Nicklaus Close to the End

By Associated PressApril 7, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For Jack Nicklaus, this might be about as close as he'll ever come to giving a farewell speech at Augusta National.
He leaned forward just a bit, eyes widening, and revealed what's going on in his mind.
'I would say the chances of not seeing me here next year are a lot greater than seeing me,' Nicklaus said Wednesday. 'It's far better than 50 percent that I won't play here anymore.'
Just don't start planning a farewell tour. Nicklaus is leaving that sort of thing to Arnold Palmer, who is playing in his 50th - and final - Masters.
Adoring fans have followed the King around the course during the practice rounds, straining to get one last glimpse at the funky swing, that subtle wink, that charismatic smile.
Nicklaus hasn't been playing to the crowd. No, he's trying desperately to get his game in shape for one last Augusta charge.
Maybe he can make the cut. Maybe he can get close to the leaderboard. Maybe he can ...
'I'd say 10th would be a pretty good week,' Nicklaus said, quickly realizing that he wasn't sounding like a six-time champion. 'If 10th is pretty good, then it's probably time to hang up my spikes.'
Nicklaus isn't much for pomp and ceremony, which may be the reason he won't come out and say it: This is his final Masters.
Everyone would make a big fuss about it. He prefers to fade away quietly, without anyone noticing.
'I liken Arnold to Bob Hope,' Nicklaus said. 'Arnold would rather go to dinner with 50 people he doesn't know than two friends. He enjoys being out there. He enjoys the adulation. I think that's wonderful.'
And Nicklaus?
'I'm not built that way,' he said.
Nicklaus doesn't want to go through another year like 2003, when he shot 85 in the first round - his worst score at the Masters.
The galleries still cheered, which only made things worse. Nicklaus wants to earn the acclaim. He doesn't want sympathy.
'Sure, I enjoy it,' he said. 'I enjoy it when I'm playing well. If not, then I'm a miserable wretch.'
Of course, Nicklaus has been hinting for years that the end is near. He's 64 now. He hasn't been a serious contender since 1998. He's never sure when his back will start hurting. He yearns to spend more time on his beloved fishing boat, reeling in marlin.
He knows it's time to step aside.
'I came to that decision a long time ago,' Nicklaus said. 'It's just how to stop playing. It's a very difficult thing to do. It's something I've done all my life. It's something that I know has to come to an end sooner or later. There's only one person that's going to end it, and that's me.'
With typical ambiguity, Nicklaus left open the possibility of playing again.
He said he came back this year because he didn't want to go out with an 85. So, would another poor showing send him into retirement, or keep the competitive fires burning? What would happen if he actually shot a decent score?
'Do I love playing golf?' Nicklaus said. 'Absolutely.'
After Hootie Johnson decided that past champions could only play the Masters to age 65, Nicklaus and Palmer persuaded the club chairman to reverse course. They wanted to go out on their own terms.
Palmer, who initially said the 2002 Masters would be his last, got another chance to revel in the spotlight. His long farewell even seems to have skewed his place in Augusta history.
'After Bobby Jones founding this place, I guess Arnold has meant more to the Masters tournament than anyone,' Johnson said Wednesday.
Even more than Nicklaus?
No one has more green jackets. No one provided a more stirring tournament than Nicklaus in 1986, winning his sixth Masters at age 46. No one played so well for so long (remember that sixth-place finish in '98, when Nicklaus was 58?).
Nicklaus took no offense from Johnson's statement. This is Arnie's moment - even if it does turn out that they're leaving together.
'This is what Arnold enjoys,' Nicklaus said. 'That's why it's been so hard for him to quit. He enjoys people so much.'
Nicklaus has a different perspective. Don't even try persuading him that his mere presence at Augusta National is worth it - no matter what score he shoots.
'People come up to me and say, 'Oh, Jack, don't quit playing Augusta. We like to see you play,'' he said. 'But how much do they really see me play? They walk up on me and say, 'Oh, there's Jack, let's see him hit this 5-iron.'
'Then they go see Tiger.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Masters Tournament

  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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    Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

    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.

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    Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

    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.  

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    “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.”  

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

    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.

    Made Cut

    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 “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 Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

    Stay tuned.

    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.

    Missed Cut

    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.