Skip to main content

Jack Settles into Retirement

A cynic would say that the reason Jack Nicklaus is not playing in his Memorial Tournament this week is because the bunkers are all raked with devilish implements which he designed only this year.
A realist knows the reason ' or reasons ' goes much, much deeper. Jack Nicklaus not playing in The Memorial? For the first time in 31 years? Suffering succotash, he must really be serious about this retirement thing!
Jack Nicklaus might have waved goodbye for good at last year's Memorial.
And he definitely is. Hes 66 years old and he isnt about to go out there and be embarrassed again. He isnt going to shoot 75-77 and then go sit down. He will be at the tournament, he plans to be plenty visible. But hes not going to put his game on display again for the world to see.
Is he really going to skip it for the first time in memory, this tournament which began in 1976 at the site ' Muirfield Village ' that Jack personally purchased?
He answered that question with a little funny. I haven't really played the last three or four years, Jack said with an inward chuckle. But I was here.
Apparently he really has retired, as opposed to Arnold Palmer, who at age 66 was still playing an occasional tournament. Nicklaus didnt play the Masters this year. He has no plans to play any other tour events. In fact, the last tournament in which he participated was the British Open last year.
Jack isnt saying no, definitely not, nada, never again. Even at 66, he reserves the right to play in the Memorial in the future. He isnt about to look foolish should he ever decide to play ' same with the Masters. But on this day, he has no plans to ever grace a tournament field again ' not even as a ceremonial golfer, as he used to describe it. Oh, he might play in the Father/Son tournament, possibly play in a skins game. But not in a full-field event.

I'm used to not playing, Nicklaus said, noting that he genuinely likes the idea of watching from the sidelines. The thought of entering the Memorial briefly entered his mind, he says, but it didnt last long.
Have you seen me play lately? Jack queried a group of disbelieving reporters at his tournament. I won't feel weird at all. It will be a pleasure not to play. I played Saturday, we had our Memorial club play. I played the back tees on Saturday and I cruised around here with 77, just easy as can be.
Its a far different lifestyle that Nicklaus leads compared to when he was still a player. And ' he loves it.
I haven't done anything, all I've done is sit around and eat and get fat, that's all, said Nicklaus with a chuckle. I'm enjoying my work. I'm absolutely loving what I'm doing.
I'm traveling twice as much as I ever traveled, going to places I never would have gone to before, doing things that don't require me to make sure that I watch what I do here, and watch what I do this, and make sure that because I've got a tournament coming up, I've got to make sure that I'm building myself for this. I'm kind of enjoying this. I've done that for 40 or 50 years, whatever it was, and I'm enjoying not doing it.
He enjoys being the host at Memorial. He likes to play a casual round or two with the guys, busy himself with all the business details of the tournament.
However, hes played just nine rounds since the British Open last July, and all of those, of course, were for fun only. Walking 18 holes in a tournament would be difficult, he says. Walking any length in golf shoes is difficult, incidentally.
He has a pair of shoes he says he played 25 rounds of golf in, back when he was playing in a tournament every now and then. He wore them at an outing with sponsors last week, and I've got Band Aids on every toe from Saturday. It was ridiculous. I said, What is this?
I had blisters all over the place. It's kind of crazy that you wouldn't think about your feet from that standpoint. Lugging around an extra 15 pounds is not a lot of fun. I've lugged around those pounds for a long time. Obviously if I'm working and all the other things, I'm not walking and doing the things I would to keep in shape.
Jack, though, makes the supreme confession when he admits that, I'd love to still be playing golf, because I love playing golf. Once you can't play, and once you feel like physically you just can't do it, and then you get away from it and all of a sudden you try to play a little bit, and you say, Wow, this is an ordeal.

If I came back, I'd want to be representative at least a little bit to play and enjoy it and not come out here and shoot a pair of 85s and say, Gee, I was a nice host. I'd like to play decent and make the cut and be part of what's going on, or I'm not going to do that. I made the decision next year to be here and be part of it, but I'm not just going to go out and clutter up the field.
Theres considerable debate about whether Jack Nicklaus ever cluttered up a field when he entered a tournament. But, as he says, he will never be just a ceremonial golfer. And it doesnt matter that he would be doing golf a wonderful favor by entering. He wont do it, and thats that. In his life, there just isnt time, anyway.
Before, I just squeezed in some golf, too. But I started here at 11:00 this morning. I didn't do that in previous years. I would come in maybe at another time, prior to our captain's club meeting, but I would have played golf before that, said Jack.
I actually get to sleep this week.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament