Nicklaus still believes Woods will break his record

By Joe PosnanskiAugust 6, 2014, 7:14 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jack Nicklaus has never veered from one simple opinion: Tiger Woods is going to break his major championship record. He has said so repeatedly. In the mid-2000s, when Woods was collecting major championships like dust, it seemed obvious – back then just about everybody thought Woods would not only set the record but would blow past Nicklaus’ 18 majors and put it miles and miles in his rear-view mirror. How many could he win? Twenty-five? Thirty? More? It all seemed possible.

But then things began to slow down. Woods badly hurt his knee. He came back and did the unthinkable – lost a head-to-head fourth-round duel with Y.E. Yang. Then, there was the tabloid fiasco, the apology, the sluggish play, the swing changes, the constant injuries.

All along the way, though, Jack Nicklaus continued to insist that Woods will break his record.

And he does so still.

“I think the guy is just too good,” he said. “I don't know what is happening between his ears right now … somebody said the other day that they think he has the yips with the driver, and I think that is a pretty good assessment. I had never heard of that, but if you get it in your head that you can’t hit a driver in the fairway, you aren't going to hit it in the fairway very much.

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“Still, I thought that his swing in the first round of the British Open was very good. I thought he came back, and it was much more level, I thought his tempo was much better. … I just think he’s too talented, too focused, to not do it.”

Now, it is true Nicklaus said this a couple of days before Woods hurt himself again at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But it’s too easy to get swayed by today’s news. It’s just one week, one major, one point in time. This actually was one of Nicklaus’ great gifts as a golfer – he did not get swayed because one challenger had a birdie run or another seemed to be collapsing. Steady. Long view. That was Jack.

And so even though it looks bleak to others … he still thinks Woods will break the record.

“I really do,” he says.

Now, I should mention this - I told Nicklaus that I don’t think Woods will break the record. I don’t think he will tie the record, either. I haven’t thought Woods was going to break the record for a few years now. For me, it comes down to simple math.

• Tiger Woods needs five more majors to pass Nicklaus.

• He’s turning 39 this year.

• In the last 50 years, only eight golfers other than Woods have won five majors in their entire careers. None of them, not even Nicklaus himself, won five majors after turning 38.

So that seems obvious to me. But here’s the obvious thing: Nicklaus knows infinitely more about this than I do. And he is adamant. Nicklaus is not necessarily close to Woods, but they are deeply connected. They played golf on a different plane. They won by making fewer mistakes – mental mistakes, physical mistakes, emotional mistakes – than anybody else.

And so Nicklaus understands Woods. He understands the force Tiger Woods displayed winning that U.S. Open on one leg or steadying himself to beat Bob May in that PGA Championship playoff or winning that Masters to complete the Tiger Slam when everyone expected him to win. He understands where Woods’ mind goes in those big moments when a tournament is won and lost, where his mind goes when the pressure is dense and the mind and body are prone to making mistakes.

“He still has that focus and he still has that drive,” Nicklaus says. “I think that’s what it takes.”

Oh, Nicklaus doesn’t think it will be easy for Woods to win five more – he actually thinks it will be more difficult to win his next one than it was to win any of the previous 14. This is because he really likes the young group of players coming up.

“I think there is some pretty good competition on the Tour, better than it has been for a long time,” Nicklaus says. “You’ve got some guys who can really play. Rory (McIlroy) is the real thing, he’s a really good player. You’ve got Jason Day – I think he’s capable of being a very good player. … Rickie (Fowler) hasn’t won very much yet but he’s right there. … (Jordan) Spieth is getting better. You have a bunch of good young players. And each major that passes does make it harder for Tiger to do.”

The competition question is interesting. Everyone has pointed out – and Nicklaus is quick to agree with this point – that Woods won his 14 majors against a much deeper pool of good players. There are probably 40 or 50 players capable this week of playing well enough to win, way more than in Nicklaus’ day.

But Nicklaus does believe firmly that with only a handful of exceptions, Woods did not face nearly as many great golfers as he contended with.

“Tiger has had a whole bunch of guys who would give it away,” he says. “And it’s not his fault, but I had (Arnold) Palmer, (Gary) Player, (Lee) Trevino, (Tom) Watson, (Johnny) Miller, (Tom) Weiskopf, (Billy) Casper. Those guys weren't going to give it away.  … If you slipped, you looked at that leaderboard. And if I saw those names on that leaderboard I knew that they weren't going to make many mistakes so I couldn't make many mistakes. But if I saw some other name - Jones, Smith, whatever - up there on the leaderboard, then I said ‘Don't get yourself in trouble and do anything stupid and you are going to win a golf tournament.  Because they will self-destruct.’

“When Tiger was probably 28 or 29, he was the only golfer under 30 who had won more than one tournament. … Again, it’s not his fault. He took advantage of his circumstances.”

So, Nicklaus does think it will be much tougher for Woods against this talented new group of players who did not grow up losing to Woods but, instead, grew up watching him on television and being inspired by him. Nicklaus also knows it will be tougher the older Woods gets.

And he still thinks Woods will break the record.

“I really do,” he says. “I’ve always said, ‘I think he’s going to do it but he’s got to go out and actually do it.’ And that’s still true. But I really think he will.”

He does his own math on this. Nicklaus thinks Woods, assuming he can be healthy again (and doesn’t rashly try to come back when he’s not ready), should be good enough to contend in majors for another decade. That’s 40 majors. Nicklaus simply thinks he’s so mentally tough, so smart a golfer, and so hungry to win that he will win five of them.

Well, it’s a fascinating viewpoint. Nicklaus has watched Woods more or less from the beginning. He played a practice round with a young Woods and was so blown away he predicted that Tiger would win as many Masters as he and Palmer won combined (that’s 10 green jackets). He has marveled at Woods’ all-around game, his brilliance around the greens, his fantastic pressure putting. He has identified with Woods’ stunning patience – Woods almost never did anything reckless when trying to win a golf tournament. He understood the moment better than other golfers did. That was Nicklaus, too.

And so, after seeing all that, Nicklaus still thinks Woods will win those majors and break the record. Of course, Nicklaus is a class act too and so he would probably say that even if he didn’t mean it.

“Well, let me put it this way - I would be a pretty big jerk if I turned around and said I didn't think he could do it,” Nicklaus says, and he laughs. “But honestly, in my own mind, I believe he will.”

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PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.