Presidents Cup Brings Jack Back to the Game

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
MONTREAL -- Jack Nicklaus had a golf club in his hand and a gallery around him, just like old times.
He was checking up on his U.S. team at the Presidents Cup when he noticed Steve Stricker in a bunker at Royal Montreal, getting advice from assistant captain Jeff Sluman. It wasn't long before Nicklaus joined them.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson lightens the mood with a little table tennis Wednesday. (WireImage)
'First bunker shot I've hit since May,' Nicklaus cracked.
The last competitive shot he struck was two years ago at St. Andrews, when he holed a 15-foot birdie putt for a 72 in the British Open. So ended the career of golf's greatest champion, and he ended his retirement season on an even greater note when the Americans delivered a victory for Captain Jack in the Presidents Cup.
So it was strange to see him back as the captain, even with a mild protest from his wife.
'I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, how can we top 2005?'' Barbara Nicklaus said from her hotel room in Montreal, where she was getting ready for yet another opening ceremony at the Presidents Cup.
Deep down, she knew the answer.
'He's got that little g-o-l-f thing,' Mrs. Nicklaus said with a laugh.
They have been together for nearly a half-century, married a month after Nicklaus nearly won the U.S. Open as a 20-year-old amateur. One of the legendary stories about their honeymoon was Nicklaus playing Pine Valley, and his bride having to drive around the perimeter of the course because women were not allowed on the property.
She was there for his 18 professional majors that spanned 25 seasons, for his emotional retirement at the home of golf. She has noticed the ease with which he has resisted temptation to play one more time at the Masters or his Memorial Tournament.
'He's not playing anymore, although he's as happy as can be,' she said. 'He's probably traveling more because he's got over 60 golf courses under construction. And he's loving it. That part of his life is fulfilled. The golf part of his life ... you never get rid of that.
'I don't think he misses playing,' she said. 'I know he misses the competition.'
Being captain of the Presidents Cup team helps fill that void.
Winning the cup never hurts.
'It keeps me involved in golf,' Nicklaus said after announcing his six foursome teams for the opening session Thursday. 'Being captain, I had to keep up with the game. Even though I don't play, I still want to be part of the game.'
This is the third time Nicklaus has been captain of the Presidents Cup, and the first time was a disaster. It was 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, matches played close to the holidays and absence of any measurable interest by the players. They suffered the worst defeat in U.S. team history, 20 1/2 -11 1/2 , and players later told Nicklaus they let him down.
The respect was shown in 2003 in South Africa, amid concern that some players might not want to travel halfway around the world the week before Thanksgiving. They staged a strong rally on the final day to forge a tie.
Then came 2005 in Virginia, where the bond between a 67-year-old icon and a dozen players was never stronger. The year began with tragedy for Nicklaus when his 17-month-old grandson, Jake Walter, drowned in a hot tub. On the eve of the final round, players presented Nicklaus an oil painting of Jake and his curly blond locks, and tears flowed from all corners.
'It's hanging in our front hall,' Mrs. Nicklaus said. 'Every time we pass it we not only think of our Jake, we think of the team, and how precious they were to even think to do something like that.'
Perhaps the most grateful of his decision to return are the 12 guys playing for him at Royal Montreal.
Nicklaus is a hands-off captain who lets his players be themselves and enjoy themselves. He has them write down their choices of partners, even those with whom they don't want to play, and matches them accordingly.
He brings experience and mystique, and just the name 'Nicklaus' inspires.
'When he does speak, everyone listens because obviously he's the greatest player of all time,' Tiger Woods said. 'You always want to hear what he's going to say.'
Well, not always.
Nicklaus is quick with the needle, even with his own team. Charles Howell III shared the story this week about the first team meeting outside Boston last month, when Captain Jack congratulated Zach Johnson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan, and was making his way around the room when he came to Howell, who had not finished in the top 10 since March.
'Charles,' he told him, 'you need a lesson.'
During a conference call last month to discuss his team, Nicklaus referred to a strange incident years ago when Woody Austin walked off the green banging his putter against his head until it broke.
'I don't know whether Woody will bring golf or bang himself in the head,' Nicklaus said.
It's all in good fun, although Nicklaus says he can be a little quick with the tease. It's all part of the package, part of why the Americans appear to be so much more relaxed at the Presidents Cup than they are in the Ryder Cup.
And maybe that explains why they have not lost the Presidents Cup since 1998 in Australia.
It begins Thursday at Royal Montreal, the oldest golf club in North America, when Stricker and Mahan play in the first alternate-shot match against Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy.
The Americans are in better form. The International team has a stronger collection of players.
The intangible, again, could be Captain Jack.
Related Links:
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  • International Report Card
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.