. I mean - do guys have an issue one with another? They usually resolve it themselves. You guys want to resolve it in the newspapers today. I mean nobody needs that. And I think they both finally said it's enough. Forget it, guys. Let's move on. That's sort of the stuff - in our days we had - I suppose there was times when you had an issue with somebody and it came about, you never read about it. There wasn't 20 people sitting around for one guy to write it. Is that what you're talking about? We never really had issues in those days. We had an old guard that followed the Tour, Bob Green followed the Tour, and later you had Pat Ward Thomas, and you had Kaye Kessler and you had Dick Taylor, Herbert Warren Wind, those guys. They were interested in writing about what happened, not gossip. And we didn't have an issue with it. It was never an issue, it really wasn't.
Q. I have a sort of the game question. Ten or 12 years ago it seems like golf courses were booming, construction and so forth. I know in our community one is closed and one has gone from 36 to 18. Can you talk about the game, where it's headed or participation, that sort of thing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the Tour is very healthy. I think the Tour has done very well. The game of golf in itself has lost a lot of players. I don't know, some five million or so regular golfers have left the game. We've lost 23 or 4 percent of the women - 27 percent of women, and 36 percent of the kids in the last five years. Why are we doing that? Part of it's economy, part of it is the expense of the game. Part of it is life has changed. People don't want to spend five hours doing something anymore. They want to do something - any game that you play, any sporting event, almost anything, nothing lasts longer than golf, unless you're playing a five set tennis match, more than three hours or less.
So you really need to play the game in three hours or less, that's what we need be to. And we're not there. We need to have changes within the game of golf for - not only for us and for the Tour. I think the Tour ultimately needs to shorten their time span. I don't think they would argue with that. But it's very difficult when they're playing 7,500 yards and you're playing in a competition on a very difficult golf course. You're asking for the best players in the world to do their best and it takes time to do what they're doing at that length of a golf course. And the average golfer follows that. So time is one issue.
Difficulty is another issue. Cost is another issue. All those things are why those golf courses have left, because of a combination of those things. The design business within the United States is absolutely zero today. The only thing that is happening in design is a redesign of something of an existing facility and trying to because they've had the opportunity to take a facility, brand it or take a facility and redo it in a good location to try to compete, because the market is not as strong and they can - they think they can repeat if they do that.
Overseas the game is growing in a lot of places. Most of the business is in China from a design standpoint. We've got 30 golf courses that are under contract. We have 15 or 20 under construction in China right now. I've got four in Russia. The game is growing over there. But we're a mature state, so the places that are mature here in Britain, Japan, there's no places for golf course design. There's talk - I know the USGA has talked about the reduction - I think they've got their plate full right now with what they're trying to get through with the anchoring putter, but they've talked about the golf ball. They don't want to bring it back necessarily for tournament golf. That's not the reason they want to talk about bringing it back, they want to talk about bringing it back because of the cost of maintenance, the cost of land, the cost of water, the cost of chemical. The time it takes to play the game. All logical things that mean if you reduce the game to a smaller playing field - if you go back and look, how big is Merion?
Q. 115 acres?
JACK NICKLAUS: Is it that many? Okay, 115 acres. What's St. Andrews? 95 acres, something like that? A lot of the old golf courses are all 100 to 120 acres of land. You need 160 plus acres to do a golf course today. The whole thing is basically saying we've obsoleted 17,000 golf courses. Augusta is the only place that's had enough money to stay up with it. And they've spent a fortune to try to keep the game and they've done a very, very good job of eliminating obsolescence, keeping it up to date. They've done a good job of that. But not everybody has enough money to do that. So we need to go the other way to bring it back, for everything else to fall into place.
So we end up having the 17,000 golf courses we have in the United States and having probably 20 of them being really - without having to really mess them up to play a tournament on, if you brought the golf ball back, you would be able to do that. I don't know what the USGA is going to do and The R&A. I know they're talking about it. You guys know they're talking about it. And I'm not sure that the Tour really wants that, but it's - that's not my issue here. The issue is what is best for the game of golf. And that's really what you're asking me, and why we're losing golf courses, what can we do about it. We're trying to - I mean, a lot of the First Tee programs bring kids into the game. A lot - we're going to talk about it here shortly, the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, we're going to talk about that in a few minutes. There's a whole with bunch of things we try to do to try to bring people into the game and keep them in the game. And as fast as we bring people into the game, we lose more. And that's not a healthy situation for the game of golf.
Q. On the topic of Merion, people were saying with the advances in equipment that Merion was become obsolete. What are your thoughts on that? Can it hold up against the best players in the world in an Open?
JACK NICKLAUS: Let's go back to the conversation we had right here. Merion, in 1971 and 1981, was a golf course that was considered short then. It was probably 6,600 yards is about what we played in those days, I think. Today you've got it up to 69 something.
Q. 6,996 from the back. But like Davis said, they can't play all back tees.
JACK NICKLAUS: You can play all of it, but they won't. They'll play it 68 something or 69. That's what they'll play. By today's standards that's very short. So what have they had to do to Merion to bring it up to date to be able to compete? They can't do anything with 1. They could do very little with 2, except they took the fairway against the road. No. 3, 270 yard par 3. With 619 yards is No. 4. And I mean, do you need 619 yards to have a par 5? And then they go to about 530. And then they go to about 515 or 20 or something on 6.
All of a sudden that 475, 80 yard par 4, they've got a half a dozen holes that are around 500 yards. That's what they've had to do to make the golf course - so Merion can compete. Because they can't really do anything with holes like 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Nice little holes, but by today's standards that's the ones that we're talking about they're going to abuse. But they will get abused back the other way to even it up.
I still think Merion is a wonderful golf course. To me they don't really need to do that to the golf course. Go play Merion as Merion is. Will they break The Open record there if they would have played the old golf course? Yes. But what does that mean? Is it that important? The importance is that you have a great championship and you win up with a great player who has played his best golf to win the championship. That's what it's all about, not the preservation of Merion as a golf course.
Q. You mentioned already the golf course - the off course changes that have been made to this course. As far as on course changes, with the increase of the yardage and the reduction of bunkers, what changes have been made specific for this tournament and for the upcoming Presidents Cup tournament while also trying to keep members happy?
JACK NICKLAUS: Nothing. The driving range was not too bad except it just got small. And it was only like 2,880 yards or something from straight ahead. And the guys drove it - from the back tee drove it through. And when it changed the orientation, now we've got more than 300 yards, and it's a little bit uphill with an embankment behind it. But the reason for doing that was because their drainage was so bad. When we went out and did the work on the driving range, we found golf balls back from the Ryder Cup. We found them from the Solheim Cup. We found golf balls going back - found golf balls with my name on it, that's pretty good (laughter).
Anyway, that was one thing we did. And then we went back - and then the 16th hole that we did a couple of years ago, I always felt 16 was not a bad golf hole, but 16 was a way to get from 15 green to 17 tee. And I thought that in the scheme of things, coming down the stretch and particularly when you've got television, particularly the last few holes, I thought 14 and 15 were really very interesting holes on this golf course in that 14 is playing our shortest par 4. But I think it was probably one of our best par 4s. And I think it's a great little hole. You're going to see a lot of birdies on it, but you do see a lot of bogeys on it. And even though it's only an iron and a wedge, and it's also even a potential drivable par 4. 15 is not a difficult par 5. I just felt like 16 was a bland hole sitting behind those two. And 17 and 18 had been redone, and they're strong.
So 16 needed - I thought 16 needed to be in the same caliber. And we had a drainage that ran through the area that we basically dammed up or actually opened it back up to let the water flow back into it. It wasn't a big drainage, but we made sure - actually we turned most of it the other way and utilized the drainage to be - just build a lake from it. I thought it fit in there nice. It seemed to fit with the golf course. I think the greens are probably about the same firmness now. They're very similar now. First year or so a green is usually harder. It's similar now. But it plays downwind. If you hit a shot with a firm green going downwind, it's hard to stop it. It's got some spice to it.
I think it played a huge part in last year's tournament with Tiger. The shot that Tiger said, I said it's as fine a golf shot under the circumstances that I've seen in a long, long time. And not only was it a great golf shot, it happened to just fall in the hole, too, it was a bonus. So that's the one thing that we're thinking about doing with the golf course and Paul was way ahead of me, and I don't like had I had to do it on 18 with all the bunkers up the hole, and I said, Paul, is there any way? Yes, I've already been back, we can get length on the 18th hole. We've got space back here, but it's a ravine behind the hole. Basically we ended up taking the tee and pushing that dirt back in the ravine, and if we can get another 30 yards - if we did that we can get 50, 60, 70 yards, we don't need that much. I want to make sure the bunkers on the right and the creek along the left side actually become an integral part with the driver, 3 wood at the worst. And that's one of the changes that we probably will make on the golf course, and the only one that I can think of in the future. I don't think of any others. I don't think there's any space for any others. But it isn't because I think we need more length on the golf course, it's because I think the 18th hole needs to be strengthened. But that's about it.
