Nicklaus wants to challenge not punish players - COPIED

By Associated PressJune 3, 2009, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio ' The morning calm at Muirfield Village was shattered by a sound that was sure to be sweet music to players.
 
It came from the engine of a lawn mower.
 
Mowers were thought to be a myth last year at the Memorial. The rough was supposed to be 4 inches, yet it doubled in length by the end of the week, and was particularly punishing around the greens. It felt as though the U.S. Open had arrived two weeks early.
 
Geoff Ogilvy feared some players would stop coming.
 
Phil Mickelson showed his displeasure by praising the course of every tournament he had played that year except for the Memorial. Even before his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lefty did not have Muirfield Village on his schedule this year.
 
We were over the top last year, said Slugger White, the PGA Tour official in charge of setting up the course.
 
The fault fell to Jack Nicklaus ' at least thats the perception of most players.
 
After all, this is the course Jack built for a tournament he has hosted since 1976. Nicklaus built his career around the majors, and he wants the Memorial to be the next best thing.
 
But even Nicklaus was troubled by the high grass, not to mention the complaints.
 
The one thing I never liked as a golfer was hack-out rough, Nicklaus said Tuesday. Ive always felt that if you put the ball in the rough, there should be some chance of playing a shot to reach the green, but not be able to control the ball like you would normally. I think recovery is a beautiful part of the game.
 
Muirfield Village is spectacular as ever, but not the same this year. The rough is not as dense, not as high. The wooden rakes that created furrows in the bunkers the last three years have been replaced by standard rakes that leave the sand smooth.
 
This came not from concession, rather discussion.
 
Nicklaus met with PGA Tour officials, as always, after Kenny Perry won last year with the highest winning score (280) in 23 years.
 
I dont think Mr. Nicklaus or the Tour liked what came out of last year, said Steve Rintoul, the Tour official who oversaw the course setup this year. The rules committee, in conjunction with Jack, thought it better to have shorter rough.
 
Ultimately, the Tour has the final word in how the course plays.
 
But if Nicklaus is the one taking the heat whenever someone complains ' a chief hobby for most players on this Tour ' then why not just take full authority of his golf tournament?
 
Nicklaus chuckled at the suggestion.
 
We are part of the Tour, he said. What I want to do is cooperate the best I can, have middle round on what I want to do and what the players like. My feeling is, do I want them to not like it? Of course not. I want everybody to be happy, everybody to enjoy it. But not everyone thinks the way I think. Im 69. Guys are 40 years younger than I am, or more. They havent been brought up the way I was.
 
Its more my job to adjust to them than their job to adjust to me.
 
But there are some areas where Nicklaus will not budge.
 
Bunkers that had furrows now are smooth. High rough is now shorter. The Tour also suggested that Nicklaus slow the speed of the greens, and thats where he drew the line.
 
Ill yield to the other two, but thats our golf course, he said. The golf course has always had fast greens.
 
Neither will Nicklaus budge on his belief that players are to be challenged.
 
There are some who believe golf should be about entertainment, that fans would rather see birdies than players grinding over par.
 
Its not for every tournament. Its not for the Memorial.
 
For Nicklaus, there is a difference between tournament golf and entertaining golf, even if both can provide a similar outcome. Carl Pettersson, who won the Memorial three years ago, understood what Nicklaus was talking about.
 
Tournament golf is hard work, he said. Its like a doctor going into surgery; youre worn out when its over. In tournament golf, you have to be thinking on every shot.
 
Nicklaus recalls one PGA Tour event that kept begging him to play. He finally relented, shot four rounds in the 60s and kept falling farther and farther down the leaderboard.
 
My feeling is when youre setting up a golf tournament, you should try to have the best test you can have that week for the players, Nicklaus said. When I played, I chose my tournaments based on how the golf course would be and how the challenge would be. I knew if I had a good challenge, it would not only help my game, but improve my ability to prepare for when I got to a major. To come in town and collect money and get out and not have a challenge was something I didnt want to do.
 
But maybe Im different.
 
In one aspect, he is no different from any other tournament host. No longer a player, no longer Presidents Cup captain after three straight terms, his primary involvement in the PGA Tour comes through the Memorial. And he still looks at a golf course the way he would want to see it if he were still playing.
 
For the most part, this is most guys favorite tournament, and I want it to stay that way, he said. But I want tournament golf.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

    Getty Images

    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”