Jack Grout and Jack Nicklaus in 1959 (Bill Foley, Jack Nicklaus Museum) Getty Images

Know Jack: The teacher, Jack Grout

By Mercer BaggsApril 10, 2017, 11:00 am

They describe him in simple terms, which is appropriate, because his methods were just that.

“A wonderful, quiet man,” says Jack Saeger, a long-time Jack Nicklaus friend.

“A wonderful gentleman,” says Robin Obetz, also a friend of Jack’s for over five decades.

They aren’t describing Nicklaus, but rather his teacher, Jack Grout.

John Frederick “Jack” Grout was born in 1910, in Oklahoma City. He moved to Ft. Worth, Texas in 1930 to assist his older brother, who was the head pro at Glen Garden Country Club. There, the younger Grout befriended a pair of local juniors: Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

Jack Grout played professionally for several years and had moderate success, never winning what would count as a Tour event. In ’37, he moved to Hershey, Pa., to work as an assistant to Henry Picard at Hershey Country Club. He furthered his knowledge of the swing, learning from Picard, who had learned from Alex Morrison.

In 1950, he took the head pro job at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. It was there, while recruiting kids for a junior clinic, he told Charlie Nicklaus to bring his boy.

Jack N. met Jack G. when he was 10 years old. He had just started the game after his father gained membership at Scioto and moved the family within walking distance of the course.

Kaye Kessler was a sports writer for the Columbus Citizen, at the time. He took a photograph of that group of kids and was later contacted by Grout.

Jack: A collection of Nicklaus stories

“You remember the group we had together when you first came out? Well, we have a boy in this class shoot 51 on our first nine hole,” Grout told Kessler.

“Who?” responded Kessler.

“A boy named Jack Nicklaus.”

Kessler put a blub in the paper about him, the first time Jackie Boy, as Grout called him, made the press.

Grout became Nicklaus’ first and only teacher. Even when Nicklaus attended Ohio State University, head coach Bob Keppler had no intention of instructing him.

“He says, ‘I’m not Jack’s coach. Jack Grout is Jack’s coach,’” Kessler says Keppler told him.

Grout had a simple philosophy, based on six fundamentals: Good grip, set up correctly, steady head, proper footwork, full extension and quiet hands.

“The members used to say, ‘Mr. Grout, you’re just gonna ruin that boy the way you’re letting him swing,'" Kessler says. "And Grout just said, ‘Don’t worry about that. We gotta let Jackie Boy stretch those muscles while he’s young. When he gets them stretched where he oughta be, we’ll reign him in.”

“He wouldn’t let me take my heels off the ground for the first year I played golf,” says Nicklaus. “You learn how to roll your ankles, learn how to shift your weight, learn how to release the club. Teachings of Alex Morrison.”

Grout stayed at Scioto until 1961, when he moved to Miami, Fla., to take the head pro job at La Gorce Country Club. But he always remained by Nicklaus’ side, if not literally.

“I probably would never have seen him more than two times a year, maybe three dead max,” Nicklaus said. “Jack taught me to be responsible for my own swing.”

It’s a far cry from what you see in modern times.

“Not once did he ever step on the practice tee at a golf tournament,” Nicklaus says. “I think what happens today on tour is ridiculous.

“The coach is not out there on the golf course with you when you’re in the middle of a competition on the 13th hole and you’re having a problem and you gotta figure out how to finish that golf tournament. You gotta be able to do that yourself.”

Nicklaus would begin each season with a short session with Grout. They’d go over the fundamentals, make sure Nicklaus was comfortable and on track. Then it was up to Jack, the student.

“Jack Grout would be more of Jack’s eyes. He could see, yes, this is where you need to be. No, this isn’t where you need to be. He always taught him how to fix his swing under pressure,” instructor Butch Harmon says. “He gave him a better understanding of when he hit a bad shot or why he hit it, and what he had to do to correct it.”

And, from the time Jack was boy, Grout helped shaped Nicklaus’ swing, not alter it – flying right elbow and all.

“I think if he had changed Jack’s swing, the flying right elbow that we know, we might never have heard of Jack Nicklaus,” instructor David Leadbetter says.

In 1974, Grout went back to Ohio to accept a pro emeritus position at Muirfield Golf Club, which would eventually host Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. He’d travel back to Florida in the winter time and do some teaching there, as well.

Nicklaus wasn’t Grout’s only Hall of Fame pupil – Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw, among other notables –  just the one for which he will always be associated.

Grout died in 1989 at age 79.

“I came along at the right time for him and he came along at the right time for me,” Nicklaus says.

“He loved me and I loved him.”

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the trophy was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.