A New Role For Bill Clinton
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What do you hope to use the tournament for in terms of causes?
I watched it all the time as a kid and a young man. But the model's not sustainable in the modern world. But on the other hand, Bob Hope did a lot for golf, did a lot for America, and I just didn't want to see it go away.
I've known Tim Finchem for 35 years. The PGA has all these golfers who are all doing some kind of charity work, and a lot of it is related one way or another to health. We got our anchor sponsor. We decided that we'd try to change the format and make it shorter, and one day before it starts have Humana and me and our Alliance for a Healthier Generation work with the PGA Tour to do something on wellness, which would include childhood obesity but also would include changing practices for older people.
Will you play, too?
I'll probably play a couple of days. I just haven't been playing--I mean, you know, a little bit. My best year as a golfer was 2001. I got down to a legitimate 10; the only time I was ever a 10. And I was hitting the ball forever. The next year I went to 34 countries. Next year I finished writing my book. Next year had my heart surgery. It's been one thing after another. But I still love to play.
When you go to heaven, if there are three courses ... which three?
I'd like it to be the Old Course at St. Andrews. I'd like it to be the Old Course at Ballybunion. And I would like it to be one of a half a dozen great Hawaiian courses because I feel better on the golf course in Hawaii than any place on earth.
You've been able to play with a lot of good golfers. Best golf tip anyone ever gave you?
Corey Pavin played here in the Kemper before he won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. While he's playing in the Kemper, on the second day, after he gets done, he comes and plays Army Navy with me. I'd just met him. I was so touched that he would do it. I said, "Corey, is this gonna mess you up?" But he said, "If I can't play 36 holes of golf, I've got no business on the tour."
While we were doing this he said to me, "The No. 1 mistake I see among average golfers who have the potential to do better--and you do--besides gripping the club too hard, whenever they get close to the green they try to scoop the ball." He said, "If you can just remember, every time you miss a shot around the green, just push your hands forward, and if you're inside 40 yards, never, never, never again break your wrists until after you hit the ball. If you do that, your game will improve. Your hands will calm down. You won't get this tightness. You won't be nervous."
I could have used that last weekend.
[Laughter.] I had two great days with Jack Nicklaus. Gerald Ford and I both played with him in '93. In two whole days, I outdrove Jack Nicklaus once, by about six inches. Only once. And I hit it on this par 5 in two; we were in Colorado. Eight feet from the hole, for eagle. And I stubbed the putt. Just stubbed it. He looked at me, and he said, "You didn't think you were worthy of an eagle, did you?" I said, "You know, I don't." He smiled and said, "You need to get over that. You're gonna have plenty of double bogeys. If you get down to a scratch golfer, you're still going to make double bogeys, you'll still lose a ball every now and then. So if you get an eagle, you are worthy of it. That's why the ball's sitting where it is, because you hit two good shots."
Are you ever able to get Hillary out? Does she ever play?
When we were in the White House and we would go to Martha's Vineyard, she would always go to Mink Meadows with me once, and before we used to have a deal that Hillary would go once a year. So this year on my 65th birthday, or running up to it, we were still in Chappaqua [N.Y.]. Hillary and Chelsea and Marc [Chelsea Clinton's husband, Marc Mezvinsky] took me to the golf course, to Trump [Trump National Golf Club in New York's Westchester County]. And Chelsea hadn't played since she took lessons when she was at Sidwell. And Marc never plays. So they said, "You always want us to play golf. Here it is: We're your birthday present." And the Trump people were great: They organized all their tee times so we wouldn't delay anybody. We schlepped around nine holes together. [Hillary] said, "We think you need to feel like you're the best golfer in the world, and the only way you can is if all you've got to compare yourself to is us."
Do you belong anywhere now?
I play at the Trump course there. Then I play at a number of other courses in New York with other people, but when people come to play with me, that's where I take them. I have a membership there.