Interview: Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino

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May 05, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome four of greatest players in the game for the Houston Greats of Golf Challenge. Thank you to y'all for coming. You've combined to win 185 tournaments on the PGA TOUR and 40 major titles. I'm just going to ask maybe for brief comments from each of you and then we'll open it up to questions.

LEE TREVINO: Well, I said we were doing some work earlier and I said it's a great day for me being with these three guys, we are great friends. I was looking forward to this, thank you very much.

GARY PLAYER: Thank you very much for allowing us to play.

ARNOLD PALMER: I'm just happy to be here and certainly since I'm the oldest.

JACK NICKLAUS: Why you looking at me? You are. (Laughter).

ARNOLD PALMER: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I haven't played public in a long time. I'm delighted that the three gentlemen here have decided to play and I don't know why I'm looking forward to playing golf because I just don't play anymore. Well, we'll be using your ball.

Q. Curious about when you were first approached, what you thought about the idea and your reaction to getting together was.

LEE TREVINO: We have been doing this for quite a few years, taking players and teaming up playing a scramble and pretty successful. And when Naugs got this tournament and came up with this idea, that's the first thing, when I talked to him a few months ago I talked to him about it, and he said, I'm working on it, I'm working on it.

When he told me, he said, Jack, I knew it was going to work. Then when he said Gary was coming; and then Arnie, he said Arnie's been here we didn't play, and he was here and I played with Arnold the last time that he played here.

I was very excited. I thought these people are really going to enjoy it because they are going to bring out their grand kids and kids and say, hey, listen, look at these players. They have to Google everybody so they can show them to the kids, but it's going to be wonderful for them. I think it's great. I think it's wonderful.

Q. You all have ties to the Houston area, you've built golf courses here and won tournaments here, I would like to get all of your comments, what you think about coming to Houston and your experiences here??

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I was probably one of the first well, I was the first of this group to come to Houston in 1955 at Memorial Park. Of course that was a great thrill for me. I enjoyed Houston and I've enjoyed it ever since and I've had some success here, and of course, with my association with Insperity and the things that they have done over the years in golf with the Champions Tour, I remember when I talked to Paul Sarvadi about it many years ago, what is it, ten years, to see what they have done with the tournament and senior golf and the Houston area I think is pretty special.

JACK NICKLAUS: Houston has an unusual place in my heart. And that came back in 1962 at the Memorial at Memorial Park, I think the 7th hole, a par 3 and I was leading the tournament at that point in time. In the last round my caddie, I called him Four One. His name was Robert Ford and Four One was holding the pin on about a 20 foot putt that I was hitting and as I hit the putt, he tried to he couldn't get it out and he yanked it out, he pulled the cup with it and the cup got about halfway out of the ground, and my 20 footer hit right dead in the middle of the cup and bounced back, which meant that instead of making two, I made five.

And I tied the tournament with Bobby Nichols and Dan Sykes and lost the playoff and Bob Nichols won the tournament. That happened on one other tour. So Houston has a different place in my heart from that standpoint (laughing). I used Four one next year, he's a terrific caddie. Not his fault it happened.

GARY PLAYER: Don't worry about me, they have a great golf course up there and he said I'm going to be playing for a hell of a lot more money than we are playing for at the moment.

The other thing was I won Augusta, seven behind, and I went the next week to the Tournament of Champions and I was six or seven behind Ballesteros and I shot 65 on a cold, windy day and I came here, and I was leading. In fact, Arnold was doing some of the commentary and he was commentating on how many putts I was holding. And Andy Bean came up to me, and Andy, he was my size when he was six, and he said to me, "You little sawed off South African runt," he says, "you're not going to be" inaudible the last day. And I went to him and grabbed him like this, "You redneck, don't you ever talk to me like that again because I'll slap you around." (Laughing). And I ran like hell.

LEE TREVINO: Well, as you well know, I've said it many times before, great memories in Houston, this is the first tournament I ever won. I remember coming off a tractor at the Columbian Club in Dallas and went to work at a par 3 course on a range and I practiced for 3 1/2 years, and never played in a tournament. And this was the first tournament that I entered. It was the Texas State Open, and it was Sharks Town, and I ended up winning there in a playoff. A gentleman by the name of Forester gave me the thousand dollars and we went back home.

The other memory that I have of Houston is when you first started putting in all of these spaghetti bowls and expressways and when I got home, they asked me, they said, "How did you enjoy it?"

And I said, "The golf course was great and I was lucky enough to win, but," I said, "the traffic is unbelievable there."

They said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "I got a flat tire, I got out and changed it and I only lost three spots." (Laughter) that traffic was tough over there. But it's getting a heck of a lot better. It used to take me from Houston to Conroe about three hours, and now, boy, you can fly. It's great.

But it's awfully great to be back, yeah.

GARY PLAYER: Spend five hours a day in practice and

LEE TREVINO: These people retired in Naples, Florida, you understand, and they only have ten years left, and they have seven of them and what the hell of you all doing.

