Notes Jack To Be Right On the Money - Literally
Nicklaus will join rare company next week when the Royal Bank of Scotland issues currency with his picture. RBS will put into circulation 2 million 5-pound notes in Scotland during the British Open at St. Andrews, where Nicklaus won in 1970 and 1978.
RBS has been issuing its own bank notes since 1727, and Nicklaus will be the only living person to appear on a Scottish note besides Her Majesty the Queen and the late Queen Mother.
'That one is something I have a hard time just fathoming,' said Nicklaus, who has had an endorsement deal with RBS the last three years.
Nicklaus has said the British Open will be his last major championship, and he considers St. Andrews a second home. He speaks often of the affection the Scottish people have shown him since his first trip to the home of golf in 1964. Nicklaus is the only American to win the Open twice at St. Andrews.
'I'm an American - not a Scot or a Brit,' Nicklaus said. 'St. Andrews and Scotland ... RBS has realized that's been a special part of my life and my career, and they wanted to commemorate my last Open Championship. I thought that was just something very, very special.'
The special note will be unveiled July 12 at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
Ernie Els planned to take three weeks off before the British Open, but it was far from peaceful. He wasn't home for a week when he learned that his grandfather, Ernie Vermaak, had died at age 97.
He flew his family from London to South Africa last week for the funeral.
'It's very upsetting, obviously, but at the same time, we all want to celebrate his incredible life, which he really lived to the full,' Els said on his Web site. 'He was a great character and a big influence on all of us.'
Els' grandfather is ultimately responsible for the Big Easy taking up golf. He introduced the game to Els' father, then to Ernie and his brother. Els is building Gardener Ross Golf & Country Estate on farmland in Gauteng, South Africa, where his grandfather grew up.
It took some 30 years for Carol Semple Thompson, the Grand Dame of the USGA, to decide it was time to shift from player to captain at the Curtis Cup.
Thompson, a seven-time USGA champion who has played on a record 12 Curtis Cup teams, will be captain of the U.S. team in 2006 at Bandon Dunes in Oregon. She last played in the Curtis Cup in 2002 at age 53, when she holed a 27-foot putt on the 18th green as the United States retained the Cup.
'I think it will be very different,' she said. 'Before, I was just able to relax and think about my own game, and now I will have to think about a lot more people. But I think it's a natural progression, and I think it will be great fun. I figured someday it would come. I guess I didn't figure it would come this soon.'
She hasn't stopped playing, however.
Thompson plans to compete in the U.S. Women's Amateur next month, her 100th individual USGA competition.
BAKER-FINCH ON HOLD
Ian Baker-Finch plans to play the British Open again, just not this year.
Baker-Finch, who won at Royal Birkdale in 1991 before his game fell apart through injury and shattered confidence, hasn't played a PGA Tour event in four years. He was practicing hard earlier with plans to play Colonial, where he is a past champion, and possibly the British Open at St. Andrews.
But he was not among the 19 former champions who entered this year.
'I'm not playing well enough to go put it all on the line at this stage,' Baker-Finch said. 'My aim is to definitely do it, but I'm not going to do it until I know I can. That's my situation at the moment.'
Baker-Finch will be at St. Andrews, but only in his capacity with ABC Sports. He last played the British Open in 1997 at Royal Troon, shooting a 92 in the first round.
CUP RUNNETH OVER
Europe has captured the Ryder Cup seven of the last 10 matches. Great Britain & Ireland has won the Walker Cup the last three years, its longest streak ever.
Luke Donald of England has played on two winning Walker Cup teams and one winning Ryder Cup team, and he has an idea why the Americans no longer dominate.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - and then you'll beat 'em.
Donald noted that the shift in the Walker Cup matches happened about the time more British and Irish golfers began playing college golf in the United States; Donald was the NCAA champion when he played at Northwestern. Europe's dominance in the Ryder Cup began as more of its players started spending more time on the PGA Tour.
'I think there's a strong correlation,' Donald said. 'A lot of the Ryder Cup guys play in the U.S. a lot. They're more accustomed to the U.S.-style golf courses, they're more accustomed to playing with the U.S. players, and they're no longer intimidated by them. And I think that's the same with the Walker Cup guys. They feel like they can hold their own in the U.S. college system, and they have every right to be as good as the U.S. guys.'
GB&I will go for its fourth straight Walker Cup victory next month near Chicago.
Walter Driver has been nominated to serve a one-year term as USGA president. He will be formally elected Feb. 4 at the USGA's annual meeting in Atlanta. ... Brittany Lang, the 19-year-old who tied for second in the U.S. Women's Open, will make her professional debut this week at the Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo, Ohio. She also will play next week in the Canadian Women's Open in Nova Scotia. ... Tiger Woods became the first player to go over $50 million in career earnings, which led British golf announcer Peter Aliss to say, 'Money isn't everything, but it's right up there with oxygen and food.'
STAT OF THE WEEK
Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel each finished in the top 10 at the Western Open, only their second top 10 since winning a major championship in 2003.
'I hope this sends a message to all of the European tour players, that you can win major championships not playing in America.' - U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, who said he will continue playing the majority of his golf in Europe.
Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open
A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.
Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.
Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.
"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...
"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."
Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.
As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.
"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."
For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.
Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months
Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.
Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.
After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.
"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."
Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.
And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.
"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.
"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."
Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity
Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.
On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.
In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids.
Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.
Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'
Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.
He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.
McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.
"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."
Check out the full interview below: