Jack Nicklaus and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held a news conference Wednesday at Firestone Country Club to talk about Nicklaus receiving the Ambassador of Golf Award as part of the Bridgestone Invitational.
Here is the transcript:
LAURA NEAL: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us. We've had a busy day, but our last conference, we've saved the best for last. As you know, we are honoring Jack Nicklaus tonight as the 2013 Ambassador of Golf recipient, but before we spend some time with Jack and ask him to reflect on the award and his connection here to Firestone in Akron, we have an exciting announcement relative to the Presidents Cup 2015. With that I will turn it over to PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Good afternoon, Laura, and thank you for being here at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone this week.
We'll have a lot to say about Jack a little later this afternoon as he receives the Ambassador of Golf recognition that he absolutely deserves. And I know you want to ask him some questions about that, but before you dive into that, I just wanted to share with you a couple of updates regarding the Presidents Cup.
I think everybody is aware of Jack's involvement with the Presidents Cup over the years, captaining four times, winning twice, and against his good friend Gary Player having that memorable tie in 2003 in South Africa, he has had a huge impact on where the Presidents Cup is today.
In addition, that involvement will continue later this year in October when the Presidents Cup will be played at Muirfield Village, and that will make Muirfield Village the only golf course that's hosted the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. So it's been a very good run with Jack impacting what the Presidents Cup is all about.
Today we're announcing that that relationship will continue on beyond 2013 now with the Presidents Cup going to Seoul, Korea, in 2015, because we are announcing today that in 2015, the Presidents Cup will be played at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Songdo, just outside of Seoul, Korea. You may recall that just a couple of years ago the Champions Tour played two years at Songdo, so we have some competitive experience with that golf course. And Jack and his team have been working on some modifications to the golf course over the past few months to be able to accommodate the Presidents Cup, which we think will be the biggest event in the history of Korean golf and perhaps the biggest event in the history of Asia, because it's going to be a very big event.
I just want to thank Jack for his commitment, and also at the same time announce that Incheon City, which is the city within which Songdo, the largest economic industrial development area currently underway in Korea, Incheon City is the home of Songdo, and Incheon City will be the official host city of the Presidents Cup in 2015, as well.
As we looked at different golf courses, different venues in Korea, we kept coming back to Songdo as a place that had the capability to host the Cup, and also because we had the competitive experience of the Champions Tour and we knew that it was going to be an outstanding venue to stage the matches of the Presidents Cup, as well. I know the captains and the players who will be traveling there in 2015 will be delighted, as we are.
And Jack, I can only say that we're excited about the continued relationship of you and what you stand for with the Presidents Cup. It continues to mean a lot.
Laura, with that, I'll turn it back to you.
LAURA NEAL: Jack, would you like to make a few comments?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I'd first like to say we're very, very excited and proud to have the Presidents Cup this year at Muirfield Village. I know that many things are taking place down there right now getting ready for it, and I'm sure that my friend Stan Gale, who is the developer of Songdo, is right here, and Stan has been a great supporter of not only us, but he's been a great supporter of the game of golf and new Songdo. So Stan, thank you for your continued development and help to do this.
I don't think Roy Ryu is here, but I think Roy Ryu was largely instrumental in bringing the games to the Presidents Cup to Korea, but also largely responsible for making sure that they were guided in the direction of Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
The golf club, those of you that don't know about Songdo at all, Songdo is how many acres.
JACK NICKLAUS: 1,500 acres pumped in from where MacArthur landed back in the Korean war. And because of that English is the official language of the economic zone.
Stan and his people built I don't know how many skyscrapers now, but 30‑some skyscrapers have been built in Songdo, our golf course there, and a 17‑kilometer bridge across to the airport, across the harbor, just a few little things that have happened. It's an unbelievable place that's been built, and I know there are a lot of places in Korea that are worthy of hosting and wanted to host the Presidents Cup, but I think there are so many things that came back to say the facilities and the hotels, the access, the airports, everything that just pointed that really there was not another place that would be better for the Presidents Cup than our golf club.
