Jack Nicklaus said goodbye to competitive golf in the United States on Friday as he posted a 5-over 77. He finished two rounds at his tournament at 8-over-par 152.
He nearly holed a long birdie putt on the last hole, but the ball hung on the edge. Nicklaus marked his ball, allowing playing partners David Toms and Ernie Els to finish the hole. He tapped in for par, then left to thunderous applause.
Nicklaus indicated that the British Open next month at St. Andrews would be his final competitive tournament. He said he might play the Memorial or an occasional Skins Game or Father/Son tournament on the Champions Tour in the future.
'I've got a lot of nostalgia and I'm very sentimental and I'm very much that way, but I try not to be that way,' admitted Nicklaus. 'I try when I'm out there to go play golf. That's what I'm out there for.
'I guess it's not very exciting when you've got somebody shooting 152, so I'll get off the stage and wait for a golfer to come along.'
Sluman, who served as Nicklaus' assistant captain at the last Presidents Cup, is that golfer.
He opened Thursday with a 7-under-par 65, but failed to generate the same magic on Friday.
Sluman drained a 30-footer for birdie at the fifth, then dropped his first shot of the tournament at No. 8. He made eight consecutive pars until an errant iron shot at the par-4 17th.
The 1988 PGA champion chipped in from off the green for a birdie and sole possession of the lead at minus-8. Sluman two-putted from 40 feet at the last to take his first 36-hole lead on tour since last year's Chrysler Championship.
'I felt certainly better over the ball, but quite candidly, some shots I just didn't get it as close as you need to out there,' said Sluman, who is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. 'I hit a tremendous amount of good putts that didn't go in, but I think everybody does that here, as good as the greens are.'
Woods, a three-time winner at Muirfield, flew out of the gate on Friday. He broke into red figures with a short birdie putt at the second, then added another birdie from 15 feet at the fourth. Woods made it two in a row as his 12-foot eagle try at five narrowly missed and he tapped in for the birdie.
At the seventh, Woods rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt. He recorded a pair of nice par saves at nine and 10, then knocked his third at the par-5 11th to tap-in range. That birdie tied Woods for the lead with Sluman, but problems arose for the No. 2 player in the world.
At the par-4 17th, Woods mis-hit a 3-wood off the tee and left himself with a 211-yard approach. That sailed left of the green and he pitched 10 feet right of the hole. His par putt missed right and Woods fell into a tie for second.
'I made a nice little birdie on 11 and from there, the brakes were on. For some reason, I just didn't get it going coming in,' said Woods, who is starting a new consecutive cuts made streak after his record run of 142 ended two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson Championship. 'Overall, I'm very pleased. I'm only one back.'
Fred Couples fired a 5-under 67 on Friday and is tied for seventh place with Tim Herron (70), Bart Bryant (69), Steve Flesch (69) and Stewart Cink (69). That group is knotted at minus-6.
Defending champion Els shot a 1-under 71 and is tied for 52nd place at even-par 144.
Nicklaus was not the only big name to miss the cut, which came at 2-over-par 146. World No. 1 Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Mike Weir all came in at 7-over-par 151 and will miss the weekend.