Notes Jack To Be Right On the Money - Literally


Jack Nicklaus has been given keys to the city, received honorary degrees and had a bronze monument erected in his honor at Augusta National. But nothing prepared him for his latest tribute.
Nicklaus will join rare company next week when the Royal Bank of Scotland issues currency with his picture. RBS will put into circulation 2 million 5-pound notes in Scotland during the British Open at St. Andrews, where Nicklaus won in 1970 and 1978.
RBS has been issuing its own bank notes since 1727, and Nicklaus will be the only living person to appear on a Scottish note besides Her Majesty the Queen and the late Queen Mother.
'That one is something I have a hard time just fathoming,' said Nicklaus, who has had an endorsement deal with RBS the last three years.
Nicklaus has said the British Open will be his last major championship, and he considers St. Andrews a second home. He speaks often of the affection the Scottish people have shown him since his first trip to the home of golf in 1964. Nicklaus is the only American to win the Open twice at St. Andrews.
'I'm an American - not a Scot or a Brit,' Nicklaus said. 'St. Andrews and Scotland ... RBS has realized that's been a special part of my life and my career, and they wanted to commemorate my last Open Championship. I thought that was just something very, very special.'
The special note will be unveiled July 12 at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
Ernie Els planned to take three weeks off before the British Open, but it was far from peaceful. He wasn't home for a week when he learned that his grandfather, Ernie Vermaak, had died at age 97.
He flew his family from London to South Africa last week for the funeral.
'It's very upsetting, obviously, but at the same time, we all want to celebrate his incredible life, which he really lived to the full,' Els said on his Web site. 'He was a great character and a big influence on all of us.'
Els' grandfather is ultimately responsible for the Big Easy taking up golf. He introduced the game to Els' father, then to Ernie and his brother. Els is building Gardener Ross Golf & Country Estate on farmland in Gauteng, South Africa, where his grandfather grew up.
It took some 30 years for Carol Semple Thompson, the Grand Dame of the USGA, to decide it was time to shift from player to captain at the Curtis Cup.
Thompson, a seven-time USGA champion who has played on a record 12 Curtis Cup teams, will be captain of the U.S. team in 2006 at Bandon Dunes in Oregon. She last played in the Curtis Cup in 2002 at age 53, when she holed a 27-foot putt on the 18th green as the United States retained the Cup.
'I think it will be very different,' she said. 'Before, I was just able to relax and think about my own game, and now I will have to think about a lot more people. But I think it's a natural progression, and I think it will be great fun. I figured someday it would come. I guess I didn't figure it would come this soon.'
She hasn't stopped playing, however.
Thompson plans to compete in the U.S. Women's Amateur next month, her 100th individual USGA competition.
Ian Baker-Finch plans to play the British Open again, just not this year.
Baker-Finch, who won at Royal Birkdale in 1991 before his game fell apart through injury and shattered confidence, hasn't played a PGA Tour event in four years. He was practicing hard earlier with plans to play Colonial, where he is a past champion, and possibly the British Open at St. Andrews.
But he was not among the 19 former champions who entered this year.
'I'm not playing well enough to go put it all on the line at this stage,' Baker-Finch said. 'My aim is to definitely do it, but I'm not going to do it until I know I can. That's my situation at the moment.'
Baker-Finch will be at St. Andrews, but only in his capacity with ABC Sports. He last played the British Open in 1997 at Royal Troon, shooting a 92 in the first round.
Europe has captured the Ryder Cup seven of the last 10 matches. Great Britain & Ireland has won the Walker Cup the last three years, its longest streak ever.
Luke Donald of England has played on two winning Walker Cup teams and one winning Ryder Cup team, and he has an idea why the Americans no longer dominate.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - and then you'll beat 'em.
Donald noted that the shift in the Walker Cup matches happened about the time more British and Irish golfers began playing college golf in the United States; Donald was the NCAA champion when he played at Northwestern. Europe's dominance in the Ryder Cup began as more of its players started spending more time on the PGA Tour.
'I think there's a strong correlation,' Donald said. 'A lot of the Ryder Cup guys play in the U.S. a lot. They're more accustomed to the U.S.-style golf courses, they're more accustomed to playing with the U.S. players, and they're no longer intimidated by them. And I think that's the same with the Walker Cup guys. They feel like they can hold their own in the U.S. college system, and they have every right to be as good as the U.S. guys.'
GB&I will go for its fourth straight Walker Cup victory next month near Chicago.
Walter Driver has been nominated to serve a one-year term as USGA president. He will be formally elected Feb. 4 at the USGA's annual meeting in Atlanta. ... Brittany Lang, the 19-year-old who tied for second in the U.S. Women's Open, will make her professional debut this week at the Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo, Ohio. She also will play next week in the Canadian Women's Open in Nova Scotia. ... Tiger Woods became the first player to go over $50 million in career earnings, which led British golf announcer Peter Aliss to say, 'Money isn't everything, but it's right up there with oxygen and food.'
Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel each finished in the top 10 at the Western Open, only their second top 10 since winning a major championship in 2003.
'I hope this sends a message to all of the European tour players, that you can win major championships not playing in America.' - U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, who said he will continue playing the majority of his golf in Europe.