Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus in 1957 (Bill Foley, Jack Nicklaus Museum) Getty Images

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 adversity 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 its 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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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.