Q. Jack, Merion is not the only place where you ran into Trevino over the years. I'm just wondering if you can talk about how tough he was. And maybe when you realized that if you saw him up there that it wasn't going to be easy?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I never really worried too much about who was up there because obviously I've said many times the only person you can control is yourself. If you don't play well, it didn't make a whole heck of a lot of difference who was there, whether it was Trevino or Joe Schmo, if you don't win, you don't care. But it seems as though Trevino was there a lot. And he is a good player and a tough competitor. I really enjoyed playing against Lee. I loved him as a competitor, because he knew that he was not going to beat himself. Much like Raymond. Raymond was never going to beat himself.
Trevino, when he got himself in contention and he was playing well, you knew that - I always used to go down, I'm sure no different than Tiger's done through the years, you go down and look at the leaderboard as you come in the last few holes and you're seeing three guys that can really play, you know you better play. You see three guys that, they're not going to win, they're going to self destruct. So you play your last few holes a little differently. You play a little smarter and you make sure you don't make any dumb mistakes and put yourself in the same place they are. Everybody that finishes the golf tournament is doing the same thing. They've all got the same nervousness, the same issues. They've got to combat themselves and the golf course.
But Trevino was just a tough competitor. And he always figured out a way to get the ball in the hole, even at Muirfield, he said how are you playing - gave up. I said you didn't give up, because he knocked it right in the hole and you had to play a pretty good shot. But if you looked back, he didn't take a lot of time to hit that shot. He walked back and was ticked off and hit it in the hole, Trevino (laughter). I've got great respect for him. I think he's done a great job with his life. He's turned his life around. And I think he's a really good guy.
Q. I apologize for questions that are probably hard to answer, but if you took your circumstances for getting started in the game from then and put that into today's culture and society, would you be playing golf, do you think?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. I was a little different. I did play all other sports. So I think probably yes. Mine was a process of elimination. Baseball, I got tired of sitting in a dusty field and waiting for somebody to come and play. Basketball, I knew that I wasn't big enough. Football, I played quarterback, but I knew my hands weren't big enough to really handle the ball. Tennis, I really never thought much about tennis, I still play, I play a lot of tennis, I wish I would have played more when I was younger. I played all those other sports.
My golf came to me because it seemed to fit me better. But I didn't really make the choice of golf until I was about 19 years old. I played a lot of golf. And I loved it. And I played all I could, I played everything else too, all the same time. I played a basketball league until I was 40 years old. I played in a rec league until I was 40 every Monday night. They said you take him out when he goes to the basket, you've got us to deal with. I left them alone, too, I stayed away from the basket.
But I just love playing everything. But golf fit me. But if you're not introduced to it, and if you're not given an opportunity, and the Learning League thing is in an atmosphere where the pressure is not put on a kid individually, where you go out in a team sport. They have four or five or six other kids, whatever it is, are there, cheering, and working with each other. They don't feel that pressure of an individual sport on their shoulders until they decide ultimately that's what they want to do. But they're introduced to it.
Q. Four decades or so ago, if my memory serves correct, you used to advise kids to go out and hit the ball as hard as they could, and learn the game from there. Do you still feel that way and what would be other things you would give kids, just picking up a club for the first time?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I've always felt, let kids just go do what they want to with it, just as long as they have a club in their hand. You can't really give them a club in their hand and take them to a park system. A golf ball hurts somebody and a club hurts somebody. So that's why the softball and the plastic club, you can't really hurt somebody with it. Well, you can, but - you hurt them with a baseball bat, too. But your chances are not as good. The philosophy of hitting the golf ball long, that's what I was taught and I like that philosophy. Length is still, power is still, probably even more so today than even when I played a very, very important element to playing golf. If you can't hit the ball long, it's pretty hard to play in this game today. You can always rein yourself back. I haven't changed my mind on that.
MODERATOR: Mr. Nicklaus, thank you for your time. Mr. Anton, thank you, as well. Look forward to a good week. (Applause.)
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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