Jack Nicklaus Interview (Missed Cut) - British Open
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2005 British Open | Round Two | 16 Jul 2005
Jack Nicklaus: I know you really don’t care, but that was the best round I shot this year (laughter).
What would you like?
Q: Ladies and gentlemen, I think in this situation, I think the golf is perhaps a little bit irrelevant.
Jack, how do you feel now that that round is finished?
Jack Nicklaus: Well, I played pretty well today, hit the ball pretty decently. I had trouble getting the ball in the hole early in the round. Then once I finally made a birdie at well, it was a 2 putt, I missed about a 15 footer for eagle at 5. I was a golfer today is what I’m trying to say. I played golf all day until it was quite obvious that I wasn’t going to make the cut at 17. I tried to chase a 5 iron in at 17 and it blew on me a little bit, which left me short which meant I had to hole that from 80 feet, I suppose, and left it 10 feet short and missed it.
And that was the first time that I stopped being a golfer. I should stop being a golfer more often, because I birdied the last hole. But then I just sort of let my emotions go with it. The people were fantastic. Actually, as I was coming down the last few holes, I’m sitting there saying, man, I don’t want to go through this again. Maybe it’s just as well I miss the cut. I said, I think these people have been wonderful. They’ve given of themselves and gave me a lot more than I deserved. I’m probably better off getting out of here. Obviously I kept trying to do the best I could.
Hitting 3 irons and 4 irons into those greens and trying to make birdies is not an easy chore. That’s what I’ve got left now.
Q: You obviously had a lot of players out there, people yelling things at you. Was there a particular gesture or moment that resonated with you today?
Jack Nicklaus: There wasn’t a single specific thing that I heard, no. Frankly, zero, because everybody was so terrific. You couldn’t have heard somebody’s individual remark if you wanted to. I’m delighted that I was able to play with Tom, particularly. Tom’s probably more of an old sentimental fool than I am. He came up 18 and had more tears in his eyes than I did. I said, “Come on, you have to make a birdie.” I had to make him do it. I would gladly have given him my birdie on the last hole.
Luke is terrific. What a nice, solid player he is. He’s got a lot of future in him. He’ll do very well. But we had a nice group. We played well.
When I come in here and say that I shot 72 and it’s the best round I shot this year, and I played well, and I’m missing the cut by three shots, you know it’s time to leave. That’s sort of the way I look at it.
Q: Jack, I know that golf wasn’t irrelevant to you, because that’s the reason you came to play. Could you sort of explain that gesture on 18. Looked like you cocked the gun with your driver when you got on the tee?
Jack Nicklaus: I thought I needed to make one to make the cut, and I had to let the shaft down.
Q: Were there any thoughts
Jack Nicklaus: That was having fun. I knew it was over with. I couldn’t hit it that far with that wind. I hit that ball pretty good at 18. That was the best drive I probably hit all week. I took it just left of the hole and hit it as hard as I could and it went straight. I said, I should have been doing this earlier (laughter).
Q: Was it your decision to wear the blue sweater on the first tee and kind of reflect back on ’78? Is that what why you did it?
Jack Nicklaus: That was a commemorative sweater we did this year. We did it to commemorate ’78. It’s the same sweater on the back of the banknote. That’s the sweater I had on they both said large on them, but that was a much larger sweater than I wore before (laughter). They did a limited edition of 500 of them. I sort of felt like I wanted my wife told me the reason she sent me back this year, because if I’d known you were going to finish on Friday in 1960, I would have dressed you better. She said I had to come back and be dressed better. Part of that dress was it actually was cold enough. I got on the range this morning and I had what I had on now. I took this off and put the other sweater on because I got cold. We played about three or four holes and it got warm again, so I took it off and put this on.
I fully had planned to finish in that sweater, because I needed it to keep warm. But also, obviously, that sweater I would have worn that sweater today and Sunday had I made the cut. That was sort of my it was just sort of a sentimental old fool talking about some old things.
Q: Was there a particular memory or a particular something in the crowd today, was there a point on the course where any memories jumped out at you?
Jack Nicklaus: Memories that stuck out at me? Well, I suppose you might say memories of I mean I absolutely got steaming under the collar at 12. I remember doing that before (laughter). It’s the only time all week that I’ve taken a gamble on a tee shot to where I thought I ought to putt it. And that’s the only fairway bunker I put it in. I hit the ball, I’d say, within a yard of where I thought I aimed it. And obviously neither Steve or myself knew where the bunkers were. You can’t see them. I decided at 12, after I had I birdied 10 and then I missed about a 12, 13 foot putt for birdie at 11.
And 12 yesterday, I played it with a 4 iron short of the bunkers and played a 4 iron to the green. There were other guys who were driving it. I don’t think I can carry those bunker, and particularly with the crosswind. I can downwind, but not crosswind. We had a crosswind, but I knew I could get it right beside them and past them if I hit it in the right spot. I hit the tee shot and I was gloating, because I hit it within a yard of where I tried to hit it. It pitched right in the bunker. I didn’t know where the bunker was, obviously. I got down there and I was very pleased with myself, because I could still get hot under the collar (laughter).
Q: You talked about the sweater. Was there any particular reason you didn’t wear a hat today?
Jack Nicklaus: I don’t know. It was cloudy when we started out. I play a lot lately without a hat. I sort of wanted I also wanted my last day of golf not to be with a hat on, particularly. I just sort of if I wanted to bring back some memories I wanted to bring back a golf game and look sentimental old fool again.
Q: You played in ’78 without a hat, didn’t you?
Jack Nicklaus: Yeah. I never wore a hat in my life until about probably mid ’80s, when I started wearing contacts. When I started wearing contacts it was too bright not to wear a hat. I have contacts now, but it was cloudy when we started out today and I got used to it.
Q: You wore that floppy hat when you first started?
Jack Nicklaus: When I first started, years ago, yeah.
Q: Late ’60s?
Jack Nicklaus: Yes, they were real attractive (laughter).
Q: You’ve had quite a bit of emotion coming up the 18th hole on this course in your career. I was curious how today compared to ’78.
Jack Nicklaus: ’78 was the best I’ve ever had in golf. I think there were three times in the game of golf that I’ve had where the people were just unbelievable. I’d say four now. But three, it was ’78 here, ’72 at Muirfield and ’80 at Baltusrol, where the people just absolutely went bonkers over what went on. I was caught up in what was going on with it.
And today was equally as nice, and it’s fantastic. The only difference was that I was then trying to figure out how to make a par and birdie on the last hole to win a golf tournament, and I had a few other things happening.
Here, today, I wasn’t too worried about having to make birdie on the last hole. Of course I didn’t birdie any of those, but I did today.
Q: Jack, you’re moving out of the tournament golf arena. So moving forward, how are you going to satisfy your competitive drive?
Jack Nicklaus: Well, that’s a pretty good question, because I don’t think that’s the one thing that I’ll miss. But I’ve missed it probably for five or six years, anyway. I really haven’t been competitive for I guess the last time I was really competitive was the ’98 Masters. I’ve had a few tournaments somewhere, but nothing real good. But anyway, I’ve pretty well gotten used to not being competitive.
My competitive desire really runs in design. I enjoy the design work from the standpoint that your golf game you leave a legacy and your design work on the ground you actually leave another legacy. You leave something for people to understand a little bit of what you thought the game of golf or how it should be played. Now, the only difference is my golf game changed, I guess. As I got older, it changed. And my design ideas change as I get older, it evolves. But that’s the competition to me.
I suppose that I’ve always enjoyed it sounds stupid, I love fishing, I love fly fishing, and I always feel like I can get a little bit better at it. I’m decent at it, but I think I can get a lot better at it. I do competitive things. I still play a lot of tennis. I’m sure that when I go play a father/son or go play a grandson/grandfather tournament or something like that, I’ll still have a little bit of that. But nothing is going to replace 18th at St. Andrews in The British Open. In everybody’s life it will pass.
Q: Jack, what were your thoughts as you stood on the Swilkin Bridge and also as you stood over your final putt?
Jack Nicklaus: I didn’t have a whole lot actually, I pretty much got my emotions over by the time I got to the Swilkin Bridge. I didn’t do anything at 17 or actually messed it up to the time I hit my tee shot at 18. I got to the bridge, I pretty much got through my emotions there. And all I wanted to do there was not interfere with Tom and Luke. I wanted to get that over with. But I asked them as I walked off the tee, I said, “I want to take a picture with you two guys. I want you in the picture.” I didn’t want to screw up their golf game, but I still wanted them there. And I wanted to get the caddies in, and my son, Steve, and just get a couple of pictures. That’s all I was interested in doing there. I hope my wife dressed me better today than she did in ’60, so maybe the pictures will be better.
Q: Jack, is the fact that you played well here, does that make it easier to say good bye or tougher?
Jack Nicklaus: Well, absolutely. My biggest fear in coming here this week the amount of golf I play I’ve played that’s eight competitive rounds I’ve played this year. I missed four cuts. Actually, the senior tournaments we don’t miss cuts, may as well. I shot 75, 76, 75, 77, 73, 77, 75, 72. That’s what I’ve shot this year. And that’s not great golf. My biggest fear coming here was I didn’t want to finish shooting a pair of 80 somethings.
Q: Jack, what would you like your legacy to be? What do you think your legacy is going to be?
Jack Nicklaus: Well, I don’t know. I think you guys will probably determine that. I’m not really concerned about what my legacy is in relation to the game of golf, frankly. I’m more concerned about what my legacy is with my family, my kids and my grandkids. That’s by far more important to me. If I’ve done it properly out here and I can hold my head up to my kids and grandkids, that’s the most important thing.
Q: Jack, even though you knew the cut was out of the question on 18, how badly did you want that putt?
Jack Nicklaus: I knew that the hole would move wherever I hit it (laughter). I always make it on the 18th. It always happens so I just figure it will go in, so I hit it and it went in. No, I wanted the putt badly, I’m sorry.
Q: As a follow up,
Jack Nicklaus: I frankly think the hole must have moved, because I aimed six inches left of the hole, played a six inch break, hit it and the ball was going along, and every other putt that’s going that way missed the hole, but this one gobbled it in. It was like a Pac Man.
Q: Just as a follow up, can you recount the words that were spoken with Steve?
Jack Nicklaus: We didn’t really say much. We both said he said, “Nice putt.” (Laughter.) But he had trouble he has trouble getting words out, too. He’s as sentimental as I am. We sort of choked a little bit and gagged a little bit and had a couple of tears and hugged each other, sort of like that.
Q: With the sun at your back there and the picture all around you and the crowds and you lifting your putter, did you have any idea what that picture looked like?
Jack Nicklaus: Did I lift my putter?
Q: On 18.
Jack Nicklaus: I didn’t know what I did, except the ball went in the hole. I was delighted. I didn’t want to have to putt a putt coming back. Send me a copy of it, though, I’d like to have it. Seriously.
Q: Jack, in 1978 when you were coming down the stretch here against Simon Owen and playing with him, I read somewhere that you mentioned that was a situation where intimidation could have played a role, but you have never been one to try to intimidate a fellow player. Actually, you go the opposite and set his mind at ease. I wonder what that sort of attitude and the concession you made to Tony Jacklin, what does that say about how champions should conduct themselves when we live in a time really where maybe that isn’t done, a lot of players wouldn’t concede that, and they’ll say that, they’ll admit that?
Jack Nicklaus: Then if they do, I feel sorry for them. The game we play is a game and nothing more. It’s a wonderful game. It’s a game I love. I think that the game needs to be played in that spirit. I feel strongly about the Ryder Cup, I feel strongly about The Presidents Cup, I feel that strongly about play, whether it’s club play or whether it’s The British Open or U.S. Open. I feel very strongly about that.
I think that a very, very great majority of the game and the players in the game today have a sense of the right thing to do, and what is the right thing. If they don’t, then maybe they need to learn that. As I leave the game, hopefully if the example that I’ve set from that standpoint, if that’s followed by some and it helps one young guy change what he’s doing, then I’m successful. But this would be a pretty lousy game for me if we had these guys coming out and making putts and pounding their chests. I wouldn’t have much use for the game.
