A Major Send-Off for Nicklaus

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Of all the moments that have defined the incomparable career of Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the most shocking display of emotion showed just how much he loves St. Andrews.
 
His idol, Bobby Jones, always said that a great career was not complete without winning the British Open at the home of golf, and Nicklaus was desperate to capture the claret jug on the Old Course. He had a one-shot lead over Doug Sanders on the final hole of the 1970 playoff when Nicklaus smashed his drive over the 18th green.
 
Sanders played a bump-and-run to 5 feet, and Nicklaus chipped down to 8 feet. He crouched over the birdie putt, frozen until he was ready, then watched the ball curl in the right side of the cup.
 
Nicklaus is famous for raising his left hand and the putter when he makes a crucial putt.
 
This one was much bigger. He thrust his arm skyward and leapt with such force that his putter went airborne, causing Sanders to duck.
 
``I had never shown emotion like that before, and it was totally out of character,'' Nicklaus later said. ``But then, I had never before won the oldest golf championship in the world at the cradle and home of the game.''
 
It wasn't the only time he lost control on the Old Course.
 
Leading by two shots playing the 18th hole in 1978, tears began to fill his eyes as he walked toward the green and saw thousands of fans lining the fairways and crammed into balconies. His caddie, Jimmy Dickinson, had to jab him in the ribs to remind him there was still some golf left before he held the claret jug.
 
Nick Price remembers that moment. He was 21, playing in his second British Open, and had finished in a tie for 39th about two hours earlier. Price stuck around, wanting to watch Nicklaus finish.
 
``When he walked off the 18th green, there was a tear in his eye,'' Price said. ``I thought, 'Why is he crying? Why is he so emotional?' Only after a period of 15 years playing in the Open championship do you realize how special St. Andrews is. I understand very well now why he was so emotional about it.''
 
The most poignant moment awaits.
 
Sometime next week -- possibly on Friday, preferably on Sunday -- Nicklaus will cross the Swilcan Bridge down the 18th fairway at St. Andrews and wave goodbye to the greatest championship career golf has ever seen. He has said the 134th British Open will be his final appearance at a major.
 
Nicklaus can think of no better place to end his career.
 
``The reception every time I've ever played in Scotland, the people have always accepted me as I went around,'' Nicklaus said. ``It's been fun, a great experience for me every time I've gone there. I thought that was my place to want to finish up playing golf.''
 
Nicklaus calls himself a sentimental fool and expects emotions he has never felt before. He was in St. Andrews two months ago and walked onto the first tee and over toward the 18th green, breathing the wind off St. Andrews Bay and seeing the hotels and shops lining the tiny street next to the fairway.
 
Even then, his eyes welled up with tears.
 
``It just sort of gets me every time I go there,'' Nicklaus said. ``Just because what it has meant to the game of golf, and what it has meant to me.''
 
Tiger Woods is pursuing Nicklaus' benchmark of 18 professional majors, and might one day catch him. Still, it is difficult to conceive of another player dominating the four Grand Slam events the way Nicklaus did.
 
Only four other men have won all four professional majors -- the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Nicklaus is the only one to have captured them all at least three times.
 
``He always showed up with the intent of winning,'' Woods said.
 
This will be his 164th start in a major, including 146 in a row from the 1962 Masters through the 1998 U.S. Open. And while his 18 majors define his career, even more staggering is that Nicklaus was a runner-up 19 times.
 
``He made it special, the way he played the game,'' Scott Hoch said. ``If he can't compete, then it's not worth playing for him. Jack is all about competition, and that's the way a warrior should be.''
 
Nicklaus is eligible to play the Masters as long as he likes, although he said in April he would no longer compete at Augusta National. Those close to Nicklaus do not expect him to change his mind next year.
 
As a former British Open champion, he is eligible to play until he is 65. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club recognized this was his last year of eligibility, so it changed the rotation to make St. Andrews the host course in 2005, one year ahead of schedule. But there are no tributes planned to mark Nicklaus' farewell.
 
``Jack is not one for that sort of thing,'' R&A executive Peter Dawson said earlier this year. ``He'd rather be treated like a competitor than a monument.''
 
In some ways, it is fitting that Nicklaus go out at the British Open.
 
He has won the Masters (six times), the U.S. Open (four times) and the PGA Championship (five times) as often as any other player, while 10 players have won more than his three British Open titles.
 
Even so, his performance at golf's oldest championship reveals a record that is unrivaled.
 
Not only was he a seven-time runner-up, Nicklaus went through a 15-year stretch in which he never finished worse than a tie for sixth in the British Open.
 
``For some reason, I went to the British Open and every year I felt like I was going to win; or if I didn't win, I was going to be right there. And I was,'' Nicklaus said. ``I just like the way they played the game.''
 
Nicklaus stopped playing a full schedule in 2000, the last time he played all four majors. He has made the cut only twice on the PGA Tour since then, both times at the Memorial.
 
But he has high hopes for St. Andrews. Even though Nicklaus introduced power to the modern game, the Old Course is a links course that doesn't demand strength to keep up with kids half his age.
 
``Realistically, I could do fairly well at St. Andrews,'' Nicklaus said. ``That's what I'd like to do.''
 
What motivates him to play well at St. Andrews, and why he wants to end his major championship career at the home of golf, are the people that come to watch him play. They appreciate good golf shots, not just big stars, in Scotland.
 
Nicklaus felt that warmth when he first came over to Scotland for the Walker Cup in 1959, and at Royal Troon in 1962 for his first British Open, and especially in 1964 for his first trip to St. Andrews, where he wound up on the windy side of the draw and finished second to the late Tony Lema.
 
``They understand their golf,'' he said. ``They appreciate something that's being done, and done well. Maybe as time went on, they embraced me a little bit more, simply because I guess I was more successful.''
 
Price can only hope he can be standing on the 18th again when Nicklaus finishes the tournament.
 
``This is the passing of an era,'' Price said. ``I don't think anyone's ever done as much for the British Open as Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer took it to a level and made an awareness around the world, but Jack really took it further and made it a phenomenal championship.''
 
Nicklaus never has been one for a ceremonial farewell, although he understands the relationship with Scottish fans is different. They embraced him as a 24-year-old with a crew cut and indomitable will, and they will embrace him as an aging champion in his final major.
 
``They've always accepted me as a golfer, and that's what I wanted to be accepted as,'' Nicklaus said. ``Hopefully, that's what I was.''
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

    Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

    European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

    Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


    Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


    Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

    Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

    Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

    Getty Images

    Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

    Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

    Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

    ''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

    The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

    ''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

    Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


    Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


    ''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

    Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

    ''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

    The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

    ''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

    The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

    Getty Images

    After Further Review: American success stories

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

    Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

    After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

    Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

    It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


    On the resurgence of American women  ...

    American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

    The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

    Getty Images

    In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

    By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

    Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    Anxiety.

    Frustration.

    Anger.

    Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

    “I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

    Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

    It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

    “I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

    “Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

    Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

    Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

    This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

    Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

    Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

    Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

    Kang did.

    “Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

    Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

    “I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

    “More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”