Jack From Hopeless Competitor to Ceremonial Golfer
He gazed out at some three dozen reporters Tuesday morning and knew what was coming.
Stop laughing, Nicklaus said, unable to contain his own smile.
The final chapter could have been written long ago, and Nicklaus, 65, wishes he had a mulligan.
The real script of going out would have been to say goodbye in 86 at Augusta, he said of his sixth victory in the Masters, and 18th professional major. Thats probably what I should have done. If I had any common sense, I would have said goodbye there.
Jack is still here.
He was on the practice range at Muirfield Village late Monday afternoon with swing coach Jim Flick standing behind him. Nicklaus poured all his concentration into every shot, taking his time over each one, as if a major championship was riding on the outcome. His head tilted ever so slightly just before taking the club back, a signature move that allowed him a full turn. Inevitably, his shoulders slumped when he watched the flight of the ball.
Nicklaus is playing in the Memorial, a tournament he created in 1976, for the 30th consecutive year. When he played in the pro-am Tuesday afternoon, it was his third round since he missed the cut at the Masters and said he would no longer compete at Augusta National.
I dont have a game, he said. You know that.
Nicklaus has been saying that for years.
What troubles him is that he doesnt have a plan.
The British Open will be his last major championship, and Nicklaus said he has no intention of playing any more tournament golf. But in the same breath, he reserved the right to play in the Memorial as a past champion (1977 and 1984) and as the host of one of the best PGA Tour events of the year.
But if Nicklaus is done with tournament golf after the British Open, and he decides to play in the Memorial next year or any year thereafter, then by his own definition he will become a ceremonial player.
And thats the one thing he never wanted to be.
Some might argue he already is.
Realistically, the best I can do would be probably make the cut or something, and that would be about it, Nicklaus said. Thats not really competitive. I wish I could answer your question, because I cant answer it myself. I cant answer in my own mind what I want to do.
Arnold Palmer had ceremonious farewells from the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994, and twice from the Masters, the final occasion coming last year in his 50th appearance. He posed atop the Swilken Bridge at St. Andrews in 1995, the last year he was eligible for the British Open.
Nicklaus has never been about ceremony, only competition.
He also is vastly different from Palmer in the amount of golf he plays when the ropes are down and the gallery gone. Palmer plays as often as he can. Nicklaus doesnt know what recreational golf is.
I like tournament golf, Nicklaus said. Thats what I do. I love to go out and prepare to do something. When Im not preparing to do anything, what am I doing out there?
Still, it would be easier to walk away for good if not for the occasional hope. He played Friday at the Bears Club in south Florida, where the greens were running about 14 on the Stimpmeter, and shot 70. His other round since the Masters was Sunday at Muirfield Village, and he shot 74 with a triple bogey on his card.
If I went out there and in preparation was shooting 80-something, I would say Im not even going to bother to play, Nicklaus said. While I have some semblance of a game, Im going to say, OK, Im going to play. But Im going to say bye at the same time while I still have that.
I dont want to be shooting 85 when Im saying goodbye.
Then again, Nicklaus has never been big on goodbyes. Even on the day he shot 30 on the back nine at Augusta National and won his sixth green jacket at age 46, someone asked him about retirement.
Maybe I should go out on a win like this, he said that Sunday afternoon. Maybe I should just say goodbye. Maybe that would be the smart thing to do. But Im not that smart.
Now, he grits his teeth when players congratulate him for making the cut, as they did last year at the Memorial. He wont play just to satisfy the nostalgic whim of the fans.
I cant please anybody if I cant please myself, he said.
If Im shooting 85, I cant possibly be pleasing anybody else. Somebody has come in'whatever it cost them to buy a ticket'to watch Jack Nicklaus play golf, Id like to have them see Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus gets rousing ovations wherever he goes, primarily out of admiration, partially because no one is sure if they will see him again. He expects to get the royal treatment at St. Andrews, but only because thats the nature of the British fans.
Theyve always accepted me as a golfer, and thats what I wanted to be accepted as, he said. Hopefully, thats what I was.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18