Jack's Masters Q&A

The scribblers asked some fine questions of 6-time Masters Champion Jack Nicklaus during a short session prior to today's par-3 contest.

Q. Do you have any opinion about Mickelson's plan to use two different drivers to get the ball around?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, here I go with golf ball again. With the golf ball, they only need about five clubs. And so if he wants to add another driver, he's got plenty of space in there because he's not going to use a lot of them.

Probably a pretty good plan on this golf course. This golf course is a golf course that I always felt like, I mean, I always played my 1‑iron around here. But it was a golf course that guys, first golf course they started using 5‑woods because of the par 5s, because of 13, because of ‑‑ well, there's other par 5s, I can't remember what they were anymore of course ‑‑ (laughter) 15, or downhill lie on 2. This one they started using those kind of clubs. They went to 5‑woods to the small head wood clubs.

And here he talks about how much the game has changed, and how he tried to explain to Hootie that he wasn't realy criticizing the changes to the course in Golf Digest.

Q. Golf is such a comparison game between the individuals, where do you think what you did, what you accomplished ten (sic) years ago ranks? (20 years ago)

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. (Laughter).

You know, I would like to have it be a comparison.

I think that the game from about, I suppose, right around early '40s, late '30s, to about '95, the game didn't change very much. And the game in the last ten years has changed dramatically. So your ten years was probably correct.

I think that with what's happened with the golf clubs and the golf equipment we have today, what's happened with the golf ball, you didn't see Augusta National change dramatically during that period of time. The only thing that Augusta did was during about the mid '60s when I was winning quite often, they added a few bunkers because they just put it out in some different places. I thought those were fine. They were all right. Probably should have been there anyway, like the ones at 18 and the ones at 3, those kind of things.

You know, it just very difficult to compare the game today with the game that I played and guys who played in the generation prior to this simply because of today, the game is 90 percent power. What they have tried to do here at Augusta, and I think they are trying to do the right thing, I mean, Hootie and I talked last night a little about it. I said, "Hootie, our company, we have over 50 golf courses we're working on right now and I haven't figured out how in the world what's the right thing to do." I said, "You're trying to corral the long player, somewhat, yet you allow his abilities to still come out, and yet make it fair where an average length player still has a way to play the game."

I haven't figured that out. Because there's such a great difference between the long hitter and the average hitter today that it just doesn't make a lot of sense anymore.

So to try to compare the game of today versus the game that I played ‑‑ I mean, I was the longest when we played and everybody said, gee, Jack hits it so far. But I hit it so far but I hit it 10 or 15 yards, maybe 20 yards, really, by the next guy. The difference today may be 100 yards between a good player, a long hitter and a short hitter. It's such a great difference, it's just so difficult to compare.

And here's an intriguing question:

Q. I wonder, Nick Price was saying a couple of weeks ago at THE PLAYERS that he was surprised you and Arnold, being members, were not consulted about the changes; if you were consulted what would you have told them?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's not my call. Maybe 20 years ago or 25 years ago, we were consulted, or I was, we did a lot of the changes on the golf course in those days, and probably maybe shouldn't have since I was still competing.

And today, it seems as though, you know, if you go into the Masters Champions Room, which is probably the guys they consult with, there's probably 20 of them that are in the golf course design business. How do you pick one from the other? I'm sure that some are more involved than others.

It's a difficult call. It's not my call. So should we have been consulted? Not necessarily. Could we have been consulted? I suppose. But I think that the intention here is to do what is right for the game and what is right for, what is best for Augusta. You know, do I think that it is exactly what I would have done? Probably not. Is it the same that maybe Arnold would have done or Gary or Watson or somebody else who is involved? Probably not. But it might have been. I don't know.

Ah, here comes the music to manufacturers ears...

Q. It's been suggested that you could solve the golf ball problem by making it bigger. Would you subscribe to that?

JACK NICKLAUS: There's quite a few ways to solve it. I would think the simplest way is, why change what they are playing with. In other words, I think that, you know, Titleist makes a golf ball a certain way, Nike makes the golf ball a certain way, Callaway makes the golf ball a certain way. Everybody is used to those characteristics. They play different golf balls because of the characteristics they play. Each company makes several balls and they pick the one they like.

I promise you, it's very simple to bring that ball back ten percent and still keep the same characteristics. That's not a big deal. Why do you need to change the size of it? Let everybody play what they normally play. They don't have to change their drivers, they don't have to change their irons. You don't have to do anything. If the golf ball goes shorter you don't have to come out every year and have the same conversation, what did we do to Augusta to combat what happened to the golf ball last year? Why would they do that?

During the period of 1934 and up to about two, three years ago, there really wasn't much done to this golf course. Why all of a sudden do we have to have a new golf course? Because we've got new equipment that doesn't fit this golf course or even fit the game anymore. That's why.

And my favorite question:

Q. Just to follow up on the golf ball, what is your take on how the Ohio Golf Association is adopting a ball for one of it's events?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know really much of what they have done, and what they are going to play, but I think that's one step in the right direction. You know, I think that we talked about Augusta, it was probably the only tournament in golf who could have adopted that kind of a policy five years ago or so, which is probably an option and probably the only place that could have done that and got away with it. And they took the position that they didn't want to be above the game of golf, and I think they probably made the right choice. So they had to try to combat it in another fashion.

I think the Ohio Golf Association, not saying they are above the game of golf, but what they are doing is they are going and playing an event for testing. I think that's probably a good thing. I can't see anything bad about it.

Regarding this critical comments in Golf Digest, it seems Nicklaus may not have heard the question correctly...

Q. In Golf Digest recently you were critical of the changes. Do you still feel that way?

JACK NICKLAUS: Not necessarily critical of the changes. I don't remember what Golf Digest said. I don't have any idea what they said because I didn't read it.

What I've said all along is ‑‑ I said that I felt like, matter of fact, I think that was taken from ‑‑ I went down to Orlando for the golf panelists and they asked me that question. I said from a tournament standpoint, I thought they made it ‑‑ I didn't think it was a very good thing to do. But I said, my feeling is exactly what I've been saying every press conference. I think their intention is to do exactly what they did with the last thing is to try to end up having the players play similar clubs to what they were playing, you know, 20 years ago in the same places. Their intentions are correct.

And then I continued to have said, is what we have done and this like talking about the 50 golf courses I'm designing, we have not figured out what to do yet. I don't think anybody has figured out. I think Carnoustie did probably the most logical thing from a tournament standpoint. You take it to a certain length, you take it down to 12 yards, give them a place to walk down, and if you've got to hit it in this area, take the driver out of your hand and go. That's probably the most logical thing to do, okay.

However, most people like to try to keep the driver somewhat in your hands. Once you keep the driver in your hands, then you try to figure out, how do you combat that. It's very difficult. I don't know that there is a way.