Jack Nicklaus sat down to talk about the President's Cup and as usual, offered his take on several issues along with many more enjoyable anecdotes. The entire session is worth reading, but here are some highlights.
On Rory Sabbatini and Tiger:
Q. You know the background, right?
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yeah. How could you miss it (laughter)?
I don't know, a lot of times, too, I'll ask Tiger, and I'm sure that Gary will ask his guys, who would you like to play? In other words, at the matches the last time, I went down and I had -- Phil said, "I'd like to play Cabrera." "Tiger, who would you like to play?" "I don't care, it doesn't make any difference to me." Freddie said, "I'd like to play Vijay." I don't know what Gary's guys did.
Those are the only two that I had a mandate if I could get them. As the selection process goes, I pick a player, Gary matches him, Gary picks a player, I match. So forth and so on, it goes back and forth.
It's like the last two times I captained prior to that, I had -- let's see, I had Tiger in Australia ask me to pick Norman for him. I got him Norman. We were in South Africa, and both Ernie and Tiger would like to play each other, so Gary and I talked and tried to figure out, can we get Tiger and Ernie to play. So that's fine.
So if Gary comes to me and says, Jack, I've got Sabbatini wants to play Tiger and Tiger says he wants to play Sabbatini, then we'll try to make that happen. But if Tiger says I don't care and I've got somebody else -- a lot of guys, they say, I want that guy. I had one guy on the other team I had five of my guys say I'd like to have him. They just want to try to beat him. I'm not going to tell you who that is.
That's sort of the way it works. If it turns out that that's a good match, it's a good match. I think frankly that probably Tiger and Vijay or Tiger and Ernie would be a better TV match, but Sabbatini has had a great year. He's played very, very well. He's had a lot of press.
And on his rivals making comments ala Sabbatini:
Q. How did you handle it? And is this atmosphere a lot different in the sense that everybody seems a little bit more sensitive, so to speak?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. We didn't have that much press. The only time -- I had several times, but the one that I remember a lot was -- I was still an amateur, and I was a defending champion. I had won in '59 and '60 going into St. Louis. Phil Rogers in those days, Phil just (motioning talking with hand), and he was holding court at St. Louis about -- he said, "I see in the brackets here if Nicklaus wins his first few matches, he gets to play me." Like he had a bye the first two rounds.
My dad heard it, and my dad said I heard that in conversation, Phil was really running his mouth. I said, I've got to win my first two matches. I won the first two matches, and we went out and played 12 holes and Phil was one under par and the match was over. I beat him 8 & 7.
It turned out Phil turned out to be one of my best friends. I mean, he's a wonderful guy. But in those guys Phil was just all mouth.
And Rory is a little bit going this way a little bit right now. So I think when you get that kind of a thing, a guy says, "I think I want to take care of that situation." And I think Tiger probably said he wanted to take care of that situation.
Now, did I get a little bit of that as I went along? Yeah. But I didn't pay much attention. When I was a 20-year old kid it got my dander up a little bit. I'm sure Tiger is very used to it, I don't think Tiger paid a whole lot of attention to it. He just paid attention, took care of business and went out and played very, very well, as usual.
Q. But it is an slightly extra incentive do you think?
JACK NICKLAUS: A guy doesn't miss it (smiling). You don't miss that comment. It doesn't pass by the way.
And on the FedEx Cup:
Q. We're in week two of a new playoff system. Just curious to get your take on it. Does it interest you at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't understand it to be very honest with you. Tim told me it was supposed to be good for the game of golf so I went along with him (laughter). I think that the whole objective was to get the guys to play, and the first week Tiger skips. So I didn't understand that at all.
I sort of thought that the system was that when you had the Playoffs that everybody started over. But no, the Playoffs carry on.
Now, I can understand that if they didn't carry on and Tiger decided to play the first week and Phil missed the cut, they're gone.
But I would like to find out what does a guy have to do that's 100th on the Money List or 120th to win the FedExCup? What does he have to do?
Here he tried to be more upbeat about it...
Do I like the idea? Yeah, I think it's great to try to get the guys to play at the end of the year, great to have a season-ending playoff. My bet is that it'll get tweaked after this year. Like every event we have ever had the first year we have it, we'll have tweaks in it, and I think the whole objective was to get the guys to play. That was what it was, beyond the PGA Championship, and to be able to have a season-ending thing.
They end it with the TOUR Championship, so it's going to be the TOUR Championship, but it's how you get to the TOUR Championship and create more interest and so on and so forth. I commend them for that. I wish I understood what it was, and I think you guys fall into the same category trying to understand it, too.
If I were Rich Beem trying to figure out the projected 130, 124, when somebody makes birdie, par, bogey, give me a break. How does he win? I just don't know. I just don't know that. And frankly if I don't know it and I'm involved in the game of golf, how is Mr. Joe Public going to know it? That's the problem.
To get the public interested, they've got to understand what's going on. Very simple when you play a football game and you're in the Playoffs, you're a wildcard team and you're playing the division leader, you win, you go on. You lose, you go home. We don't exactly have that here. So I don't really -- I think they'll tweak it someplace.
And my question...
Q. Can you talk then in general about kind of the interest in short par 4s we're seeing at a lot of tournament venues and if that's maybe impacting your philosophy at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: My favorite holes are short par 4s. I think they're the most fun to design, and I think they're the most fun to play.
I think if you look at Muirfield Village, I think the players love the 14th hole at Muirfield Village, and that's a nasty little hole. It can be a nice hole, too. I mean, it can be a nasty little hole if you play it wrong. And I'm sure there are some other holes throughout the year on the TOUR that you'll find. Royal Montreal has one hole where we'll play the tee up and the tee back. I don't remember what number it is.
I was up there as I said in June, went around the golf course on a rainy day and we went around as fast as we could go because we were freezing to death. It's totally different than when I played there in the '70s, so I don't remember much about the actual holes.
And a really strange question...
Q. I just wonder if you've seen any of Tiger's designs yet, and if you have seen them what your opinion on them might be?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think Tiger has any designs yet.
Q. He has the course in Dubai that --
JACK NICKLAUS: He's got a contract. I don't know that he's got a golf course.
Q. He has laid out some of the holes already for it. I don't know if you've seen them at all?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I'm not going to Dubai to see his golf course (laughter). He'll go through the same process as the rest of it if he is truly interested in design and learn the business.
And my favorite exchanged, started by Doug Ferguson...
Q. What's the last golf course you did for your ego?
JACK NICKLAUS: For my ego? Oh, gosh. I don't really know, but I would say probably -- I mean, I didn't even do the Bear's Club for my ego. I had a membership there that I thought was going to be a fairly elderly membership. I would have done that course a lot more difficult if it was for my ego. I would have made it a lot stronger and a lot different, but I didn't do that. It's still plenty tough enough.
But for my ego, oh, probably back to -- probably Castle Pines maybe, back in that area, early '80s because Jack Vickers really wanted a very difficult golf course. Jack Vickers keeps changing it and making it tougher. Of course you guys aren't going there anymore, but he'll have events there again. I'd say it's been 25 years since I've really done one for my ego. I've been involved with other people's ego, but that's okay.