Nicklaus' opinions transcend his 18 majors

By Jason SobelMay 30, 2012, 6:23 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – This may qualify as the ultimate exercise in futility, but give it the proverbial old college try anyway.

I want you to think about Jack Nicklaus. Picture that pronounced brow supporting his famously flaxen hair, his shoulders slightly hunched as if he's forever prepared to sink another 10-footer.

Now think about him as just another guy. Forget the 18 major championships. Disconnect him as the face of the game for the past half-century.

See, I told you it wouldn't be easy.

Photos: Jack Nicklaus through the years

There's method behind this madness, though. Strip down the man to his very core, just as a fellow golfer, not as 'Jack Nicklaus, greatest golfer of all-time,' and you'll find his ideas on everything from golf course architecture to the state of the PGA Tour to growing the game at its grassroots level contain as much as, if not more, validity than any others that dot the fairways and greens-covered landscape.

This is hardly a revolutionary discovery. Nicklaus has always been a thinking man’s golfer, remaining in touch with the game long past the end of his playing days. It is relevant in today’s age, though, during which a celebrity’s opinions are often valued for the sole reason of celebrity.

It’s the rationale behind why Britney Spears can be queried about the upcoming presidential election or Justin Bieber asked to summarize his thoughts on the federal deficit. These are fruitless, futile attempts to extract meaningless opinion from a source simply because the source is given a platform.

In golf’s little corner of the world, it still happens – albeit to a much lesser extent. As soon as a pro wins a major championship, he’s expected to serve as an expert on all aspects of the game, his voice instantly granted greater reverence based simply on the accomplishment.

Nicklaus is the rare figure whose accomplishments create that platform, but for whom the spotlight is unquestionably appropriate. Think of it this way: If he had never won a single major title, his thoughts on the game would be less publicized, but no less justified or legitimate.

On Wednesday, Nicklaus spent over an hour lavishing these thoughts upon reporters in advance of his Memorial Tournament, producing hypotheses on a wide range of hot-button issues surrounding the game.

On slow play at the amateur level, he claimed, “The major problem is becoming for the average recreational golfer because today is not a four-and-a-half, four-hour time to play golf. This is in the computer age, kids want to do things in two-and-a-half, three hours at dead max. … The game for the average golfer needs to be faster, take less time, needs to be cheaper, and needs to be easier. Those are contradictory to the Tour.”

Maybe that’s not the most unconventional take on the topic, but there aren’t many well-known figures who would impugn their own reputation as part of the problem.

“I'm probably as much a culprit as anybody,” he continued. “We do a golf course and most people will say, ‘Jack, we want to have a chance to maybe someday play a PGA or a U.S. Open on this golf course.’ Well, I've got to do a golf course that's going to fit that level. Well, the average golfer can't play that golf course because it's just too darned difficult. But if we play the golf course at a length they can play it, then maybe it's not so bad.”

Astute opinions such as those extend to so many other areas, as well.

Much of that stems from his position in the game as more than just a legendary former player and current spokesman. Nicklaus has personally had a hand in designing 289 courses in 34 countries, expanding his expertise on the subject of course design.

“I’m not a fan of hacking the ball out of the rough; never have been,” he stated. “I don’t think that’s exciting golf. Then again, I think the rough should be a penalty. I mean, there’s a combination there somewhere. I think a guy in the rough, I think you give him a half a shot at what he needs to do. Arnold made his name at recovering. That was the excitement of Arnold Palmer playing golf.”

Nicklaus turned professional in 1961 and famously won the Masters a quarter-century later at the age of 46. His career spanned an era that started with professionals driving from tournament to tournament, with only the best of the best able to earn an acceptable living; it continued into a time with them ushered in private jets, competing for millions of dollars every single week.

It’s enough to leave a player of the previous generation telling plenty of “walking uphill 10 miles in the snow” types of stories, but Nicklaus has an uncanny ability to relate today’s players to those of his heyday without condemning the current crop.

Asked about the elite players competing on seemingly limited schedules, he contended, “It's always been hard to get the top players. I mean, how many times do you think that I got yelled at by sponsors and everything? … I started playing about 21 or 22 tournaments a year, and I think that's about what the guys are going to play today.”

Jack Nicklaus is often queried for his thoughts on so many aspects of the game for the simple fact that he’s Jack Nicklaus. It makes sense. The name alone carries a hefty weight, his accomplishments justification enough to seek his opinion.

We should pay attention, though, for myriad other reasons. Throughout his years in the game, he remains thoughtful, observant and intelligent. They are qualities which lend more credence to his beliefs than his major championship record – and the reason why when Nicklaus speaks, the rest of us continue to listen.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.