Jacks Pitch - Champs Play Early

By George WhiteApril 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
Jack Nicklaus says he has played his last Masters. Well, 99 percent certain, he says, and Jack isnt nearly the sentimentalist that Arnold Palmer is. When Jack says enough, then you can take his enough to the bank. At age 65, he says he has seen the inside of the ropes for the final time.
Augusta officials have virtually legislated him out of it. The golf course is now nearly 7,300 yards, and thats 7,300 yards of difficult up-and-down, hilly terrain. That 7,300 would equate to at least 7,500 anywhere else.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus waves goodbye following what may have been his final competitive round at Augusta National.
Now, the rules for inclusion say that if youve won the tournament, you are eligible to come back again and tee it up for life. This year, 10 seniors tried to do it. All, with the exception of Craig Stadler, failed to make the cut.
The cold, hard fact is, this is why this tournament is the least competitive of all the majors. This year only 93 started, compared to 156 at the other three biggies. If you were to take the 10 seniors from the mix ' not one of whom has a beggars chance of winning ' that gives you 83 remaining. Reduce that by the number of amateurs who also have absolutely no chance of pulling off a victory, and you only have about 75 people who can contend for the green jacket.
And yet, there is something very heartening about seeing the older gents play. Its what makes the Masters truly the Masters. You go to Augusta ' assuming that you are one of the fortunate ones who can score a ticket ' and you get to see history out there on the golf course in a parade of elders. That, friends, is something that is very special.
Nicklaus knows its special. And he also knows that the field is cluttered with men who arent competitive. So ' he offers a solution.
Have an event on Tuesday or Wednesday where the (old) champions play, he said. That gives the fans a chance to see them, a chance to say something to them. Let them play from a tee they can play from and just have - just part of the practice round, nothing special, no prizes, no nothing.
Just let them play as a group and let the people say, Thanks for being here, thanks for coming. They can play in a place they are not going to embarrass themselves, play a team thing, do something.
Wouldnt you like to see Arnold Palmer tee it up again beside Nicklaus and maybe Gary Player, at a length that they could reasonably handle? Who knows, maybe Byron Nelson would play a hole or two. Maybe they could increase it by adding all those who have finished runner-up ' that would include Roberto De Vicenzo, Tom Wieskopf, Johnny Miller and Greg Norman. Surely you could get 12 or 14 who would tee it up at, say, 6,300 or 6,500 yards. Jack certainly would be there.
If I would come back and play, I'd welcome something like that to come up here on Tuesday afternoon or Monday or Wednesday or whatever day it might be, Nicklaus said. Just go out and play with the guys and say, Hey, thanks to everybody, love being here. Let the people say something to you, whatever it is.
I think you'd find Arnold would come back and do that and I think the other guys would play, too. I think it would be a nice thing to do.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus sheds a few tears on his final hole Saturday at Augusta National.
Not only would these gentlemen get to play a course that could be set up at a more reasonable length - such a plan would free up the tournament for additional spots. Now, of course, there are no constraints on the number in the field. But with the older Masters champions playing in their own little tournament, the real tournament would feel free to increase the field to, say, 90 legitimate players.
It really was comforting to hear Nicklaus make the suggestion. The suspicion was that he didnt realize what the public felt, the mass outpouring of respect that the people have for him and the other champions.
You know, this is not a celebrity walk-around, he had said before leaving Augusta. This is a golf tournament. It's a major golf championship, and if you're going to play in this championship, you should be competitive and you should be able to be able to compete with who is out there.
A lot of people chafed a little over that statement. Cant he at least give them the pleasure of acknowledging the great man that once was a great golfer, even if he doesnt think he is now?
Jack needs to accept the fact the fans know, as well as he does, he cannot compete against the current players, BUT we don't care! e-mailed Richard Burns.
We watch him because he brings back memories of what once was. The Masters is a place of tradition....always remembering what once was...how it used to be....and we love it! Jack doesn't need to make the putts anymore for us. Let us just watch him walk the fairways and remember.
Another, Richard DiLorenzo, said in an e-mail, He has denied us the catharsis of adulation. Somehow that He did it his way thing seems almost selfish.
But Jack does realize it, even if he didnt realize at the moment as he was packing to go home. Actually, he knows that the people want to salute the man who won six Masters, a man who apparently is not to be seen in competition here again. And that is why he has this unusual proposal ' let the gents come back and display what once was the best of their era.
I think they would get their - I don't know what the right word would be, get their ego fulfilled with a day of that, said Nicklaus. I certainly would. It would be enough for me. And it would certainly allow us to come back and play the golf course, enjoy the golf course under the conditions of how everybody is going to see it during the week.
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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.