Let Jack Decide
So where, exactly then, does that leave Jack Nicklaus in golf's titled pantheon?
His date of birth is listed as January 21, 1940. January 21 is a day for the swearing in of U.S. Presidents. Pity the poor Nicklaus biographer who has failed to assert that Nicklaus was inaugurated, not born, the day he came into the golfing world.
If Arnie is The King, to extend the metaphor, Jack is the Chief Executive.
All of which, right now, is part of the problem. Somebody needs to give Jack Nicklaus a Presidential pardon.
I am as guilty as the next person. Too many of us insist that we want Jack to play tournament golf as long as he is able to stand up and swing a club. He has been an idol and an icon for many of us. His departure from inside the ropes would be like losing a trusted friend and benefactor.
This is wrong. It is time to let Jack decide.
Nicklaus senses the obligation. So he battles on wearily at age 65, trying to tell us he wants to stop playing golf on the big stages. He is frustrated by two things: Our inability to hear his pleas; and his inability to produce the kind of golf he was able to conjure almost at will in his 20s, 30s, 40s and, on limited glorious occasions, in his 50s.
This is where Nicklaus and Palmer are different. And few seem to get that part either. Palmer is a warhorse in the truest and best sense of the word. When the golf balls go up in the air in the morning, he wants to be there. He loved playing more than winning. Nicklaus, it is my opinion, loved winning more than playing.
And now that he can't win, the playing can become tedious.
'I played my heart out,' Nicklaus said after missing the cut Friday at his own tournament in Ohio. 'I shot a 75 and a 77. That's not very good.'
We need to let Jack Nicklaus go gently into the good night if that is what he wants. We need to let him back outside the ropes if that is what he wishes.
Yes, of course, Nicklaus has been his own worst enemy at times on this score. He has retired and unretired more times than a prize fighter. He has been conflicted on this subject now for a quarter of a century. And the fickle nature of the game he conquered for so long hasn't helped either.
Golf is sport's ultimate siren song. One cleanly, crisply struck blow with a forged blade beckons us all back to the first tee for more inevitable torture by the certain and all-powerful vagaries of the game. The moment you think you've 'got it' in golf is the precise moment golf has 'got you.'
Can you imagine what it would be like to have been as good at anything as Jack Nicklaus was at golf only to wake up one morning and find out you simply can't call it up on demand like some pay-per-view movie?
We have watched Jack Nicklaus struggle with this. What we have ignored is him looking back at us. What must he see now? Adoring audiences begging him to produce more magic when the rabbit long since moved out of the hat?
It is time for us to start thinking a little more about Jack Nicklaus and a little less about ourselves when it comes to his future. And it is time for Jack Nicklaus to be made sure of the fact that when and if he decides to stop playing golf competitively, it will be OK with us.
Until that time, Hail to the Chief of golf. And until all the scores are added up at the Champions Tour event in which Nicklaus is playing this week, don't count him out.
Just be sure to never forget to count the memories he has provided. For it is only then that we will all fully realize that we owe him a lot more than he owes us.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal
Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.
Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.
Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.
"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."
Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:
Disappointing. Clearly misunderstood my explanation. pic.twitter.com/YcKHMPf2v7— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 15, 2018
Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.
Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker
A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.
The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.
There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.
But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.
As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.
This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.
Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie
There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.
Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.
Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.
Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.
The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.
Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.
Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field
Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.
Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.
Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:
Sorry...really tried these last 2 days to compete & walk, my rt knee osteoarthritis is unbearable. It would have been nice to have gotten a cart but unfortunately was turned down by our tour board. I couldn’t even hit balls this am!— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) July 14, 2018
This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.
Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.
The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.