A Farewell To Jack at Least At St Andrews
Some thought it might have happened last year at the Memorial. Nicklaus showed more emotion than usual when he made a tricky putt on the 18th hole of the final round to shoot a 1-under 71.
If that was my last round, I was very pleased with shooting under par the last round I played in a tournament, Nicklaus said that day. And if I play again, then that doesnt mean anything.
He played again at this years Masters.
Nicklaus shot 77 in the second round, missing a 4-foot birdie putt on his last hole and missing the cut by a mile. Wiping tears from his eyes as he walked off the ninth green, he said after signing his card that he was done competing at Augusta National.
I have the ability to come back, Nicklaus said. Billy Casper came back after how many years? He just wanted to come back, and he wanted to play one more round. I dont think Ill do that. But I have the right to do that.
This summer, he has no choice.
Nicklaus will play the British Open for the last time because former champions are no longer exempt beyond 65.
The Golden Bear, golfs greatest champion, thought he had said goodbye in 2000 at St. Andrews when he waved to an adoring gallery from the stone bridge over the Swilken Burn as he walked up the 18th fairway. Everyone thought they were part of a historic moment.
Ill go home and tell everybody how I saw Jack Nicklaus go over the Swilken Bridge for the last time dressed in his yellow shirt on a sunny day, said one fan, Carol Anne Doig of Canada. It doesnt get any better than that.
Jack is back.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club simply made Nicklaus an offer he couldnt refuse. St. Andrews is his favorite links course on earth, and the R&A rearranged the rotation to make sure that when Nicklaus turned 65, the British Open would be held on the Old Course.
Once again, Nicklaus will pause atop the Swilken Bridge, preferably on a Sunday, and take one last look at the Old Course where he won two claret jugs. That scene will set off enough cameras to make Prince Charles blush.
And then the guessing game will resume.
Nicklaus stopped by London on his way home from a golf course project in Spain, and he told reporters Monday that the British Open will be the end of his competitive career.
From a tournament standpoint, that will be it for me, Nicklaus said.
It wasnt clear if Nicklaus was talking about any tournament, or just major championships. He stopped playing the PGA Championship in 2000 at Valhalla (a course he designed), and even though he is exempt for life, its highly unlikely Nicklaus would take up a spot in the 156-man field.
Still to be determined is whether he plays the Masters, although signs point to him showing up only for dinner.
The emotion at Augusta National was genuine, but the circumstances were strange.
Nicklaus said he played only because Masters chairman Hootie Johnson asked him to come back and say goodbye. If that was the case, why did tournament officials have Nicklaus finish the second round at No. 9, instead of allowing for a traditional farewell on the 18th?
And then theres the Memorial.
Nicklaus created this tournament, one of the purest events on the PGA Tour, won it twice and serves as the tournament host. It has a limited field, so he is not taking a spot away from anyone.
Ill play here as long as I can play and I can contribute to the tournament, Nicklaus said last year at the Memorial. I may play here one more year or 10 more years. If Im going to play someplace, this is where Ill play.
He made the cut last year at age 64, the second-oldest player to do that in PGA Tour history. Told that Sam Snead was 67 when he made the cut at the 1979 Westchester Classic, Nicklaus joked, Ill be back when Im 68.
Nicklaus also is playing on the Champions Tour outside Kansas City, Mo., next month, but only because he designed the golf course and can play the pro-am format with his son. Already, there is talk that Kansas City might be his final appearance in the United States except for silly season events.
Nicklaus has never felt obligated to tell anyone when he will stop playing for good.
It shouldnt matter.
Ben Hogans professional career ended when he drove off in a cart at the 1971 Houston Open. Byron Nelson eased into retirement after he earned enough money to buy his ranch, and played his final Masters in 1966.
Besides, Nicklaus has never been about ceremony. R&A executive Peter Dawson was asked earlier this year whether officials planned any kind of tribute for Nicklaus playing in his final British Open.
Jack is not one for that sort of thing, Dawson said. Hed rather be treated like a competitor than a monument.
Maybe thats why Nicklaus was coy last year at the Memorial about his future in tournament golf.
Youll be in suspense, hopefully, for a lot of years, Nicklaus said. Because you never know when I might show up.
Hell be at the British Open, and then hell be gone.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”