Presidents Cup Brings Jack Back to the Game

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
MONTREAL -- Jack Nicklaus had a golf club in his hand and a gallery around him, just like old times.
 
He was checking up on his U.S. team at the Presidents Cup when he noticed Steve Stricker in a bunker at Royal Montreal, getting advice from assistant captain Jeff Sluman. It wasn't long before Nicklaus joined them.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson lightens the mood with a little table tennis Wednesday. (WireImage)
'First bunker shot I've hit since May,' Nicklaus cracked.
 
The last competitive shot he struck was two years ago at St. Andrews, when he holed a 15-foot birdie putt for a 72 in the British Open. So ended the career of golf's greatest champion, and he ended his retirement season on an even greater note when the Americans delivered a victory for Captain Jack in the Presidents Cup.
 
So it was strange to see him back as the captain, even with a mild protest from his wife.
 
'I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, how can we top 2005?'' Barbara Nicklaus said from her hotel room in Montreal, where she was getting ready for yet another opening ceremony at the Presidents Cup.
 
Deep down, she knew the answer.
 
'He's got that little g-o-l-f thing,' Mrs. Nicklaus said with a laugh.
 
They have been together for nearly a half-century, married a month after Nicklaus nearly won the U.S. Open as a 20-year-old amateur. One of the legendary stories about their honeymoon was Nicklaus playing Pine Valley, and his bride having to drive around the perimeter of the course because women were not allowed on the property.
 
She was there for his 18 professional majors that spanned 25 seasons, for his emotional retirement at the home of golf. She has noticed the ease with which he has resisted temptation to play one more time at the Masters or his Memorial Tournament.
 
'He's not playing anymore, although he's as happy as can be,' she said. 'He's probably traveling more because he's got over 60 golf courses under construction. And he's loving it. That part of his life is fulfilled. The golf part of his life ... you never get rid of that.
 
'I don't think he misses playing,' she said. 'I know he misses the competition.'
 
Being captain of the Presidents Cup team helps fill that void.
 
Winning the cup never hurts.
 
'It keeps me involved in golf,' Nicklaus said after announcing his six foursome teams for the opening session Thursday. 'Being captain, I had to keep up with the game. Even though I don't play, I still want to be part of the game.'
 
This is the third time Nicklaus has been captain of the Presidents Cup, and the first time was a disaster. It was 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, matches played close to the holidays and absence of any measurable interest by the players. They suffered the worst defeat in U.S. team history, 20 1/2 -11 1/2 , and players later told Nicklaus they let him down.
 
The respect was shown in 2003 in South Africa, amid concern that some players might not want to travel halfway around the world the week before Thanksgiving. They staged a strong rally on the final day to forge a tie.
 
Then came 2005 in Virginia, where the bond between a 67-year-old icon and a dozen players was never stronger. The year began with tragedy for Nicklaus when his 17-month-old grandson, Jake Walter, drowned in a hot tub. On the eve of the final round, players presented Nicklaus an oil painting of Jake and his curly blond locks, and tears flowed from all corners.
 
'It's hanging in our front hall,' Mrs. Nicklaus said. 'Every time we pass it we not only think of our Jake, we think of the team, and how precious they were to even think to do something like that.'
 
Perhaps the most grateful of his decision to return are the 12 guys playing for him at Royal Montreal.
 
Nicklaus is a hands-off captain who lets his players be themselves and enjoy themselves. He has them write down their choices of partners, even those with whom they don't want to play, and matches them accordingly.
 
He brings experience and mystique, and just the name 'Nicklaus' inspires.
 
'When he does speak, everyone listens because obviously he's the greatest player of all time,' Tiger Woods said. 'You always want to hear what he's going to say.'
 
Well, not always.
 
Nicklaus is quick with the needle, even with his own team. Charles Howell III shared the story this week about the first team meeting outside Boston last month, when Captain Jack congratulated Zach Johnson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan, and was making his way around the room when he came to Howell, who had not finished in the top 10 since March.
 
'Charles,' he told him, 'you need a lesson.'
 
During a conference call last month to discuss his team, Nicklaus referred to a strange incident years ago when Woody Austin walked off the green banging his putter against his head until it broke.
 
'I don't know whether Woody will bring golf or bang himself in the head,' Nicklaus said.
 
It's all in good fun, although Nicklaus says he can be a little quick with the tease. It's all part of the package, part of why the Americans appear to be so much more relaxed at the Presidents Cup than they are in the Ryder Cup.
 
And maybe that explains why they have not lost the Presidents Cup since 1998 in Australia.
 
It begins Thursday at Royal Montreal, the oldest golf club in North America, when Stricker and Mahan play in the first alternate-shot match against Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy.
 
The Americans are in better form. The International team has a stronger collection of players.
 
The intangible, again, could be Captain Jack.
 
Related Links:
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”