Inside Jacks Final Open

By David Marr IiiJuly 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Television stations chronicled every step, newspaper headlines stood three inches tall, but it was impossible to truly taste the spirit of this week without having been in the town of St. Andrews. The Golf Channel was given unprecedented access to follow Jack Nicklaus at the Open Championship for a special presentation about the week scheduled to air later this year. It is our hope that we will be able to give viewers added insight into just how special the week was for the Nicklaus family, Jacks fellow competitors, and the Scottish fans. Heres just a glimpse.
From the time he touched down at Leuchars Air Force base just outside of town, Jack Nicklaus was ready. The man who always seemed to be prepared for the occasion was primed one final time. A short drive and Jack eased into the car park of Rufflets, a charming country hotel where he has stayed since his first trip here in 1964. During competitive weeks he never strayed far from home, and this would be no exception.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus shared many precious moments from his final Open with good friend Tom Watson.
Rest and comfort was the recipe for so many victories, and this fare would be no different. Comfort came in the form dearest to him; wife Barbara, daughter Nan and her husband Bill, sons Jack II and Gary, and grandson Jack III making his first trip to Scotland, all stayed at the hotel with son Steve caddying for the week and stayed just down the road by the clubhouse. After an overnight flight, a course design site visit in Ireland and a quick hop over the Irish Sea to Scotland the plan was dinner and a well-earned slumber.
Monday morning at 9:30 Jack and Barbara turned right onto Strathkinness High Road and headed for the Old Course. The poetry of Jack taking the High Road to St. Andrews was not lost on this observer. Less than five minutes later the day got a bit more interesting for fans gathered around the players entrance. His emergence from an unmarked rental car seemed to catch the onlookers by surprise as most of the other competitors arrived via tournament transportation.
Phil Mickelson was leaving the clubhouse and made his way to Jack and Barbara to say hello. Michael Campbell was headed in the opposite direction until he saw the pair and made sure to give his regards. Shortly afterwards, Jack disappeared into the R & A clubhouse to collect credentials for himself and the family. Steve arrived, kissed his mother and headed towards caddie registration.
After some time at the practice ground Jack took the first tee with 2005 Memorial Champion Bart Bryant and Fred Couples. Just before the group teed off they were joined by their fourth, Nick Faldo. Faldo reminded Jack that the last time they played a practice round game Faldo had collected 20 pounds, and since the Royal Bank of Scotland was issuing a 5 pound note bearing Jacks likeness, would Jack mind terribly paying off todays bet in crisp notes.
Halfway through the back nine Faldo seemed to be looking nervously for an ATM. Down a few holes and running out of real estate Nick had to close strong in order to avoid having to scarf down his boast along with afternoon tea. After a quick photo session atop the Swilkan Bridge the round ended, Jack headed to the practice ground to hit more balls and then made his way back to the hotel to meet up with the ladies who had been perusing the town, and the Jacks who had been playing golf.
Tuesday started the same way, with a family breakfast and a 9:20 departure to the course. A quick kiss goodbye for Barbara and Jack was on time for his 9:30 media conference. At the official RBS announcement regarding the 5 pound note Jack was truly humbled by becoming only the third living person, and first outside the royal family, to adorn Scottish paper currency. The conference continued and the written medias portion concluded with the presentation of the Michael Williams award by the Association of Golf Writers for cooperation with and support of the British golf writers. Jack accepted this award with a tearful reminiscence about the relationship golfers used to have with the media, and his heartfelt thanks to those who still honor that bond.
A brief stop with the electronic media ended with a question from ESPNs Scott Van Pelt who asked how Jack would like to finish the week. A silent Nicklaus cradled an imaginary Claret Jug aloft then answered, I PROMISE you, this is what Im picturing
His 11 a.m. practice round with Tom Watson had been scheduled weeks before in the media center at the Bayer Advantage Classic on the Champions Tour and the two were joined by fellow Memorial Champion Kenny Perry and fellow Masters Champion Mike Weir. After another good practice round in the unseasonable warm weather Jack seemed upbeat and headed home.
Wednesday the course was abuzz. Jack was playing with Tiger at 11, or was it 2? Practice rounds werent assigned and no one had seen Tiger all day. His usual practice routine was a 6:30 a.m. round, so surely he was waiting to play a bit later with Jack.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus started and ended his final Open Championship with a birdie.
About that time Neil Oxman was wheeling his rented Ford Focus into the turnabout at Rufflets Hotel. Neil is a guest lecturer on Political Theory at various Universities in the states when he isnt caddying for Tom Watson and is always available with pleasant and interesting conversation. Tom slipped into the front of the Ford with Jack in the back and the threesome headed for the course. Jack had mentioned that he wanted to play Wednesday by ear and see how he felt. It seemed that he felt like a bit more practice.
After a shuttle to the practice ground and a session to limber up, the pair with eight Open Championships between them headed across the third hole to play their way home via 16, 17 and 18. The two have been friends and rivals throughout the years with Jack staying at Toms house for this years Bayer, and both men staying at the same small hotel in St. Andrews. Certainly aware of the next days 7:47am tee time the two men headed back to the hotel with Watson at the wheel, and Jack was in bed before his sons hit the dinner table.
Thursday morning came quickly. Jack pulled the car around for Barbara at 6:37 and suggested that she drive. Barbara would just drop Jack off then return to the hotel for Nan and other family members. The day of the final first round at a major of the games greatest champion began like it did for so many fathers, making sure the family was organized and no kids were left stranded. Barbara reminded herself to look right as she exited the hotel driveway and delivered Jack to an awaiting Steve.
Steve Nicklaus might not be the tallest of the boys, but he is the most imposing. Hes the only one not to try golf as a profession, but the one who plays most frequently now. He played Wide Receiver for Florida State, though he now looks more like an outside linebacker. It was big, burly Steve who urged his father to play at Augusta this year. It was Steve who assured his dad that keeping the commitment to play this event was what the family wanted, and needed, because it was Steve and his wife Christa who lost their youngest son Jake tragically this year. The couple is expecting a daughter next month in one of lifes simultaneously painful and joyous cycles, and it is Steve whom his father describes as an even sillier more sentimental old fool than me. Watching a father help heal his son, as the son lent his support to the father was a side story in this championship too poignant for words.
Fridays 12:58pm tee time allowed for a morning of rest. For the first time all week a courtesy car arrived at Rufflets. Ann Wallace emerged looking for Tom Watson. She told of a picture she had taken in 1995. She had driven Jack to the course one day and now the memory hangs in her front hallway. When she got news that she was to pick up Tom this morning she was elated, but had also hoped to drive Jack one last time. Tom came out of the hotel and Ann asked for a photo. Tom was happy to oblige then told Ann to wait a minute so she could get one with Jack, since he was coming as well. Ann was giddy with the thought of driving the two champions and Jack posed for a picture to compliment the one taken a decade earlier.
On the way to the course the men talked about the weather getting cooler and the wind changing direction. The conversation turned to making the cut and the two men agreed that they needed to make better things happen than they had on Thursday if they were to play the weekend. To see the difference in the reception on tee boxes fairways and greens from round one to two was to get a deeper understanding of Scottish golf fans. Thursday provided a very warm and appropriate level of respect for the man at every turn, but Friday was different.
As Jack willed his way around the course fighting for the cutline the Scots showered their love. He holds a special place in the hearts of Scottish golf fans, not because of the number of his Open Championship victories, but because of the manner of his play. He always played their game the way it was meant to be played, and he was doing so once again. It was no ceremonial farewell round, but a beloved Champion saying goodbye with a singular grace and style.
As it turns out, missing the cut was the perfect ending for Jacks week in St. Andrews. The emotional stage was his alone on Friday, not to be shared with Sundays drama. By starting and ending his week with birdies, he showed yet again that he has that rare ability to capture the moment. He was able to spend Friday night at a private party with friends, sleep in Saturday morning and shepherd the cubs towards home one more time. It enabled his children to get back home to their children. And perhaps, most fittingly of all, it allowed him to make it home for the weekly Sunday night family dinner at his house in North Palm Beach where he is no longer Jack Nicklaus, just pee-paw, a role he fills even better than that of a golfer.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 134th Open Champoinship
  • Daily Photo Gallery
  • Open Championship Trivia Challenge
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.''

    Getty Images

    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. 

    Getty Images

    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.