Nicklaus Says Woods Turnaround is Near

By Randall MellMarch 3, 2011, 3:23 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – So Bobby Jones is giving advice to a young Jack Nicklaus . . .

They’re huddled together in an Augusta National cabin, back when Nicklaus was 19. The greatest player who ever lived is sharing his wisdom with the young man who will succeed him. They’re talking about the golf swing, about slumps, about fixing flaws.

The image this conjures makes you straighten your back and creep to the edge of your seat in the interview room at the Honda Classic.

It’s a couple hours before his pro-am tee time, but Nicklaus has transported himself back to his terrific moment with Jones. His eyes are far away, seeing Jones in that cabin, hearing Jones tell him about his “seven lean years” from ages 14 to 21. Jones is telling Nicklaus that part of his problem was that he was relying way too much on his instructor, Stewart Maiden. He is telling Nicklaus that in his struggles he kept running back to Maiden for help.

“Until he taught me not to run back to him, when I learned that, then I became a great golfer,” Jones told Nicklaus.

Nicklaus had the same swing coach (Jack Grout) his entire life, but he believes today’s players rely too heavily on their coaches when their games go awry.

“A lot of times, guys run back to their swing coach too much,” Nicklaus said. 

Listening to Nicklaus Wednesday, you wonder what he would tell Tiger Woods today if they were to huddle in some cabin at Augusta National. Because, according to Nicklaus, he’s hardly talked to Woods in the last year. They had a brief conversation at the Memorial almost 10 months ago, another conversation at last year’s Masters, but that’s it.

If Nicklaus, 71, were to huddle with Woods, you wonder if he’d channel Bobby Jones for him. We’ve heard Nicklaus do that before.

“He plays a game with which I’m not familiar,” Jones said after Nicklaus won his second Masters in 1965 by a whopping nine shots.

Three decades later, Nicklaus would use those same words to describe Woods’ game.

Nicklaus still believes in Woods’ game.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t bounced back by now,” Nicklaus said. “I think he’s got a great work ethic, or, at least he did. I assume he still does. I haven’t seen him practice for a long time, but he’s got such a great work ethic. He’s so determined in what he wants to do. I’m very surprised he hasn’t popped back.

“I still think he’ll break my record.”

Woods, 35, has won 14 professional major championships, four short of Nicklaus’ record.

Nicklaus won his 13th and 14th majors when he was 35.

Like Woods, Nicklaus said he changed his swing more than once in his career.

“I made changes constantly in my swing,” Nicklaus said. “If you don’t make changes, you don’t improve, I don’t care who you are, because your body continually changes. My body at 46 was certainly different than it was at 25 and 35, as Tiger’s body is a lot different than it was at 25.”

And like Woods, Nicklaus went through a major slump.

“Jack Grout, who worked with me from 1950 through 1989, until he passed away, never set one foot on a practice tee [during a tournament], ever,” Nicklaus said. “He came to a lot of tournaments. You never saw him on the practice tee. He taught me to be able to make my own changes, make my own adjustments . . . so I could understand how to play the game. That was the important thing, that I knew how to play the game.

“Grout tried to teach that to me from the inception. He was familiar with what Jones had done.”

Nicklaus, it should be pointed out, wasn’t speaking directly about Woods’ swing changes, but generally about swing changes.

Speaking directly about Woods, Nicklaus believes a stabilizing atmosphere in the wake of Woods’ divorce should help him. He seemed pleased to hear that Elin Woods, who divorced Woods in the wake of his sex scandal, is seeking a home near Woods’ new Jupiter Island home in South Florida so their children will be near their father.

“I know he’s spending time with his kids,” Nicklaus said. “He got maybe off track, but I think he’s really a principled kid. Did he have some waywardness? Yes. But are we all perfect? No.”

Nicklaus said he found new motivation playing for his children in his 30s. Still dominant late into his 30s, Nicklaus endured the worst slump of his career at 39. His confidence bottomed out in 1979, his first winless season as a pro.

“No question about that,” said Nicklaus, who plummeted to 71st on the PGA Tour money list that year. “You had to really fall down pretty bad to get that far down [the money list] in those days.”

After amassing 65 PGA Tour victories in 17 seasons as a pro, Woods lost his swing. He said his swing became too vertical. He lost power, started hitting weak pop-up shots. He was unable to hit penetrating shots into wind, and his short game, never a strength, was awful.

So Nicklaus decided at the end of ‘79 to put his clubs away for almost four months before rebuilding his swing from scratch. He huddled with Grout at the start of the ’80 season.

“I said, `OK, let’s start over,’” Nicklaus said. “We started with grip, stance, posture, everything. But the biggest thing we started out with was to shallow my arc.”

Nicklaus says he’s waiting for Woods to have that special moment that brings him back, the way Nicklaus snapped out of his slump in the summer of ‘80. Nicklaus came out of his funk at a major when he won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol. He had won the U.S. Open there in ’67, breaking Ben Hogan’s 72-hole scoring record.

“I wasn’t very happy going to the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “But you just keep working at it, and you keep doing things, and all of a sudden, something kicks in. I think that’s what will happen with Tiger.”

Nicklaus believes his short-game work with Phil Rodgers helped him snap out of his slump. He also thinks something about Baltusrol, where he had success before, also helped revived him.

“I shot 63 in the first round and missed a little putt for 62 on the last hole,” Nicklaus said. “All of a sudden, I said, `Hey, maybe this is my time to start doing it the right way again.’ All of a sudden your mind turns around.”

Nicklaus went on to set the U.S. Open scoring record yet again and win the PGA Championship at Oak Hill later that summer. He believes something similar will spark a turnaround in Woods.


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm