Jack Ends Open Career in Style

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Spikes were still steel and woods made from wood when Jack Nicklaus commandeered golf five decades ago, playing with power and precision unlike anything the game had ever seen.
 
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus stands on the Swilcan Bridge and waves goodbye to the Open Championship.
He bowed out of the major championships at the Old Course wearing rubber cleats and carrying a space-age driver made from titanium in his bag. But this much hadn't changed: Nicklaus remains the benchmark against which everyone else will be measured.
 
``People have asked me, 'What would you want to do differently?' and I can't imagine anything, frankly,'' he said, ``except have my wife dress me better than she did in 2000.''
 
That year's Open was actually a dress rehearsal for Friday, and apparently a bad one at that. Barbara Nicklaus has been choosing the outfits for her husband since he came out on tour and neither was happy with the way he looked in photos from what was to have been his last appearance at St. Andrews five years ago.
 
So this time she chose a replica of the sweater Jack wore in 1978, when he won his second British Open -- a navy blue argyle number -- and sent him on his way.
 
``They both said 'large' on them,'' Nicklaus explained sheepishly, ``but that was a much larger sweater than the one I wore before.''
 
His waist may be thicker, his blond hair thinned, and his swing an abbreviated version of what it used to be. But Nicklaus hasn't lost the ability to thrill. After an opening-round 75, he shot 72 and wound up missing the cut by two strokes. Judging by the hubbub that gripped the auld gray town, he may be the only one who cared.
 
Nicklaus hasn't been in contention at a major since the 1998 Masters, and if truth be told, for dozen years before that. But the reason applause rippled with every step he took is that Nicklaus never stopped caring, never stopped trying and never, ever set foot on a golf course, even at 65, when he didn't believe deep down he could win.
 
One hundred and sixty-four majors, 18 victories spanning a remarkable 24 years, another 19 second-place finishes, and each accomplished with more grace and character than any sportsman before or since. Saying he was an inspiration to several generations of major winners only tells the half of it.
 
A young Tiger Woods taped a list of Nicklaus' accomplishments to his bedroom wall and set out to check off each one. Future Masters winner and southpaw Mike Weir wrote Nicklaus when he was a teenager growing up in Canada, asking whether he should change over and try to hit the ball right-handed. Weir received a handwritten reply.
 
``If the greatest player of all time tells you to stick to it,'' he recalled a few years ago, ``then I was going to do it.''
 
Six-time major winner Nick Faldo watched flickering images of Nicklaus playing the Masters on a TV screen in England and three months shy of his 14th birthday, knew exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. His mother cut his hair like Jack's the following day and sent him off for lessons at a club outside London.
 
``They should make him out of gold,'' Faldo said Friday at the Old Course, ``and stick a little Jack on every tee box.''
 
Two-time major champion John Daly was 4 years old when he fell in love with golf and began checking the newspaper each day to keep up with a series of cartoon-style golf tips featuring Nicklaus.
 
``I learned the grip, the cut and the draw. And that,'' Daly recalled 35 years later, ``is how I learned to play.''
 
But it wasn't just champions that Nicklaus touched.
 
On both sides of the Atlantic, he played the leading man in the game's greatest dramas. That's why the men who run the British Open moved the tournament back to St. Andrews a year earlier than originally planned -- so Nicklaus could bow out here in the final year of his exemption. Like the rest of us, they remember his epic 1962 U.S. Open battle with Arnold Palmer at Oakmont, his 1977 ``Duel in the Sun'' with Tom Watson at Turnberry, his closing rush in the 1986 Masters at age 46. If they could, they would let him play forever.
 
Such miracles aren't easy to reproduce. But because Jack is who he is, no one is sure there isn't a Xerox machine tucked in one of the side pockets of that huge golf bag one of his kids is always lugging around. And in the same way that he raised his hands over the years to still cheering galleries so an opponent could putt, Nicklaus put a stop to such talk.
 
``If there's one person in this room who doesn't wish he could go back 20 or 30 years, I'd be very surprised,'' he said. ``But I don't want to do it again. I kind of enjoyed what I did. I don't know whether I'd be as successful today going out there or not, playing against those guys.
 
``I think I would,'' he added. ``That's the way I'd feel. But who knows?''
 
The answer is easy.
 
``He,'' said Woods, without wavering, ``is the greatest champion that's ever lived.''
 
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  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes