DUBLIN, Ohio -- When Jack Nicklaus started the Memorial Tournament, he wanted to model it after a little tournament down in Augusta, Ga. And just like the Masters, the Memorial Tournament has a few traditions every year that make the event special. Now that he’s done playing, Nicklaus doesn’t do too many press conferences, so every year at Muirfield Village, Jack’s presser has become a must-see event since it offers a rare opportunity to pick the brain of golf’s greatest champion. Here are a few highlights:
On Bubba's shot at the Masters: “I'm trying to visualize how much he hooked the ball at 10 at Augusta. I don't know how much he hooked it, but he obviously hooked it a lot. But what amazed me was when the ball came down on the green with a hook as hard as he hit it, it backed up. It backed up the hill, and I said, How do you make a golf ball do that? That was kind of interesting I thought.”
On taking control of his golf swing: “[Bobby Jones] said I need to be responsible for my own swing and understand when I have problems on the golf course how I can correct those problems on the golf course myself without having to run back to somebody.
“And during the years that I was playing most of my competitive golf, I saw Jack Grout maybe once or twice a year for maybe an hour. If I was in the Miami area or something, I'd run down and see Jack and we'd spend about an hour and we'd spend five minutes on the golf swing and an hour catching up. But he taught me young the fundamentals of the game. He taught me how to assess what I was doing. When I made a mistake, when I was doing things, how do you on the golf course fix that without putting yourself out of a golf tournament and then teaching yourself.”
On talking with Tiger about his swing changes: “I was asking him, Why do you need somebody to watch you all the time? He said, I really don't. He said, I go to Sean and I get some ideas, but then I really go work on it myself and try to learn what I want to do and how I want to do it, which I think is the right way. I said, If you're doing that, you're on the right track, but all I read in the papers is how Sean is making a swing change on you. He said, That's not what I'm doing. I said, Okay, that's fine then, because he's trying to be responsible for himself.”
On winning his first U.S. Open 50 years ago: “I almost won in '60 at Cherry Hills, and I really look back, it's one that I gave away. But I was 20 years old. I gave it away because I didn't know how to win. And then the next year I didn't really give it away, but I had a good chance to win, and I finished fourth. I felt going into Oakmont that, man, I'm not letting this one get away.”
On his recent visit with Arnold Palmer at Oakmont: “The purpose of the visit to Oakmont was to try to get a couple of shots for a special they're doing for USGA on the '62 Open, 50 years since then. And Arnold says, Why do I have to do that? They want me to do the one with Casper in '67. I lost them both. (Laughter.) I said, You won enough. We'll get to yours that they won. I said, Did they do one at Cherry Hills, Arnold? Yeah. Okay, I lost there. We were kidding each other about it.”
On the early days of the Tour: “We talked about traveling in the car, back in the day when we didn't have disposable diapers, and we had a diaper pail in the backseat with a port-a-crib and off we went. Let me tell you, you'd better keep the windows open. I'll tell you what, it didn't smell very good.
“And all the players, we'd all try to figure out and go to the same motel so we could have cookouts, and then the wives would take turns watching other people's kids. If one of the guys was in contention, the other wives would take care of their kids and they'd go watch their husband play golf. We did a lot of that kind of stuff in the days when we were playing.”
On being a slow player: “I got a two stroke penalty at Portland, and I got a two stroke penalty at Houston playing with Cary Middlecoff, and he didn't get a penalty, so then I knew I was really slow. You don't know Cary Middlecoff, but he was the slowest.”