Grieving Nicklaus Likely to Skip Masters
Now, the Masters is the last thing on his mind.
'I think with what's happened to us in our family, my time is going to be spent in much different ways,' Nicklaus said Monday, his first public comments since his 17-month-old grandson drowned in a hot tub. 'That's the most important thing right now. And I think it will be the most important thing for a long time.'
Nicklaus said his chances of playing the Masters are 'between slim and none,' although he plans to be at Augusta National for the Champions Dinner, maybe even the Par 3 Tournament.
He still would like to play the British Open at St. Andrews in July since this is his last year of eligibility and because his son, Steve, wants to caddie for him.
It was Steve Nicklaus' son, Jake, who drowned Tuesday night.
Nicklaus sat before a small gathering Monday morning at The Loxahatchee Club, not as the steely-eyed winner of 18 major championships, but as a teary-eyed grandfather who had lost one of his 17 grandchildren.
He declined to cancel the appearance, saying it was the right thing to do.
'Life has got to move on. Life is for the living,' Nicklaus said. 'It hurts, but you go on. You make commitments, and you've got to do them.'
But he remains so shaken that he left a statement on each chair that expressed his grief and appreciation about the love and support, hopeful it would limit the questions during a one-hour interview.
His voice cracked only once, when he mentioned that Steve's wife, Krista, is 3 1/2 months pregnant and probably will have the baby shortly after the British Open.
'Obviously, that little baby she has inside her is very important,' Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus is perhaps the greatest champion golf has known, winning a record 18 majors over 25 seasons. But he has always taken more pride in his family.
There are the famous stories of how he fainted when his wife, Barbara, gave birth to each of their five children. There was that memorable photo of him scooping up 4-year-old Gary after a round at the 1973 PGA Championship. Gary Nicklaus later played two years on the PGA Tour.
And when Nicklaus had his left hip replaced in 1999 - causing him to miss the Masters for the first time - he said it was to improve his quality of life so he could remain active with his grandchildren, not to help him play another major.
'As you can imagine, the last few days have been an overwhelmingly difficult and trying time for my entire family,' Nicklaus said in his statement. 'The loss of our precious, 17-month-old grandson Jake was devastating, and it is a loss that is impossible to put into words.'
Nicklaus had an easier time talking about his future in golf.
'I have absolutely zero plans as it relates to the game of golf,' he said.
He plans to play Tuesday in a charity event hosted by Gary Player, because Nicklaus is upholding his commitments. He also has an outing Monday at Lost Tree near his home in North Palm Beach.
And he won't entirely rule out playing in the Masters, although he called his chances less than 20 percent.
'If I feel like I can get Steve out and spend some time with him on the golf course, get myself in shape ... I'm not going to close the door on it until it's time to get there,' Nicklaus said. 'But I can't imagine my mind is going to be on preparing to play golf.
'I'll go to Augusta this year,' he said. 'I'll probably go out and play a round on Tuesday, and I may play the Par 3 on Wednesday. And if I can play, if I think I should play the golf tournament, I'll probably play the golf tournament. If I don't think I should, I'll play Tuesday and Wednesday, and that will be it.'
If he doesn't play, it would be only the third time since he first played in 1959. After the hip replacement surgery in 1999, he missed 2002 because of lingering back problems.
Nicklaus has not played the British Open since 2000 at St. Andrews. Past champions are eligible through age 65, and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club moved up St. Andrews in the rotation to give the Golden Bear one last chance to play on his favorite links.
Having his son on the bag will help.
'I would think I'll play the British Open no matter what,' he said. 'Steve is caddying for me, so I'll share that with him either way.'
But that's still four months away, and Nicklaus is trying to get through each day right now. There was a visitation Friday, the funeral service Saturday. There are commitments he doesn't want to break because, as Nicklaus said, life goes on. But his focus is far from the fairways.
'I'm going to spend my time with Steve and Krista,' he said. 'I think that's probably more important than golf.'
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Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda
Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:
Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.
At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd is loving it.
Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.
Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.
It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.
“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”
After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.
Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.
“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”
Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role
In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.
Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.
Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.
“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”
Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.
#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.
Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.
Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.
Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.
“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”
The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.
During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.
“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”
The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.
Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.
The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.
On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.
That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.
West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.
J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.
Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.
But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.
Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”
It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.