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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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.