Golden Moments With the Bear

By Rich LernerMarch 4, 2010, 11:36 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – We all marvel at the extraordinary achievements of great golfers like Jack Nicklaus. I could watch the ’86 Masters every day and never get bored.

But I also love the ordinary moments that remind us that the immortals are just men, and as reporters we’re privileged to catch those rare glimpses that allow us to see that.

I walked into the locker room at PGA National at 6 p.m. Wednesday night. Jack was lying on his back on the carpeted floor with his feet on a bench, rolling from left to right, right to left, letting out a slight groan as he worked out the kinks in his back. His eyes were closed.

After a few minutes he got up and squatted with his back pressed straight against a wooden locker.

“Saw you finished birdie, birdie,” I said.

“Yeah, how ‘bout that?” he said with a chuckle. Jack’s a very agreeable legend, easy to be around at 70. He makes you feel like a son who’s come home to visit.

He’d just come off the course he designed after a pro-am round with Drew Brees, Dan Marino and Kenny G. A lot of records set and sold in that foursome.

Jack fully expects his to be under assault in the next month. “I’d be surprised greatly if Tiger (Woods) didn’t play the Masters,” he said. “Because he’s a golfer, and a darned good one.”

While one theory says that Tiger needs to demonstrate that his marriage is more important than a major by skipping the Masters, another says that when an accountant or nurse or lawyer comes out of rehab they make their amends and go back to work. So why should Tiger be any different?

“His personal life is his personal life,” Jack said. “He’ll figure out his own problems. And as a golfer he’ll come back and get his game in shape and play. That’s what he does.”

Jack also believes that Tiger will need a tune up before the Masters.

While we talked, the television mounted just above where Jack was standing was tuned to ESPN. The anchors were talking about Tiger. Jack’s never seemed to mind the specter of Tiger looming over his shoulder.

Jack has often said that Tiger’s chase for 18 has been great for him because it’s kept his name alive for 15 years. Every time Tiger tees it up at a major we talk about his quest for Jack’s record.

I wonder if fans want Tiger to break it, or do they hope the record stays in Jack’s hands?

At this point, Paul Goydos popped in.

“I’ll never be as good as you are now,” said Goydos to Jack, and they laughed.

The subject turned to Tom Watson.

“I thought it was condescending to say that Watson winning the Open at Turnberry would have been the greatest upset in history,” Goydos said. “Me winning the Open would’ve been the greatest upset.

“My point is that Watson’s still so good that if he grinded out 25 events on the regular Tour I think he could win.’

Said Nicklaus: “There’s no question he’s good enough to win.”

After Goydos left, Jack and I talked football. His grandson Nick is a 6’4” high school junior being recruited by nearly every major power including USC.

“I haven’t missed any games,” Jack said.

I was then curious about the times before the 1986 Masters when he felt the love of the crowd most intensely.

“The 1972 British Open was unbelievable,” he said, his face lighting up at the thought. “I’d won the first two majors of the year and was making a big charge on the final day at Muirfield.

“I shot 30 on the front nine, made par at 10 and then stiffed my second shot at 11. As we’re walking up to green at 11 they’re absolutely going wild. I had tears running down my face. My caddie turned to me and said, ‘Hey man you got some holes to play.’”

Jack lost to Trevino by a shot.

He’s not lost his touch with the press. Just after his round and before coming to the locker room he also held court. “It was a Hall of Fame interview,” remarked colleague Craig Dolch. “Jack understands that you have to give a little. He always has.”

Will Tiger come to understand that? Will he feel what Jack felt at Muirfield in ’72? Will he be an honorary starter at the Masters years from now?

Jack will be at Augusta in that role for the first time this April, alongside his old friend and rival, Arnold Palmer. “I’ll have dinner, play nine holes at the par 3 and then hit a tee shot,” he said with a smile.

And he’ll make that day a better one for those who love the game, just as he did a wind-swept Wednesday in South Florida.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: