RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to welcome Raymond Floyd to the interview area this afternoon. Ray is playing in his 13th United States Open Championship this week. He's a former USGA champion, having won the 1986 United States Open at Shinnecock Hills.
This week you're returning to the site of your first major championship victory in the 1969 PGA. Could you just start us off with some memories of that week, and talk about your emotions and what it's like to return here.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, unfortunately my memory doesn't serve me very well. It's been 36 years. You know, when they announced that we were going to have the Senior Open here, I started trying to recall some holes, and the thought process didn't go there. I thought I'd remember the 10th, the 17th and the 18th, and when I got out there, the 10, the tee shot was vivid, but I thought the hole was over the hill and straight down. I didn't remember it doglegging slightly, and I didn't remember that green being so severe.
17th was the hole that I recall. It was as I recalled it. And then the 18th was the same way. I thought the 18th you drove up to the hill and you kind of went over and back down and back up to the green. Well, that hole doglegged left at the top, so I didn't even recall that.
But I thought when I went out and played the golf course that it would come back to me. Well, that wasn't so, either. So I really don't recall the golf course. I knew it was a Dick Wilson, and I remembered the greens being pretty severe. But honestly, I just -- we never came back again, and it was a course that other events weren't played on, so you never had the television or the recall or hat the process through those years. So it was just something -- and I never came back since -- somebody said in the gallery, "when was the last time you played here?" And I said, "well, the Sunday of the PGA in 1969," and I made the caddies chuckle a little bit. I haven't been back here since.
RAND JERRIS: You've now played in major championships in five different decades. What's been the key for you to have such longevity playing at such a high level in the game?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Good fortune. We all go through injuries, through a few. If you play long enough in the game, you're going to have injuries, and my injuries have been such that they've been rehabbable, if you would, or an injury that I've played around. I've had the good fortune of staying pretty healthy throughout my year, and that's paramount for longevity without question.
Q. Having won here before, and I know it's a long time ago, and they say horses for courses, do you have any kind of advantage, psychological or otherwise, over the field this week because of that?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I guess there's a feeling that's very good and warm. You're back at a venue where you've had success, and the thought of your first major, I was 26 years old, I'm about to be 63. That's a great number of years. But I think any time you've had success at a golf course, there's a very good feeling always coming back.
My personality and my game probably has not changed dramatically through this 36-year span, so I think the way I look at golf and look at holes, it worked for me then, why shouldn't it work for me now?
Q. Do you have any memories both of the victory that day and the disturbances the day before? What sticks out in your mind?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I remember the apartheid issue. The most vivid thing, of course, I remember the ceremony on the 18th green, but I remember standing on the top of the fairway at the 10th hole on the last day, and Nicklaus was in the group in front of --
Q. It was the second to last day.
RAYMOND FLOYD: It was on Saturday?
Q. That's why Nicklaus was in front.
RAYMOND FLOYD: That's right, and Gary and I were together.
Q. No, Gary was with Jack.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Okay, Gary was with Jack, and I remember a guy running onto the green from under the rope, and I'll never forget it, Jack had his putter in his hand, and Jack took his putter back like -- I mean, this guy was running at Nicklaus. I'm up on the top of that hill watching this, but he's running toward Jack, and Jack took his putter back like, I'm going to nail you if you keep coming. And the guy tried to stop, and you know how slopey that green is. When he tried to stop, his feet went out from under him and he was there, and there were two security guys on him before he stopped sliding, and I remember that like it was yesterday.
And I also remember playing with Gary. We went from -- I forget the holes now, but we were going from a green to a tee, and someone threw a cup of water or Coke or ice and stuff on Gary going through there.
So those are not fond memories, but I do remember those.
Q. Do you recall what that first PGA win here, how that felt at the time, what it meant to you at the time?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I was 26 years old, and to win a major championship was an incredible, incredible thing. You know, I did start at 20 and I had won at that time I think four other events. I think this was my fifth win if I'm not mistaken. But to put a major under your belt was a pretty significant thing. To elevate yourself into the role of major championship winner was an incredible thing. So I can recall that, and of course in those days it was a lifetime exemption, and that turned out to be the last lifetime exemption, that PGA. In 1970 Dave Stockton I think won the '70 PGA, and that's when we started ten years.
So that was an incredible part of winning a PGA in those days, to know that that gave me a lifetime exemption, that I always could play -- I could always play on the PGA TOUR. So it was very warming. And because of that, if I wanted to go play the PGA TOUR now, I'm in. I can play the PGA TOUR, any event other than their TOUR Championship or something of that nature. I can play the PGA TOUR still because of that exemption.
Q. I'm wondering if that trophy or whatever you won that day, did you lose that in the Indian Creek fire, too, or wasn't that in your home?
RAYMOND FLOYD: The Wannamaker trophy travels. You only keep it a year. But I had a replica, yes. I had a replica of -- we're allowed to duplicate it at three quarters, not the actual size. I did have a replica that was made, but I've had that replaced. I did lose it, yes.
Q. Whether it's the PGA TOUR or the Champions Tour, can you talk about how hard it is to win a major and the process that goes into that?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I think there are certain players that have the capability, meaning physical capability, of winning golf tournaments that cannot win a major. So the guys that can, or feel that they can, go in with a much higher level of expectancy, if you would, or confidence because this is a major, we've eliminated three-fourths of the field, nine-tenths of the field, whatever, so that is a lift for a player that knows they have the capability of winning at a major.
A good player would prefer going in tougher conditions. The all-around portion -- I don't know how to express myself, but everything is so difficult, and your conditions are rougher. Your rough is higher, your fairways are narrower, your sand is softer, the greens are harder and faster. So the better player, you don't feel like you have to go out there -- you can go out and shoot 74 in the opening round of a major championship and you're right in the hunt. You're not gone. You go out and shoot 72 in the opening round of a PGA TOUR event, you're out of it. Or a Senior Tour event, and you're out of it.
So that takes a lot of pressure off of a player that knows that he has the ability or capability of winning.
Q. This is a personal memory: About ten years ago you were playing at the Senior Kroger Classic, and you missed a short putt on 18, went into the scoring tent, and you were pretty upset, and you tried to avoid the autograph-seeking fans. A little boy ran in front of your golf cart to keep you from taking off, and you later relented and signed autographs. Do you remember that incident?
RAYMOND FLOYD: No, I don't, but those are things that you hope don't happen in your career, and you try to not let things adversely affect you. I do not remember that, but I am usually one that can leave it at the golf course, or when I walk off there and sign the card, it's behind me. But I don't specifically recall that, but I must have been pretty upset.
Q. Just to let you know, that little boy was my son. He's going to be a freshman at OSU next year, and he forgives you.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Thank him for me.
RAND JERRIS: As a former U.S. Open champion could you tell us what this championship means to the guys out here on the Champions Tour.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Again, we've evolved into this second Tour, we're all 50-plus, and it's the ultimate. It's just like at our level, it is the ultimate tournament, and to win your major on this Tour is just like winning your major on that Tour. There are only four, and you know, they all kind of hold pretty much -- when you say "major," but I find when you're speaking about your country's Open that it becomes -- somebody has got to put it right there at the top.
Q. Of all your victories, are there any majors that stand out most in your mind?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, obviously this one, being the first, was an incredible thing. You never know if you can get there. This major I got on the Ryder Cup team. I broke what in those days was a big figure. I broke the $100,000 for a year mark, and I would relatively say that today I don't even know how you'd put that against what the players are making today, but back then, it was pretty hard to make a hundred grand. I made the Ryder Cup team, it was my third win. You know, pretty significant.
In the process, I grew up in North Carolina, so geographically the tournament as a youngster that I always vividly, if I hole this, if I make par, if I do this, it was always The Masters, so that was a coveted thing, to win that, and it was very, very special to win my country's Open, the U.S. Open, at age 43, almost age 44. When you're in your 40s you kind of get shoved aside. So that has a great significance, as well.
So I think when you talk about majors, every player can extrapolate something and it has meaning.
Q. Tom Watson has been playing fairly well. He did well in Kansas City and of course won the British Senior Open last weekend. What do you expect to see from him this week and how tough will he be to beat this week?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I'd certainly make him a favorite. You know, there's a guy, look at his major titles on both tours. I think he's a guy that's coming in here licking his chops. He's ready. He's just come off of a great win there. You've got Greg Norman that played very well. I think the players that you guys would make favorites, I would, as well. Craig Stadler played well there, Greg Norman walking in here, Peter Jacobsen won the Ford a few weeks ago. All of those are younger guys in the process, other than Tom being a little bit older, and you can't discount Hale. Hale has kept his game at a high level for a very, very long time. Even though he's 60, he's competitive, he plays a lot of golf, and he'll be right there. So those are the guys that I think all of us would make our favorites.
Q. I'm wondering, when you won back here in '69, you were 26 and a pretty lively guy back then. What did you think of 62-year-old golfers back then, and I wonder if you could envision yourself playing this far into your career, or what were your thoughts back then?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, I think as any 26-year-old, 40 is old. I remember at 26, you're talking 40, that was old. My dad was only 21 years older than me, and my dad was always an old guy until I got to be about 40. Then he got a lot younger (laughing).
But I think when you're that youthful and that -- I don't think you look out that far. Everything is in the present. You're not looking down the way. Or I wasn't.
Q. You guys are still banging the ball. How much of that do you attribute to being in good shape, and how much of that do you attribute to the equipment?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, one thing without a doubt, this Tour, this Champions Tour, this 50 and over, has been beneficial to all of us in a sense that we are all much healthier. We are taking care of our bodies better because we are competing. We don't want to go out and embarrass ourselves. We love what we're doing. Well, I specifically don't do it nearly as much, but when I do play, I don't want to embarrass myself.
So it's kept me much healthier. So I'm very fortunate just from that side.
I lost the part of the question when I was rambling there.
Q. The equipment?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Yes, I'm sorry. The equipment, I am driving the ball -- I have statistically, and you guys have access to those statistics as I do, you just go back and look at my stats from when they started keeping driving distance, even though it's done only on two holes every day. Look what's happened here in the last five years: My driving distance has gone up every year as I've gotten older. We know that doesn't work (laughter). So there's your technological side.
Is it the ball, is it the club head, is it the shaft? It's certainly a combination of all. I cannot answer what has done -- has been the biggest leap, but certainly in the last five years, we've seen a tremendous distance leap from the tee. A lot of people say that the golf ball, they made it compatible to the material in the club. You know, who knows? I can't tell you. But I know that I'm longer, and you're not going to be longer when you're older, so that's the equivalent.
And the other thing that people forget in this process is agronomy. The golf courses are in incredibly good shape. The fairways are mowed at a height today, especially when they double cut around greens. Greens in the '60s weren't that quick. You know, a ball rolls off a green now and you've got a perfect lie. In the '60s when a ball rolled off of a wall on a green, it worked its way into a bad lie. That's what stopped it. But the grass is so lush, it's cut so short, it's pristine. So all of that has, I think, added to the length, and when you say technology, don't forget the agronomy side.
Q. There's some talk amongst some of the talking heads that the technology is going too far. How do you and the other players feel about technology? It's your business, it's your profession. If you can get better equipment, better conditions to play under, it would seem to me you guys would welcome it, what do they care?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I think the technology has been fabulous for the masses, for the everyday golfer. Not even your everyday golfer, the guy that plays six times a year. I think the technology has been incredible for the -- I'm going to still call that your high handicap -- whatever term you care to use. It's helped the game that way.
It seems so easy to me when every major professional sport in the world, not in the U.S., in the world, every major professional sport plays with one ball, one uniform ball. Why doesn't golf or PGA TOUR, why can't we have our own ball?
Now, it can be made by Wilson, Spalding, Titleist, any manufacturer, but it has to be under these specifications. The Tour Ball it can be called. Then the regular Tour could come here to date and then the golf course wouldn't be obsolete, or a great course like Marion would not be obsolete or Augusta National wouldn't have to add another 300 yards and become 7,500. All of these great golf courses we could play with a ball that -- where do they go back? I don't know how to go back, but I remember five, seven, eight years ago technology was pretty good and the balls were pretty good in the wind, but there's been a huge change in the last five to seven. But we could play a Tour ball.
Well, there's always this, "well, the manufacturers would never go for it." Were I a manufacturer or a CEO of a manufacturer, and you said to me, "we're going to give you a new product to put on the market," you're still going to sell the ball that goes so far, and on occasion you're going to have a group that says in their competition, well, let's play the Tour ball today, you know, they can play it. It's not that it's outlawed for everybody, but it's a ball that they can use. It's another product that can be put in the marketplace.
So my opinion is if every other major professional sport does it, why can't we?
Q. I'm wondering if you have any other memories of your '69 here just maybe before your last round. You're a young guy going for a major championship. Were you nervous the night before? Can you remember any of that?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I really don't. I don't remember where I stayed. You know, you'd think you'd have some memories, but again, I've never been in Dayton since. I never came back to the town or the city of Dayton. We never had an event here again. I think the ladies played an Open here, didn't they?
RAYMOND FLOYD: That's the only time I recall -- I had a dear friend that was from here, Cy Laughter.
Q. Bogey Busters?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Yeah, and I remember a lot of my buddies that I knew would come to Cy's tournament, but of course that was amateurs, so I never came back.
RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time this afternoon. We wish you luck this week.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Thank you.
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