We're very proud to be part of that, proud of the continuing involvement, Tim, with the Presidents Cup. You've supported me very much with the things we've done. I appreciate that very much. The TOUR has supported, and it's another support of saying my continuation of the Presidents Cup and our involvement in it, and I'm very proud to be a part of that.
Q. Tim, when you started the Presidents Cup, I assume you wanted to try to capitalize on some of the popularity that the Ryder Cup had had and go in a different direction. Just after how many years it's been played now, is it what you thought it would be? Do you still want to get something more out of it than you've gotten? Would you like to see ‑‑ I don't know, do you think it needs more of the fevered pitch that the Ryder Cup has been able to attain?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, the driving force for the Presidents Cup was the recognition that we had, some of the best players in the world coming from areas that didn't have access to the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup had already demonstrated that it was one of the very best stages for PGA TOUR caliber players to perform on; no question about it. Some of the greatest television you'd ever want to watch.
To see the players coming from Australia and South Africa and Asia who didn't have the opportunity to participate in that kind of competition, we felt something needed to be corrected. That's really what was driving it. So that's only been ‑‑ Jack's hosting of this year's Cup is the 10th, so it's only 20 years. And during that time obviously you've seen a continuation of more good young players coming from those areas of the globe, and all indications are Asia will take the same place in the men's game that it has already started to claim in the women's game. So it's a natural evolution.
There is a more nationalistic add‑on to the Ryder Cup, Europe coming together at a time when they had gone to the euro and gone to a more unified economic system in Europe, to come up against the United States. So that's a difference. I don't think it matters in golf, though; if you've been to the Presidents Cup, it's fabulous golf, just tremendous golf to watch there or on television. And again, the future is very bright given where the better players are coming from right now.
So no, we're not on any timetable, we recognize that anything ‑‑ and Jack has been involved in creating some of the greatest properties today in golf, but golf is a generational exercise. I mean, it takes history to drive interest and stature, and we're very comfortable with where the trajectory for that is with the Presidents Cup.
Q. As a follow‑up to that, when Nick Price was in yesterday, he said that he and Ernie Els met with you last November to talk about shrinking the format, and he obviously has his own reasons for that, but you turned him down, and I wondered if you could say why.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I understand his thinking. But I think we have a nice history that's built up already in the Presidents Cup, and unless you have ‑‑ I feel like maybe I've been around for too long, but I increasingly feel like unless it's broken, don't really mess with it. And the Presidents Cup has been very, very successful.
When you look at the history of the Presidents Cup, you might have an immediate reaction that the United States has dominated. But if you look more closely, there was a wide margin in the first Cup, a lesser margin in the '96 Cup when it was finished on the 17th hole of the last match. In '98, the international team won. In 2000, it came down to the last putt. In 2003, it was a tie.
So if you go back and look at the players who were on both teams, the international team had some of the best players in the world during that time, and right now I'd say the Americans have a slightly better group of players. I don't think that's a reason to change.
Also, I think, and Jack might comment on this, the format of the Presidents Cup, where everybody has to play, and the only way to do that is if you have a certain number of matches, is extremely popular with the players. The players want to play. I think on both teams they want to play.
That's where we came down. But this is a wonderful thing in golf that you can talk about and argue about and debate as to what's better, and that's good, and I'm glad that Nick brought the issue forward and he did the research on it and he made some good points, and I'm sure it's a matter that'll continue to be discussed. We'll see what happens at this year's Cup for starters.
JACK NICKLAUS: If I may, the Americans have dominated a little bit in that, but I think that's only because they've played better.
I've had the privilege to captain both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, and after going back and looking at the teams through the years that we've played, many times we've looked at it and we said, well, out of the three, the European team, the U.S. Team or the international team, which is the strongest. And more often than not, we've said that the international has the strongest team, yet the Americans beat the internationals. But all the internationals seem to say if they played with the European team then the internationals would beat the European team, and yet the European team wins the Ryder Cup. I think it's a matter of who played best that week.
