Jack Nicklaus has returned. For the first time since 1986, Nicklaus will play competitively at Firestone Country Club a golf course at which he has experienced victory and pain.
Nicklaus shared his thoughts about his return with Cleveland Magazine while on the road.
What was the most difficult hole on the South Course at Firestone for you in 1958? Why?
"They changed the golf course quite a bit shortly after that. Actually, I think they changed it right after that year and before the 1960 PGA Championship. I don't remember the specific changes, but I have always felt that the 13th was a strong hole."
What is the most difficult hole on the South Course for you now? Why?
"It's been a long time since I have played there, and the course has undergone changes since. It was probably 1986 and the World Series of Golf since I last played there. We did some design work back in the mid-80s, and I don't think I have played there since we did that work. So, to be honest, it would be tough for me to pick out a hole that would be one of the more difficult or challenging today. I can say that No. 4 has always been one of the most difficult holes on the golf course 4 and 13 have always been good tests."
What about Firestone Country Club has changed for the better the most for you over the years?
"I suppose you'd have to say that the overall look of the course has changed. The trees have matured more and the golf course overall has gotten more beautiful over the years. This can be said for many courses that have the history of a Firestone, and certainly courses that are laid out over a similar type of property. Courses like Firestone just get better and more beautiful with age. I am looking forward to getting back there and seeing just how beautiful the place is."
What one thing do you look forward to when you play golf in Northeast Ohio?
"I guess it's like being home again. That means a lot of fond feelings and memories. I love Firestone. I've been fortunate over the years to have played some memorable golf there. It's a golf course that I probably won as many events on as any other golf course I've played, and to be back there for the Senior PGA Championship, there's absolutely no question that I am looking forward to the opportunity.
"Beyond the victories I have enjoyed there, I have many other wonderful memories of Firestone. I played my first professional event the Rubber City Open there when I was 18 years old. Also, the first time I hurt my back came at Firestone, when I was carried off the practice tee in 1981.
"I've got a lot of memories, most of them quite fond, of Firestone. It's a great golf course; it's a great venue. It ranks very high on my list of courses and places I enjoy visiting."
What about the Firestone galleries do you look forward to?
"That's another thing I was going to mention about getting back to Ohio. In particular, I love the fans in Ohio. Whether it's The Memorial Tournament [at Muirfield Village in Dublin] or getting back to Firestone, fans in Ohio know and appreciate golf. They share the same passion for the sport that many players, including myself, have.
"It's always fun to perform in front of an appreciative gallery. That was a motivating factor for me back in the early 1970s when I designed Muirfield Village and created The Memorial Tournament. I wanted to bring tournament golf to the people of Columbus because I knew how much they love and appreciate the game."
If you had the ability to choose again, would you choose not to wear plaid golf pants?
"Plaid pants? Would I wear them again?," Nicklaus asks laughing. "That was the style back then. You always wore what was in style. But to answer your question, would I ever wear plaid pants again? My answer would have to be, 'If I had to.' "