Q: You’ve mentioned several times legacies and children in golf and helping youngsters and stuff. How would you like the game to change in the future for children in terms of breaking down social barriers or better access and things like that?
Jack Nicklaus: I think we’ve got an awful lot of programs right now for kids. You just have to keep those programs moving. The kids are the future of your game. Kids are what we have. Certainly the future is not behind me or a lot of us here, but the future is out in front for these kids. And First Tee is one of the things that we’ve had that’s very, very good for a lot of kids that wouldn’t have been introduced to the game of golf.
But The Open Championship, itself, all the kids that are out there watching them play, the players play, we hope that they walk away with wanting to be a Luke Donald or a Sergio Garcia or a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or whoever they want to be. We want them to walk away with that and hope that they have a dream to do that.
We need to keep bringing people into the game. The game struggles from the standpoint of keeping people in the game, because it’s such a difficult game. So the opportunity to help nice, young kids get involved I know four of my grandkids this week went up to see Jim Flick. And I haven’t had any of my grandkids very interested in the game of golf. I asked them at the beginning of the summer, “Would you guys like to get started?” And they all just absolutely jumped at it.
My oldest grandson, Jackie, came along with his father this week and they played, I think 18 Monday, 18 Tuesday, and 36 Wednesday. They probably almost missed my first round they were so tired. But seeing him start to play I don’t have any of them that are really interested in competitive golf at this point, but I think it’s such a wonderful game to be able to introduce kids to because they have to deal with adults, because that’s where they are at clubs. And they have to deal with each other and learn how to win to lose. There are so many good values in the game. That’s more important in winning or losing the game. We’re too philosophical. (Laughter).
You guys have more to do this week than listen to that stuff.
Q: I was curious, do you have any plans for this evening, any functions? And just for the record, could you say how long the putt was on 18?
Jack Nicklaus: I guess the putt was 13, 14 feet. Does that sound about right?
Q: Say 15.
Jack Nicklaus: 15, 16, 18 (laughter). I don’t know. I think it’s probably about 13, 14 feet, that’s what I guess.
My plans this evening, I’m not sure. We’ll probably go home tomorrow. All my kids that are parents, they all have I asked my wife as I’m walking out, “I don’t want to bring up the subject, but if I don’t make the cut today, what do you all want to do tomorrow? Do you want to stay? Do you want to go?”
“No, I think all the kids have their own kids and they want to get on home.” So I think we’ll probably go on home tomorrow.
Q: Jack, you reflected on the 1960 Open a little while ago, could you reflect on how
Jack Nicklaus: 1960 Open? I did?
Q: On your sartorial eloquence
Jack Nicklaus: The year 2000? That’s 40 years later.
Q: Reflecting on your four or five decade career, how quickly has it gone?
Jack Nicklaus: Far too fast. I think we all say that. There isn’t one person in this room that wishes we were back 20 or 30 years. I’d be very surprised. But I don’t want to do it again. I kind of enjoyed what I did. I don’t know whether I’d be as successful today going out there or not, playing against those guys. I think I would. That’s the way I’d feel. But who knows?
As I say, once you’ve got it in the bank, win those few tournaments, that’s pretty good. People have asked me what would you want to do differently, and I can’t think of anything, frankly, except have my wife dress me better in 2000.
Q: I think at this point in time it’s appropriate that I should ask Peter Dawson to step forward.
Peter Dawson: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a great honor for us to have this year’s Open Championship as Jack’s last competitive golf event. And I know that we wouldn’t want to let him go at the end of this without all of us showing our appreciation for everything he’s done in the game and for the game. Jack, thank you (applause.)
Jack Nicklaus: Thank you. As we finish up, just let me say that I want to thank you. You guys and gals have all been very kind to me through the years. I much appreciate that. Everybody goes through some rocky times. Everybody goes through other times, but you guys have all been very supportive and you’ve done it the way you think that it should be done and reported and I accept that, both ways.
But it’s been absolutely a pleasure to be able to come in here and sit down and talk to you honestly and know that I’m going to get a good, honest, straight result. I appreciate that. I know I’ll see you again. Probably in the not too distant future, I’ll see you at the Presidents Cup in Washington. But, anyway, thanks for a lot of good years.