Q. Would it be realistic for you guys to get together and play again? You mentioned that maybe this is the last time you guys can get together or whatever, is it just a logistical thing? What would prevent you from doing this again sometime?

LEE TREVINO: I don't know. I'm ready to play tomorrow if you've got somewhere else to go. I play three or four times a week, and I practice every day. I hit balls Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays. We've got someplace to practice and everything.

These guys are busier. They are building golf courses and Arnie's got ice tea and he's got I mean, he's selling oranges. He's got oranges going. Jack just got back from China and I told him I was in South Oak Cliff last week; hell, he was in China. And it was a hell of a lot more dangerous where I was at, too.

But anyway, no, I don't know. I'm ready, any time. I'm always ready to play.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think there's any reason why we wouldn't get together to play again.

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, some of us might have a reason. (Laughter).

Q. Could you guys discuss a little bit how golf is a game of life; people want to see you all play, they don't want to see football players who retired 20 years ago play football. It's just a different sport.

JACK NICKLAUS: They won't want to see us after today, either.

I mean, I think our combined clubhead speed will be about what Bubba Watson's speed.

LEE TREVINO: Wedge.

Q. Just curious, when you guys get together and play, do you have flashbacks of memories of different shots, different tournaments, like if Gary hits a good shot or Jack hits a good shot, do you remember? Does any of that go on?

LEE TREVINO: Not with me. Not with me. I just love seeing them. There are memories back there of when we played against each other; we won; we lost. None of us won, and shots and everything. But no, but some shots do come up sometimes and stuff. But no, we never talk about that. We never talk about that.

JACK NICKLAUS: We hit shots and we say, you know, wish I could find the other half of that shot again.

Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts on if Tiger will ever match the 18 majors.

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, at the current situation he's going to have trouble, that's my feeling. If he goes back to his original style of playing and his knowledge of what he knows about the game and gives all this technical that he's into away, he might. But the chances are getting less and less as time goes on.

LEE TREVINO: The next four and I'm saying that because Tiger is starting to play mechanically. And this is what he's doing, and Tiger was a feel player. We've all known him since he was eight years old. Arnie I think's known him longer than that. But he needs to get back to feel.

Arnold made a great statement: What he needs to do, he needs to go off by himself, nobody else, and take it out of the ground. That's what I did, that's what these three guys did Ben Hogan did it and all of the old pros used to take it out of the ground. There was no instructor, there was no gurus and no sports psychologists and all this other stuff, and Twitter and all this other junk, you know what I'm talking about.

You went out there and you took it out of the ground. You play with confidence, you see, that's what you do. It's like running a 26-mile marathon, if you're running a mile and a half a day, hell, you're not going to run 26 miles.

So you've got to do it. You've got to take it out of the ground and that's what gives you the confidence here. He made the statement yesterday, I was watching I don't know if you watched. I was watching Morning Drive this morning and they had him on an interview, and they asked him how he was playing. You know the great thing about Tiger, if he never plays bad he always says, oh, I did okay, I did okay. I hit the shot over here but we always used to say, played like a dog today, played like a dog, lucky I didn't shoot 87.

But Tiger said something and it didn't make any sense to me and maybe it will to you. He says, when I feel comfortable, he said, I hit a terrible shot. And he says when I feel uncomfortable, I hit a good one.

Well, then why don't you feel uncomfortable all the time.

JACK NICKLAUS: I heard that, too.

LEE TREVINO: Did you hear that?

JACK NICKLAUS: Huh.

LEE TREVINO: I didn't understand the understand.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. To answer your question, I've said many times, I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of desire and I think his desire his whole life has been built around breaking my record, and I still think that his chances are very good of it and probably will. But if I said anything else, you guys would write headlines. (Laughter).

GARY PLAYER: The public and everybody sorry, Jack, are you finished?

I think that, you know, that we all go through times in our career when you play badly and you have bad spells, but Tiger having won 14 majors, this meteoric rise of this incredible athlete and the most talented man definitely talent does not necessarily mean you're going to win but the most talented man that ever held a club in his hand and everybody felt it was automatic. Deane Beman said Tiger will win 30 majors.

I said, Deane, you don't know, is he going to be happily married, is he going to be healthy, is he going to avoid accidents. Because he's so good it's such a sensational story. The man is so talented.

I think he will come back and play well and it's imperative that he does for the TOUR, because of the ratings, the sponsors are happy, we have to keep the sponsors happy. It's remarkable the amount of money these guys are playing for in a recession like this. Tim Finchem did a great job, but I think he'll come back and sort it out. He's very young. Jack won the Masters when he was 46. I won the Masters when I was 42. So we mustn't become too serious about it. He's got time on his hands and I think he can do it.

LEE TREVINO: I won at 44, PGA, 44. Damn, that's old for me.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay, let's go.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Thank you.

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