Nicklaus enjoys mentoring PGA Tour's new generation

By Doug FergusonApril 19, 2016, 10:21 pm

Justin Thomas could sense his expectations getting higher and his game going nowhere.

He was coming off a strong rookie year in 2015, contending a half-dozen times before breaking through for his first PGA Tour victory in Malaysia in October. But then he started the new year in a rut, and Thomas knew just what to do - no matter how awkward it might have seemed.

He asked Jack Nicklaus if he could come over to his house to talk.

''Very weird,'' Thomas said about making a call to the 76-year-old owner of 18 major championships. ''I was nervous to do it, but it was the coolest thing when I first met him. We had lunch before I got in The Bear's Club, and for someone of his status and how comfortable I felt around him, I give him a lot of credit for that. He didn't try to intimidate me or make me feel uncomfortable. As soon as you're around him, you're not nervous. It really speaks to his character.''

Nicklaus designs and builds golf courses. His business enterprise includes everything from wine to ice cream. He is heavily involved in the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation. And in his latest role, he is a mentor to a burgeoning class of young golfers.

And he loves it.

''I don't know why they do it. They seem to think it's going to help them,'' Nicklaus said with a wink and a smile. ''I get a big kick out of it, sure. Why would you not get a big kick out of it? I'm 76 years old and I've got a 22-year-old kid coming here asking me for advice.

''How many 22-year-olds ask anybody for advice?''

Jordan Spieth spent time with him before his first Masters. Charl Schwartzel met with Nicklaus before he won the green jacket. So did Trevor Immelman.Rory McIlroy talks shop with the Golden Bear all the time, though rarely about the Masters. (Note to McIlroy: The man has six green jackets.)

''Just like approaching any of the greats of the game, one can be intimidated a little bit,'' Spieth said. ''But every time I've spoken to him, he's been very open and willing to help me. I think he's just rooting for the game of golf. It's not just me. He's doing it for everyone that I've seen around him.

''He's certainly been in our shoes, and we haven't quite been in the shoes that's he's been in,'' Spieth said. ''It's very, very nice of him, and I've enjoyed my time.''

Patrick Rodgers was at Muirfield Village two years ago to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award as college p layer of the year. Nicklaus stuck around to meet with Rodgers and the rest of the winners from various college divisions. Before leaving, he looked Rodgers right in the eye and told him, ''You ever need anything at all, just call me.''

Nicklaus didn't break eye contact until Rodgers nodded back.

Rodgers is on the growing list of young players who have taken Nicklaus up on his offer. That includes Jordan Niebrugge, who reached out to Nicklaus when he qualified for the 2014 Masters as the U.S. Public Links champion. A year later, Nicklaus sent him a hole-by-hole crib sheet on how to play St. Andrews when Niebrugge made it through local final qualifying for the British Open. Maybe it was a coincidence, but Niebrugge tied for sixth and was low amateur.

At their age, Nicklaus learned by watching more than listening. He would study the practice of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Julius Boros and Tommy Bolt and try to learn through imitation. It's different now. Nicklaus said he was lucky to see the greats twice a year. He sees these kids all the time, particularly at his Bear's Club in South Florida, where several of them now are members.

He doesn't teach anyone how to play golf. He just talks. And they listen.

''Justin came and we talked for a couple of hours. Just talked,'' Nicklaus said. ''I don't want to tell him what to do. I let him ask questions and I tried to feel how he's doing and what he's doing and how can I help his thought process. That's more what it was about.''

Nicklaus played his final major 11 years ago at St. Andrews. He was Presidents Cup captain for the last time in 2007.

He remains relevant, especially to the next generation.

''I've had a lot of guys come to me. Most of them are afraid to approach me,'' Nicklaus said. ''To have all these young guys want to listen to something an old man has to say? It's very flattering, and it's also very nice that they want to do that.''

Conversations can last a few minutes (Spieth) to a few hours (Thomas).

And sometimes, the education goes beyond golf.

''I walked in his house and I had my hat on,'' Thomas said. ''We sat down and he said, 'I hate to be that guy, but is it raining in here?' He laughed and said, 'Why do you have your hat on?' I forgot to take it off. I felt like an idiot.''

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.