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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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."

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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."

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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."

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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.