I'm with Tim. If it's not broken, don't fix it. I don't think there's a reason to change something because somebody wins more than somebody else. My whole thing is just play better. And I think that the guys that I've had on my teams have really embraced the matches. Tim is correct, they love to play every day, and I think the format is superior on the Presidents Cup than it is on the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup, you can hide a player if you don't have as strong a team; and in the Presidents Cup, you can't. The Presidents Cup you're matching player for player, so you can get some really exciting matches if the two captains want to do that, which Gary and I did on several occasions because guys wanted to play each other.
When I was in ‑‑ even though we lost in Australia, Tiger says, Can you get me Norman? And I said, well, I'll try. One guy selects one and another guy selects the next person. And it got down to where Norman said to me before he went in, I don't want you to have Tiger get me. I said, Greg, you're not on my team (laughter). And I said, My job is to do what my guys ask me to do. So when it got down to four players, and Norman and Tiger were still in the mix, and Peter Thomson was putting out the first name, I knew that Norman was had. So I got Greg Norman. Norman said, Why did you do that? Norman was not on my team, and of course Tiger blitzed him. But that's part of the fun is to get the guys to do that.
We were able to have Mike Weir play Tiger in Canada and Mike beat Tiger in Canada. Tiger wanted to play Ernie and Ernie wanted to play Tiger, so we got that done in South Africa. The format changed in South Africa based on how we finished. And with Tim's blessing we ended up in a tie and we used the tie to change the format, and it was so great in South Africa. We didn't have a losing team; we had two winning teams that felt great about the matches. I've never seen people so excited about the outcome of a match in my life as a tie. How do you ‑‑ you kiss your sister and everybody cheers. It's silly, but it was fantastic. It was the best event I've ever been involved in in any sport, in anything.
But the Presidents Cup is ‑‑ what has really happened, and I think the imagination of the Presidents Cup events are just as strong as the imagination for the Ryder Cup events. Maybe it hasn't caught up with you guys yet, but I think for the players, I think it's ‑‑ I don't think they think the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, any one is more important than the other, that they're both important. And they are; they're both fantastic events.
Q. I just wondered if you could just comment on the honor tonight, and when you drive in here and you see that Firestone ball, does it stir up any old memories?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when am I talking tonight? Am I talking outside or inside?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Both, actually.
JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. There's so many things that happened. I played my first ‑‑ I'll tell one of the stories I'm going to tell later. I played my first tournament on the PGA TOUR here. I was 18 years old, and Barbara came up with me, and we drove back to Columbus every night after the round. So we drove up two and a half hours every day to go play in a golf round. I ended up shooting ‑‑ I played with Charlie Sifford the first two rounds and I shot 66‑67 and was one shot behind Art Wall. And Tommy Bolt was one shot behind me and he was the U.S. Open champion and we played together the next day. Here's an 18‑year‑old kid playing with the U.S. Open champion and had a chance to win a golf tournament. I remember Tommy putting his arm around me walking down the first hole, Don't you worry, Jackie Boy, old Tommy will take care of you. He was giving me the business right off the bat. I missed six three‑foot putts the front nine, little short things. Tommy didn't bother with me; he got rid of me fast on the front nine. It's part of the education of a golfer.
My dad, I remember coming up after the first round, he brought up cigars for Charlie Sifford. Charlie and he became friends for life. I remember Barbara and I driving back in the car one day, and I said to her, Golly, can you believe the dumb shot I played pitching into the 13th green? And she thought about it, we were both 18 years old, and she looked around and she said, 13th hole, I'm supposed to remember the 13th hole? I'm supposed to remember what kind of shot he hit? This is never going to work. This is never going to work. (Laughter.)
Anyway, and then I played with Julius Boros the last round, and I imitated Julius Boros' swing for the next two weeks because he had a beautiful swing.
