Know Jack: Mr. Jones and me

By Mercer BaggsApril 4, 2017, 2:30 pm

When Jack Nicklaus’ father was 12, he went to Scioto Country Club to watch Bobby Jones compete in – and win – the 1926 U.S. Open.

Five years later, the Ryder Cup was held at Scioto. Charlie Nicklaus was hanging out in the parking lot when someone yelled, “Hey, Mr. Jones!”

“He mistook my dad for Jones,” Jack Nicklaus says. “They looked alike and parted their hair the same way.”

The mistaken man took Charlie into the Scioto clubhouse, until they figured out who he was – or wasn’t.

“That he was mistaken for Jones, that just made my dad like him even more,” Jack says.

Charlie Nicklaus was long enamored with Jones and that appreciation extended to his son. Jack first met Jones when he was 15, at the Country Club of Virginia, site of the 1955 U.S. Amateur. He was playing in a practice round, when he laced a 3-wood into a howling wind that finished on the par-4 18th green.

Walking toward the green, he could see a man in a cart but didn’t recognize him. He only knew what the younger version of Jones looked like.

“I walked off and someone said, ‘Mr. Jones would like to meet you,’” Jack says.

“Young man, I’ve been sitting here for a couple of hours and you’re only the third person to reach this green in two. Congratulations,” Jones said.

“Thank you, Mr. Jones,” Nicklaus replied.

And that was that.

Jack: A collection of Nicklaus stories

Jack lost in the first round that week to Bob Gardner, 1 down.

“I had Bob 1 down after 10 holes. I hadn’t seen Bob Jones. But all of a sudden, down the 10th fairway comes this cart. And I proceed to go bogey-bogey-double bogey, lose all three holes. Bob Jones turns to my dad and says, ‘Charlie, I don’t think I’m doing Jack much good. I’m going to get out of here,'” Nicklaus says.

The two next encountered in 1957 at a junior event sponsored by Coca-Cola, of which Jones had a financial interest. He presented the trophy to Jack that week and they talked a little about him one day playing in the Masters.

Two years later, Nicklaus qualified.

“There was a little note in my locker and it said, ‘Jack, I’d like to invite you and your father down to the cabin and say hello,’” Nicklaus says.

A similar note was in Jack’s locker every year. They’d talk about Jones’ game and how he grew up, his relationship with his coach, Sterling Maiden. They discussed sportsmanship, how to handle advesity and how to play the game at a championship level.

“I learned an awful lot from Jones,” Nicklaus says.

Jack turned professional on Nov. 7, 1961.

A day later, he got a letter from Jones encouraging him to stay an amateur.

“Bob Jones had always been his idol,” Barbara Nicklaus, Jack's wife, says. “I think in his mind, he wanted to stay an amateur just because he adored Bob Jones. But we were married. He was trying to sell insurance, go to school and play golf. And not doing any to the best of what he thought his abilities was.

“We talked it over and he said, ‘You know, if I want to be the best, I need to play with the best.’”

Jones, at the time, held the record for most major titles won – 13, including his U.S. and British amateur championships. Nicklaus started his professional career with two U.S. Am titles, which in those days carried major weight.

Nicklaus says he eyed Jones’ record, but was never driven by it. He said it wasn’t until Associated Press writer Bob Green mentioned he was only three back following his 1970 Open victory, that he began to think about it.

Nicklaus passed Jones when he won his 14th major – pro and am – at the 1973 PGA Championship. Of course, Jack’s total is now believed 18, rather than 20, as many no longer consider Nicklaus’ two U.S. Am victories worthy of major status.

Whether 18 or 20, the record is now – and may forever be – Jack’s.

Bob Jones died on Dec. 18, 1971, less than two years after Charlie Nicklaus died of pancreatic cancer.

The 1972 Masters was the first held without it’s co-founder. Jack, winless at Augusta since 1966, captured his third green jacket that year.

“When I was growing up at Scioto, it was always, ‘Bob Jones hit it here on this hole. Bob Jones hit it here. Bob did this. Bob did that,” Nicklaus says.

“When he passed, well, I missed my visit down with him [in the Jones Cabin]. It was a big empty hole for the week. I enjoyed our conversation. I always enjoyed being with him.

“He was a great guy and I always walked away learning something. I was a big fan. He was my idol.”

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.