Nicklaus Fortunately Going Out on a High Note

By Associated PressSeptember 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
Jack Nicklaus looked as though he wanted a club in his hand, not a radio.
 
But he was Captain Jack at the Presidents Cup, and he stood beside the eighth green to watch his American team play the short par 4 during the first set of fourball matches. Tiger Woods had left himself a difficult shot from about 50 yards away, over a bunker with only 20 feet of green to the hole, a steep ridge behind it.
 
Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson
A fitting way to go out, Jack Nicklaus guided the U.S. to an emotional victory at the Presidents Cup.
Woods walked up to the green to inspect his options.
 
'Balls have been coming down that shelf,' Nicklaus called out to him.
 
Woods looked over and nodded, but ultimately chose a different approach. He played a full flop shot that landed on a slope of fringe and shot forward about 20 feet.
 
'One yard too short,' Nicklaus said to himself, then got in his cart to find another group.
 
That was as close as the Golden Bear got to the competition last week at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and he figures to become even more removed from inside the ropes as the years go on.
 
Sure, he'll play in the Father-Son Challenge with one of his four boys, maybe even a skins game in Hawaii or Canada, or wherever he is opening a new golf course.
 
But he is done with tournament golf.
 
And that might be his greatest success this year. He found a way to retire.
 
Nicklaus has spent the last five years trying to make a graceful exit from the game, and he generally made a mess of it. But with little planning, and not much more effort, golf's greatest champion went out in style.
 
Sitting alone at a table as his 12 players who captured the Presidents Cup headed into the night, Nicklaus looked satisfied when asked how he managed to make such a clean break.
 
'It was all very special,' he said softly, his lips pursed in a smile, blue eyes blazing.
 
It started with the Masters, a tournament he did not plan to play. His 17-month-old grandson, Jake Walter, the curly blond who always liked being in Grandpa Jack's lap, drowned March 1 in a hot tub. Devastated, Nicklaus wanted to be with his family, then realized it might be good therapy for all of them to be at Augusta.
 
And somewhere along the way - a long walk, considering how much length Augusta National has added - he quietly decided he was done competing in the Masters.
 
'I'm not a golfer anymore,' Nicklaus said that day. 'They're young. I'm an old man trying to figure out some way to get out of the way.'
 
Then came a spring trip to St. Andrews. Nicklaus went to the home of golf in May as part of his endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Scotland. Meeting with the British press, many of whom he has known and respected for years, Nicklaus said the British Open would be his final major.
 
It wasn't the first time Nicklaus said he was done. He talked about retirement so much he became a running joke. But there was a quiet finality to these words, so much that he was amazed at the stir it created.
 
He embraced the farewell at St. Andrews, pausing atop the famed Swilcan Bridge for photos even during the practice rounds. He received a standing ovation on all 36 holes he played, and thousands of people packed the 18th fairway Friday, the grandstands, hotel balconies and rooftops to watch him finish with a birdie.
 
It was one time Nicklaus didn't mind missing the cut.
 
'The British Open ended on Friday, and that was fine,' he said. 'I didn't need two more days of all that stuff.'
 
He had already agreed to be Presidents Cup captain after the matches ended in a tie two years ago in South Africa, never realizing at the time it would be the perfect way for him to leave the spotlight.
 
Players who otherwise would consider the Presidents Cup part of the PGA Tour schedule, like the Bob Hope or the Buick Championship, wanted to be on Jack's last team. Their gift to the captain was an oil painting of Jake, who would have turned 2 on the Saturday of the matches. Nicklaus was in tears when he saw it, and kept it in the team room so everyone could see it as they walked out the door.
 
As for the golf?
 
Simply inspirational.
 
'If you would have seen his face when he came out and talked to me on the last green, you'd have seen what it meant to him,' Davis Love III said after winning his singles match, which clinched at least a tie. 'It looked like Jack holing a putt to win a major championship.'
 
Nicklaus won't have that chance again.
 
Augusta National surely will come calling early next year, if not sooner. It will be the 20th anniversary of his final major championship, and there is a sense that he deserves a proper farewell. Because of rain delays that led to threesomes playing off both tees, Nicklaus finished his Masters career on the ninth green.
 
'People say, 'Well, it ended on (No.) 9.' Well, so what?' Nicklaus said. 'That happens.'
 
Some already have suggested he return as Presidents Cup captain.
 
'My guess is I won't captain any more teams,' he said. 'If they ask me, I would like to, because I like being part of it. I know I can't play anymore, so it's my way of making a contribution.'
 
He would be better off turning over the Presidents Cup to someone else.
 
Nicklaus could never make a better exit from golf than this.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.