Excerpt from Posnanski's Nicklaus-Watson book

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 3, 2015, 3:45 pm

NBCSports.com columnist and GolfChannel.com contributor Joe Posnanski's latest book is "The Secret of Golf: The Story of Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus." It is set to be released on June 9 from Simon and Schuster. Read an excerpt of the book below and click here to read more.

From the time he was in junior high school, Jack Nicklaus had reigned supreme in Tom Watson’s mind. Nicklaus had vanquished his hero, Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus had pushed the boundaries of golf excellence. When Watson first came on the PGA Tour, Nicklaus was a faraway star playing what seemed a different game. Watson would watch him, follow him, study him. One weekend in New Orleans, he walked with the gallery after Nicklaus. “It was hard with the fans out there, and I’m trying to see what club he’s hitting off the thirteenth tee or where he’s laying up or what type of shot he’s playing. But I studied him every chance I could.”

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1114416","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","height":"364","style":"float: right; margin: 5px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"250"}}]]At the beginning of 1975, though, Watson felt ready to challenge Nicklaus. He had won a tournament. He had contended at the U.S. Open. Golfers and fans began to talk about him more and more; someone coined the phrase Watson par. A Watson par might go like this: Watson would hit a terrible drive into the woods somewhere. He often hit terrible drives then. He would smile his hard smile, find the ball behind a tree or barely visible in high grass, and hit a deft rescue shot to the fairway somewhere.

He would hit a good third shot that might stop eight or ten feet from the hole. And then he would make the putt for a par.

Watson made Watson pars so often and with such astonishing shots and putts that a little bit of a legend built up around him. There seemed no trouble he could not overcome.

“I never saw anybody—anybody—who was as positive after a bad shot as Tom Watson,” Johnny Miller said. “It was crazy, really. He just never let it bother him.”

In Augusta at the Masters, Watson got his chance to match up with Nicklaus. Tom Weiskopf, one of the fleet of “next Nicklaus” golfers who came onto the Tour, led the Masters going into Sunday. Nicklaus was a shot back; Miller was four back; Watson five. The Masters in those days mixed and matched the Sunday pairings. For some reason that neither golfer remembers, that day Watson and Nicklaus were paired, and Weiskopf and Miller played in the ground behind them. It made for great television.

Watson wasn’t a big part of the story. He played reasonably well, but Nicklaus, Weiskopf, and Miller left him behind. The CBS producer Frank Chirkinian gleefully described how the day unfolded like a perfectly structured drama. Nicklaus was the reigning king. Weiskopf was the dark and grim younger brother who longed for his moment. Miller was the blond and heroic prince making his charge. The crescendo came when Nicklaus teed off on the 16th hole. “Get up!” he shouted at the ball; he had hit a poor shot. The ball did not get up. It settled forty treacherous feet away from the cup; he would need all of his skill and nerve just to two-putt the hole.

Meanwhile, back on the 15th hole, Weiskopf and Miller were in position to make eagles or birdies and take the tournament away from Nicklaus.

After Nicklaus hit his shot, Watson played his role in the theater, plunking his tee shot in the water. He walked all the way to the green to see if his ball had crossed land; it had not. So he walked back to the tee, hit the ball again, and again hit into the water. Finally, on his third attempt, he put the ball on dry land.

Chirkinian could not believe his telecasting fortune. He did not know anything about Watson yet, but he did know that Watson’s fumbling had given Weiskopf and Miller time to hit their approach shots. This set up a remarkable television scene. The 15th green and 16th tee are only a few yards away from each other. Nicklaus would see exactly what Weiskopf and Miller did, and they would watch Nicklaus’s putt. Chirkinian built the drama by directing his camera to first show Weiskopf, then Nicklaus, then Miller. For Chirkinian it felt like the moment before a heavyweight boxing fight. Weiskopf putted first. He made his ten-foot putt to take the lead, and Chirkinian turned the camera on Nicklaus. “And that,” Ben Wright announced, “is going to be evil music ringing in Nicklaus’s ears.”

Then it was Nicklaus’s turn. ... (Click here to read more)

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”