There were things that started here for me at Firestone. I played the first World Series of Golf, and of course won several of those and won the American Golf Classic, won the PGA Championship here. This has been a pretty special place for me. I'll get into that later. But anyway, it's been a very special place for me.
Q. Tim, obviously the Ryder Cup changed when Great Britain and Ireland became the European team. Jack has talked a lot in recent years about what's coming from China and Russia with the development of the game in those countries. Do you think that could have the same impact on the Presidents Cup that European golf had on the Ryder Cup?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It's going to be the same phenomenon that over the last generation or two we've seen from Australia and South Africa but bigger numbers. I don't think there's any question about it.
I think it's important that as we manage the sport and look to the future of the sport we pay attention to that because there are ramifications about what the competitive landscape should be in 25 years. It's going to change. I think we have to be sensitive to that and smart about it.
It's going to be great. It's all going to be good. But it needs ‑‑ there are certain things about it that need to be managed, so it's going to affect much more than just the team competitions. It'll affect a lot of things. It's inevitable.
But I'll just make this comment: So Jack is getting the Ambassador of Golf award today. I'm sitting here listening to him talk about the Presidents Cup. What a great recognition for a guy who is as good as what he is to articulate what's great about the game of golf. This is a great day. Thank you for your question.
Q. You've captained so many of these teams. What went into your thinking when you were choosing your wildcards?
JACK NICKLAUS: We did not have wildcards at the Ryder Cup when I was captain. It was top 12 off the list. When I picked the ‑‑ when we did the Presidents Cup, it was the top 10 and we had two wildcards. My wildcards were ‑‑ frankly I can't remember who I selected and when I selected or what. Much of the time I went 11, 12, but some of the time I did not go 11, 12. As I went through the history, I suppose I could find it, that I ‑‑ you're looking at a team that ‑‑ are the points over two years, Tim?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Two years, accelerating in the second.
JACK NICKLAUS: But maybe you had guys who did pretty well in the first year and they didn't play well that year, and they're sitting there 11th on the list, and you're like, I've got somebody that's 13th or 14th that's really had a good run, and I think you've got to look at that. You've got to look at experience, you've got to look at competitiveness of the person, how much international competition have they had, how is the chemistry. There's a lot of things you look at, but I don't know which one you look at more. You just sort of have to take a gut feeling, and sometimes you find a guy that's 11 or 12 that you did not select, and they're very disappointed. But then again, only 10 make the team, so 11 and 12 really are not ‑‑ it doesn't make any difference what 11 and 12 is. The difference is who do you think would be the best person on your team.
I think I went down to ‑‑ I may have gone to ‑ Scott would know better than I ‑ 17 one time, didn't I?
SCOTT TOLLEY: You went down to about 16 or 17 one time.
JACK NICKLAUS: Who was that? You're supposed to know, come on.
SCOTT TOLLEY: I'm sorry. I'll make up one.
JACK NICKLAUS: Make up a name for me, will you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: It was a veteran player, I remember.
JACK NICKLAUS: It was a veteran player. I can't remember who it was. But anyway, I did that one year. I just think it's a gut call.
I remember in '98, we went to Australia, and the guys played miserably. They weren't ready to play. They hadn't played since the 1st of September. We're into November, two and a half months. Some of them came and were excited about being on the team. Some of them were saying, Oh, gosh, okay, I'll go play. It was that kind of a thing, and we got clobbered.
I remember Davis was the first one that came to me, and the other guys did, too. Davis said, Cap, we owe you one. We didn't give you a fair shot. We just didn't give you our best. We weren't ready to play. That won't happen again.
So when I was captain four years later, I think Ken Venturi was the captain in between. I had a meeting at Muirfield and I said to the guys, Look, guys, we had about 17 or 18 in the room, I don't really care whether you play or not. I said, I know there's 12 good players in this room out of this 18. I know there's 18 good players. But I'm going to take 12 of you, and if you want to play and you want to be ready, fine. If you don't want to play, just say so. I could care less. But if you're going to come, be ready to play.
