Nicklaus Gives a Peek at Tahoes Next Jewel
Right now, the 18th itself is a morass of loose dirt, trees and irrigation pipe. The splendor is in Jack Nicklaus' mind -- and in the notebooks of his designers on this arid hillside in the Sierra Nevadas, just a few elevation-aided tee shots from Lake Tahoe.
'I really enjoy this part of the process,' said Nicklaus, who parlayed his peerless golfing career into a thriving course-design business. 'Designing is really just common sense. You apply what you know to what you see out here, and you try to make something that people can enjoy.'
Nicklaus pours most of his passion for golf these days into designing courses, not playing them. When it opens next July, his latest venture -- located east of Truckee, a thriving ski town 30 minutes west of Reno -- will be just the second public course designed by the Golden Bear in the Golden State.
Old Greenwood will be a luxury development featuring $700,000 lots, condominiums and elaborate recreation facilities. But it's centered on the course under construction for Nicklaus' eponymous design company, which has created 260 courses open for play in 27 countries at last count.
Nicklaus spends varying degrees of personal time on almost every one of his company's ventures. Nicklaus Design's $1.8 million contract at Old Greenwood requires the Golden Bear to make at least six trips to the site -- for course engineering and general glad-handing.
The 63-year-old did a bit of everything on a recent trip to Truckee, where he surveyed the site of Old Greenwood for the second time.
'I'm a busy guy, but that's all right,' Nicklaus said. 'I enjoy that.'
Though younger men might shrink from the challenge, it was a fairly typical Monday for Nicklaus, who shot a 69 in the final round of the U.S. Senior Open last month before flying to his vacation home in Vail, Colo., on his private jet. He woke up in Colorado, and after watching a couple of hours of Wimbledon tennis, he flew to Tahoe.
After rolling up to Old Greenwood in an SUV, Nicklaus stepped into the back of a large pickup truck. In addition to a handful of developers and engineers, he was joined by Jim Lipe, Nicklaus Design's top mind, and Chris Rule, the onsite manager of the project.
Nicklaus' name and presence probably are even more important than his personal design input, and he leaves much of the nuts-and-bolts work to his employees. But Nicklaus has plenty of thoughts on the subject that has become another passion ever since he won the last of his 18 major titles at the 1986 Masters.
'One thing you learn is that you shouldn't ever design a golf hole for a tree,' Nicklaus said, drawing chuckles from his team. 'A group of trees, that's fine. But if you lose that one tree, you're dead meat.'
Dodging bulldozers and cranes working amid the aging pines, the truck rolled out to the first tee, where Nicklaus chats with Rule -- a former Ohio State golfer who became a course designer. They talk about the position of the back tees and width of the fairway.
At the second hole, Nicklaus engages Lipe and Rule in an animated discussion about the difficulty of the long, rolling fairway on the par 5.
Nicklaus proves to be a staunch advocate for the average golfer.
'Will that be too easy?' Rule wondered about one suggestion.
'If you're going to make this a public golf course, people have got to be able to get to where they want to go,' Nicklaus said. 'I'm trying to get the weekend guy to have it a little bit easier.'
Case in point: On the third green, which is a depression in the bare dirt outlined in spray paint at this point, Nicklaus lobbied for a wider, flatter surface. Lipe and Rule liked their design, but they made appropriate notes in their thick binders featuring detailed topographical drawings and numerical charts of every detail.
'It's never a question of who wins (the arguments). It's just by how much,' said Blake Riva, a partner in the development company building Old Greenwood.
On the sixth hole, Nicklaus paused in the center of a gaping dirt hole lined with 100 yards of plastic sheeting. Soon, the hole would be filled with water and trout, ready to menace players.
'Bet I spend a little more time in here,' Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus is relentlessly self-deprecating about his own game. He hasn't won on the Champions Tour since 1996, and he missed the cut in all four PGA events he played this year, including an ignominious 18-over in the first two rounds of the Masters.
'I stopped playing golf a long time ago,' he told two fans before his drive onto the course. 'I'm not too good at that any more.'
Nicklaus worked through lunch. After examining the first few holes of the back nine, the party veers south to the gorgeous final three holes of the course.
Shortly after leaving, Nicklaus posed for a few promotional photos in front of a stained-glass window in the brand-new sales center. He proceeded to an information session with investors and lot-buyers, where he recited the strengths and weaknesses of every theoretical hole by memory.
Nicklaus personally opens about 15 golf courses every year -- something he describes as his favorite part of course design. He'll be back in Truckee three more times before Old Greenwood opens in July.
After shaking every hand and signing every autograph, Nicklaus hopped back in the SUV for a ride back to his jet -- and a dinner date with his wife, Barbara.
'You don't get an opportunity to work on a beautiful piece of property like this very often,' Nicklaus said. 'So when you do, you want to do your best.'
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.