Jacks Playing Days May Be Numbered

By George WhiteFebruary 13, 2004, 5:00 pm
NAPLES, Fla. -- Poor Jack Nicklaus. He had hoped for some time that he would see a sign ' any sign ' that he was playing well enough again to compete for victories on the Champions Tour. Well, this year, at age 64 hes finally demonstrated it. But alas, his back is so problematic that he cant be sure if he will ever play again.

Nicklaus is entered in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla. But that is the only tournament he plans to play as of this moment. He shot his age ' 64 ' in an unofficial round last month in the Senior Skins Game. He came close to contending at the MasterCard Championship recently. Same thing with the Skins, where only a late birdie by Tom Watson prevented him from winning.

But, he says, he cant trust a balky back to enable him to plan a golf schedule more than a week at a time.

I never know from day to day, he says, adding that these days, hes never sure what to expect when he puts his peg in the ground. Some days its the Jack of old. Some days, its just old Jack.

I went to Hawaii (for the Skins and the MasterCard) expecting not to play well, Nicklaus said, and I played well. I actually felt good, hit the ball well, putted the ball decently. I walked off shooting three good rounds, even had a chance to win the golf tournament if Id finished it up properly.

So, whats the problem?

At the end of last year when I finished 10th at the JELD-WEN Tradition, I thought I played a pretty darn good tournament ' but I finished 10th. I said, Maybe its time to hang up your spikes.

Maybe its still time to hang up my spikes, but Ill still let them get a little rustier and see how effective they are and figure it out as I go.

One major problem for the back is playing on multiple days. Nicklaus figures he can post a good score on any given day. However, golf tournaments, even on the Champions Tour, are three days. Throw in the Wednesday and Thursday pro-ams, and you have five straight days of torqueing up in the golf swing. Generally, thats been too much for Jack.

Its not fun playing competitive golf if youre not competitive, said Nicklaus. I cant practice too much. The body hurts if I play each day. I dont want to play golf every day because there are other things I want to do.

Of course, some people will say this is the same song, 50th verse. Nicklaus has, indeed, expressed these same sentiments in the past. And, of course, the expectations are still the same this week ' he believes there is only one reason to play, and he is going to play.

My expectations are to win, Nicklaus reiterated. Ive had six years of disappointment. But I hope to win every time I play.

And, should this week be the last time he plays ' or should the next time, or the next time ' he already has his life planned out how he wants to spend his time.

I used my boat five days last year, Jack said. Id like to use it a bit more. Ive got a lot of golf course (design) work that I enjoy ' which I probably do a little better than I play golf. My boys are involved a lot in certain aspects of what Im doing. Id like to be involved with what theyre doing.

'My wife, Barbara, has spent the weekends watching me play golf. I think, somewhere in my life, it would be nice if I spent the weekend doing something shed like to do.
Related links:
  • Full-Field Scores - The ACE Group Classic

  • Full Coverage - The ACE Group Classic

  • TGC Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

    Getty Images

    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

    Getty Images

    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

    Getty Images

    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.