Nicklaus Fortunately Going Out on a High Note

By Associated PressSeptember 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
Jack Nicklaus looked as though he wanted a club in his hand, not a radio.
 
But he was Captain Jack at the Presidents Cup, and he stood beside the eighth green to watch his American team play the short par 4 during the first set of fourball matches. Tiger Woods had left himself a difficult shot from about 50 yards away, over a bunker with only 20 feet of green to the hole, a steep ridge behind it.
 
Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson
A fitting way to go out, Jack Nicklaus guided the U.S. to an emotional victory at the Presidents Cup.
Woods walked up to the green to inspect his options.
 
'Balls have been coming down that shelf,' Nicklaus called out to him.
 
Woods looked over and nodded, but ultimately chose a different approach. He played a full flop shot that landed on a slope of fringe and shot forward about 20 feet.
 
'One yard too short,' Nicklaus said to himself, then got in his cart to find another group.
 
That was as close as the Golden Bear got to the competition last week at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and he figures to become even more removed from inside the ropes as the years go on.
 
Sure, he'll play in the Father-Son Challenge with one of his four boys, maybe even a skins game in Hawaii or Canada, or wherever he is opening a new golf course.
 
But he is done with tournament golf.
 
And that might be his greatest success this year. He found a way to retire.
 
Nicklaus has spent the last five years trying to make a graceful exit from the game, and he generally made a mess of it. But with little planning, and not much more effort, golf's greatest champion went out in style.
 
Sitting alone at a table as his 12 players who captured the Presidents Cup headed into the night, Nicklaus looked satisfied when asked how he managed to make such a clean break.
 
'It was all very special,' he said softly, his lips pursed in a smile, blue eyes blazing.
 
It started with the Masters, a tournament he did not plan to play. His 17-month-old grandson, Jake Walter, the curly blond who always liked being in Grandpa Jack's lap, drowned March 1 in a hot tub. Devastated, Nicklaus wanted to be with his family, then realized it might be good therapy for all of them to be at Augusta.
 
And somewhere along the way - a long walk, considering how much length Augusta National has added - he quietly decided he was done competing in the Masters.
 
'I'm not a golfer anymore,' Nicklaus said that day. 'They're young. I'm an old man trying to figure out some way to get out of the way.'
 
Then came a spring trip to St. Andrews. Nicklaus went to the home of golf in May as part of his endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Scotland. Meeting with the British press, many of whom he has known and respected for years, Nicklaus said the British Open would be his final major.
 
It wasn't the first time Nicklaus said he was done. He talked about retirement so much he became a running joke. But there was a quiet finality to these words, so much that he was amazed at the stir it created.
 
He embraced the farewell at St. Andrews, pausing atop the famed Swilcan Bridge for photos even during the practice rounds. He received a standing ovation on all 36 holes he played, and thousands of people packed the 18th fairway Friday, the grandstands, hotel balconies and rooftops to watch him finish with a birdie.
 
It was one time Nicklaus didn't mind missing the cut.
 
'The British Open ended on Friday, and that was fine,' he said. 'I didn't need two more days of all that stuff.'
 
He had already agreed to be Presidents Cup captain after the matches ended in a tie two years ago in South Africa, never realizing at the time it would be the perfect way for him to leave the spotlight.
 
Players who otherwise would consider the Presidents Cup part of the PGA Tour schedule, like the Bob Hope or the Buick Championship, wanted to be on Jack's last team. Their gift to the captain was an oil painting of Jake, who would have turned 2 on the Saturday of the matches. Nicklaus was in tears when he saw it, and kept it in the team room so everyone could see it as they walked out the door.
 
As for the golf?
 
Simply inspirational.
 
'If you would have seen his face when he came out and talked to me on the last green, you'd have seen what it meant to him,' Davis Love III said after winning his singles match, which clinched at least a tie. 'It looked like Jack holing a putt to win a major championship.'
 
Nicklaus won't have that chance again.
 
Augusta National surely will come calling early next year, if not sooner. It will be the 20th anniversary of his final major championship, and there is a sense that he deserves a proper farewell. Because of rain delays that led to threesomes playing off both tees, Nicklaus finished his Masters career on the ninth green.
 
'People say, 'Well, it ended on (No.) 9.' Well, so what?' Nicklaus said. 'That happens.'
 
Some already have suggested he return as Presidents Cup captain.
 
'My guess is I won't captain any more teams,' he said. 'If they ask me, I would like to, because I like being part of it. I know I can't play anymore, so it's my way of making a contribution.'
 
He would be better off turning over the Presidents Cup to someone else.
 
Nicklaus could never make a better exit from golf than this.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

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5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.



The second is from Sunday night.



And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.