Well, they all came ‑‑ as a matter of fact, I think that year may have been all top 12, I don't remember. But anyway, we came, and they all played, and Phil was one who really wasn't all that excited about being there in the previous one. But in this one, he said, I'm really ‑‑ he went down and was 0 for 5. He got beat every single match. I set him out one match on the Saturday because he was playing badly. He asked to sit out, too. But he was frankly my most valuable player, and that's the way I looked at it. The reason I say that is because he could have taken the rest of the team down with him with a bad attitude. He didn't do that. All the guys came to play. They wanted to play, and he was out on the golf course with the other guys encouraging them, walking with them, being a teammate. I give him big kudos for that, and I think he really did a good job for a guy that was 0 and 5. It was not always about how much you win, it's about how you tie your team in, how you work with the other guys and how you get along. It's really important.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Of course, Phil was the biggest proponent of the FedExCup Playoffs because his whole thing was, well, we're going to be ready for Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup now. We're going to be at the top of our games, and that's turned out to be the case.
Q. Jack, why do you think they like it so much, the team play?
JACK NICKLAUS: Because it's so different. For a while they would say, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, that's too much, and they didn't embrace both of them. And that's why I think the guys didn't want to play. All of a sudden they found it was such a great competition, and they found the enthusiasm from the people. I mean, the Presidents Cup really has caught on. The Ryder Cup has really caught on. The people had so much excitement, all of a sudden it energized the players to play, and we didn't have to worry about that nonsense of trying to combine them or something else. Didn't have to do that because they all wanted to play.
And now there's a pride thing. Hey, I'm good enough to make the team, I'm good enough to play, I'm good enough to do this, and I'm going to be ready. They just got excited to play.
Frankly, when I played the Ryder Cup, because we didn't have the Presidents Cup then, I'd finish up my year, I'd finish up with PGA Championship, and I'd go, Whoa, man, I worked my tail off this year, I'm ready for rest. And all of a sudden, a month later or six weeks later, Hey, guys, you've got the Ryder Cup, you've got to get pumped up. Oh, great, thanks, we're going to go beat Great Britain again. I mean, that was what it was.
And then when they changed the Ryder Cup to adding Europe, it became a competition again. I mean, it was always a great privilege to represent your country. It was always a great privilege to play in the Ryder Cup or be part of the Ryder Cup team, but a lot of the guys didn't really care. Weiskopf skipped it one year to go on a sheep hunt. Do you remember that?
I mean, it was a different story back in those days because it was not that much of a competition. All of a sudden Europe becomes part of it, International Team becomes part of the Presidents Cup, it became another event. And all of a sudden now and with the FedExCup, as Tim is saying, guys are embarrassed if they're not ready to play, and they got themselves ready to play.
I fully expect to see the matches at Muirfield Village two months from now, I expect to see pretty darned good golf. You're going to see some great matches. I don't have a clue who's going to make either team. I haven't even looked at the standings. But that's neither here nor there. I know they're going to have good teams.
Q. The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club is built on reclaimed land. Could you explain the process and how that differs from building a track that's on an existing piece of land and the challenges that went into that?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that's an ever‑moving piece of ground, too. It's pumped in. It's like building a golf course in south Florida. The only difference is there's more fill pumped in than what south Florida has.
So what we did, we originally, out around the 12th hole, we had ocean, and so I decided to do sort of dunesy type stuff on one end of the property to sort of transition off the beach and into sort of a rocky area and some trees and then into a forest on the other side of the property. That was sort of the transition. We got it about two‑thirds done and all of a sudden they filled more land and now we weren't on the ocean again. They haven't filled that yet. They're going to fill that eventually. That's on the ocean now but it won't be. They're going to continue to fill that and continue to build out.
But I don't think the process is any different. You have a bit of dirt that has some salt in it and has to leach out, and that doesn't take all that long. But you're basically building a golf course in sand. It's kind of just doing a nice ‑‑ it's doing it more up in the Orlando area where you didn't really have a water table that's going to come up underneath you because we've got enough material in there.
Q. From what I read, you were at Muirfield yesterday.
JACK NICKLAUS: And I missed you, yeah.
Q. That's probably why you were there, because I wasn't. Could you just explain how the 18th tee has turned out, and also, looking ahead to the Presidents Cup ‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS: The little project at 18 has turned into a real big project, as usual. Everything Paul gets involved in becomes a big project, which is okay. He does it right.
But the 18th hole at Muirfield Village that was 441 yards or 44 yards or whatever it was, and it's played usually downwind with a right‑to‑left wind. It's a little bit downhill. And fellows, through the years, as the golf ball has changed, they kept driving it over bunkers, over bunkers, over bunkers, negating the strategy of the golf hole. I've got nine bunkers on the right side of the hole, which I hate. They look terrible from the air. You don't see them from the ground, but they look terrible from the air. You see all these nice bunkers on the golf course and all of a sudden you see this cluster of nine bunkers.
Paul has been telling me for two years, Jack, I can get a tee back there behind 18 in this area. I said, Paul, you really can? So we went back and looked at it, my gosh, you can get one back there. So we started doing it, and we've gotten a tee in there and now it doesn't interfere on 15. We had to tear more trees than we wanted. The TOUR wanted better access for the players. We put a culvert in. We moved another tee, we moved two cart paths, we took two huge sycamores down, moved the ladies' tee. Outside of that we didn't do anything. A little $5,000 or $10,000 deal just multiplied into a big thing. But the hole is now about 485 yards long. It's 300 yards to the black walnut on the right side of the fairway. I'll end up being able to take out about five of those bunkers probably next year.
The golf hole actually is just beautiful from back there. They've done a really, really nice job of putting it together. I'm finalizing it ‑‑ I am going by on Saturday of the PGA on my way to Rochester to finalize the last look of it, and I think that it'll all be ready and in perfect shape and ready to go and working for the Presidents Cup.
Q. Maybe what holes in particular, if you can pick a few, are you most looking forward to see how the players choose to play them in match play and what they might try to do?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not setting up the golf course. I think the TOUR is setting up the golf course. Who's involved from the Tour standpoint?
Q. Our competitions team.
JACK NICKLAUS: And that would be?
Q. Andy Pazder and his team.
JACK NICKLAUS: So you'd have to ask them a little bit more about it, but my guess would be Muirfield will play faster in the fall than it does in the spring. My guess is they will try to have some more gambling situations which will be interesting in match play. I doubt if we'll have a whole lot of rough. We'll have rough, but not like we have in the springtime.
I think 14 will be one hole I think that they'll probably let us drive a lot of the time, take our shot at it if we want to. My favorite little hole on the golf course is a short hole, but not as a driving hole, but that's okay. As a matter of fact, they'll do the same thing at Songdo. There will be a couple of holes where you'll have the opportunity to do that.
I would suspect that 11 will probably play shorter. More people will be hitting at it in two. I think less than probably a third of the people hit at it in two now, so everybody has really a good run at it with a good tee shot would be my guess. That and 14, and I don't suspect any real other significant changes on the golf course. The golf course plays pretty straightforward. Except in the fall, you're going to find the ball running through the first fairway, the second fairway, the creek comes into play pretty easy. They're going to have to be careful on 3. Five they'll have to be careful about because the golf course doesn't play long in the fall, and that to me is when it plays fun. It plays fun when it's fast. Paul will have the golf course in perfect condition.
I've been down ‑‑ I said, what are they doing here? David knows what I'm talking about. The things they're doing in the changes in the clubhouse for the commissioner's hospitality and for other things and things they're doing here and doing there, and I'm thinking, we've only had tournaments here for 40 years and all of a sudden we have a whole new perspective what they were doing on this place. That's okay. That's the deal.
We will learn a lot from the Presidents Cup being there, and we're really looking forward to it.
LAURA NEAL: Jack, thank you, and congratulations. We'll see you at the first tee at 5:30 at the Ambassador of Golf ceremony.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports