DUBLIN, Ohio – The best part of Memorial week isn’t Sunday’s finish, although Muirfield Village’s closing stretch rarely disappoints, or a limited field or even the Buckeye milkshakes served in the clubhouse.
For those with even the faintest interest in golf’s past, the best part of Memorial week is host Jack Nicklaus’ annual “State of the Golden Bear” press conference on Wednesday, and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint.
Among the topics Nicklaus covered was the massive clubhouse remodeling, which included the addition of a two-story suite structure behind the 18th green, the upcoming U.S. Open at Merion – where he famously lost the 1971 championship in a Monday playoff to Lee Trevino – and the contentious cloud that has gathered around golf in recent months.
Most interesting may have been his take on the litany of controversies that have engulfed the game (from Vijay Singh’s run-in with the Tour’s anti-doping program and his subsequent lawsuit to the Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods’ public disagreement at The Players: “The Sergio/Tiger thing is stupid. ... Today you are in a fishbowl.”
On the idea that players will drastically dial back their games to play Merion: “If they are only going to use (driver) two or three times (per round) they aren’t going to win the golf tournament.”
On what he expects at next month’s Open: “Merion will do very well for the U.S. Open. They are going to have some holes where they will abuse the golf course a little bit and a couple of holes that will abuse them.”
On the ’71 U.S. Open: “I lost. Outside of catching a snake (on the first playoff hole from Trevino), I don’t remember much else.”
On Woods’ tee shot at the 16th hole during last year’s final round on his way to victory: “As fine a golf shot as I’ve seen in a long, long time.”