Jack Ends Open Career in Style

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Spikes were still steel and woods made from wood when Jack Nicklaus commandeered golf five decades ago, playing with power and precision unlike anything the game had ever seen.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus stands on the Swilcan Bridge and waves goodbye to the Open Championship.
He bowed out of the major championships at the Old Course wearing rubber cleats and carrying a space-age driver made from titanium in his bag. But this much hadn't changed: Nicklaus remains the benchmark against which everyone else will be measured.
``People have asked me, 'What would you want to do differently?' and I can't imagine anything, frankly,'' he said, ``except have my wife dress me better than she did in 2000.''
That year's Open was actually a dress rehearsal for Friday, and apparently a bad one at that. Barbara Nicklaus has been choosing the outfits for her husband since he came out on tour and neither was happy with the way he looked in photos from what was to have been his last appearance at St. Andrews five years ago.
So this time she chose a replica of the sweater Jack wore in 1978, when he won his second British Open -- a navy blue argyle number -- and sent him on his way.
``They both said 'large' on them,'' Nicklaus explained sheepishly, ``but that was a much larger sweater than the one I wore before.''
His waist may be thicker, his blond hair thinned, and his swing an abbreviated version of what it used to be. But Nicklaus hasn't lost the ability to thrill. After an opening-round 75, he shot 72 and wound up missing the cut by two strokes. Judging by the hubbub that gripped the auld gray town, he may be the only one who cared.
Nicklaus hasn't been in contention at a major since the 1998 Masters, and if truth be told, for dozen years before that. But the reason applause rippled with every step he took is that Nicklaus never stopped caring, never stopped trying and never, ever set foot on a golf course, even at 65, when he didn't believe deep down he could win.
One hundred and sixty-four majors, 18 victories spanning a remarkable 24 years, another 19 second-place finishes, and each accomplished with more grace and character than any sportsman before or since. Saying he was an inspiration to several generations of major winners only tells the half of it.
A young Tiger Woods taped a list of Nicklaus' accomplishments to his bedroom wall and set out to check off each one. Future Masters winner and southpaw Mike Weir wrote Nicklaus when he was a teenager growing up in Canada, asking whether he should change over and try to hit the ball right-handed. Weir received a handwritten reply.
``If the greatest player of all time tells you to stick to it,'' he recalled a few years ago, ``then I was going to do it.''
Six-time major winner Nick Faldo watched flickering images of Nicklaus playing the Masters on a TV screen in England and three months shy of his 14th birthday, knew exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. His mother cut his hair like Jack's the following day and sent him off for lessons at a club outside London.
``They should make him out of gold,'' Faldo said Friday at the Old Course, ``and stick a little Jack on every tee box.''
Two-time major champion John Daly was 4 years old when he fell in love with golf and began checking the newspaper each day to keep up with a series of cartoon-style golf tips featuring Nicklaus.
``I learned the grip, the cut and the draw. And that,'' Daly recalled 35 years later, ``is how I learned to play.''
But it wasn't just champions that Nicklaus touched.
On both sides of the Atlantic, he played the leading man in the game's greatest dramas. That's why the men who run the British Open moved the tournament back to St. Andrews a year earlier than originally planned -- so Nicklaus could bow out here in the final year of his exemption. Like the rest of us, they remember his epic 1962 U.S. Open battle with Arnold Palmer at Oakmont, his 1977 ``Duel in the Sun'' with Tom Watson at Turnberry, his closing rush in the 1986 Masters at age 46. If they could, they would let him play forever.
Such miracles aren't easy to reproduce. But because Jack is who he is, no one is sure there isn't a Xerox machine tucked in one of the side pockets of that huge golf bag one of his kids is always lugging around. And in the same way that he raised his hands over the years to still cheering galleries so an opponent could putt, Nicklaus put a stop to such talk.
``If there's one person in this room who doesn't wish he could go back 20 or 30 years, I'd be very surprised,'' he said. ``But I don't want to do it again. I kind of enjoyed what I did. I don't know whether I'd be as successful today going out there or not, playing against those guys.
``I think I would,'' he added. ``That's the way I'd feel. But who knows?''
The answer is easy.
``He,'' said Woods, without wavering, ``is the greatest champion that's ever lived.''
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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

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    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”