Only Jack Should Decide

By George WhiteJuly 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
Will he, or wont he? That is the question most of us want to know, although in the final analysis there is absolutely no need for an answer.
Jack Nicklaus plays the British Open one final time, and people are all atwitter trying to decide if it will be the last time we will see the golfing icon in a tournament. There are plenty of reasons to believe it ' Jack himself seems to have said so during a recent promotional visit to Britain; after all, he IS 65 now; and the days are long gone when he was even a remote threat to win.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus remains a favorite of fans from all generations.
People have compared it to Willie Mays playing one final year at 43 in a New York Mets uniform, Michael Jordan missing a slam dunk while playing at age 40 for the Washington Wizards, Muhammad Ali losing to Trevor Bobick while shuffling out one final time at 39.
But there is a world of difference. Its not one-on-one in golf ' theres no pitcher blowing one right by your flailing bat, no one standing there about to swat back your jumper, no young pug pounding your head into a bloody mess. Its you, the golf course ' and the fans. And the fans dont care if Jack Nicklaus is 65. No one cares if a good day for him is a round of 75.
That, though, doesnt account for the man himself. Nicklaus insists he doesnt want to just stick around and whack a golf ball, walking around the course in the adulation of thousands. If someone pays to see Jack Nicklaus, he says, they should get to see Jack Nicklaus.
This is the man who gently poked fun at Arnold Palmer for sticking around forever when most his age had already left the party and locked the door. Jack sees how hard it is now. He is battling an awfully strong urge to keep playing. The sane man says stop now, you will never win again. The insane man says, please, give it one more shot ' you never know when you will discover something that unleashes the young Jack one more time.
Millions of golf fans are urging, even insisting, that he stay. Nicklaus, though, is fighting what to him has always been the ultimate insult ' being nothing but a ceremonial golfer, as he calls it.
I don't really pay much attention to the ceremonial part until it becomes ceremonial, until I no longer become a competitive golfer, he says.
Sure, it will have its moments for me, but it's really hard to understand. I don't understand sometimes what goes around in my head. But my head says, Hey, I can play this golf course, and I'm going to go play. And that to me is not ceremonial. So as long as my head stays that way, then I'm not worried about the other part of it at this point.
Hmmm does it sound like twiddle-dee or twiddle-dum? How about this: I love playing golf. Don't get me wrong, because I do and there's nothing I've enjoyed more in my life than playing golf and being competitive and being part of what's going on.

Hooray! If youve never seen Nicklaus play, maybe there is still hope!
But then he douses it with:
When you're not part of the competitive part of it, it loses its glow. And I haven't been part of the competitive part of it for several years now, realistically.
And to try and somewhat have to keep a golf game in shape - because I'm going to play The Masters next year or play in the British Open next year, or I'm going to play half a dozen senior tournaments or whatever I'm going to do - isn't a lot of fun. Because you know that you're not playing very well, you don't have any desire to work at it, you know you don't have a game that is going to be what you want. So the glow just sort of falls away from it.
Hes started to thoroughly enjoy having the whole Nicklaus clan over for dinner on Sunday. He thoroughly enjoys taking off on a whim and fishing in Alaska, in Australia, somewhere in the Rockies. He has a golf course design business to occupy his time, too. And practice is painful for him ' his back, his hip, his shoulder. So why do it?
Why, indeed, he questions?
Over the last couple of years I've started to spend more time doing other things and just say the heck with golf for a couple of months, I'm going to go do something else, he said. I frankly really enjoyed that.
If I could still play golf and could get organized and could go play, I'd certainly do that. I've tried a little bit over the last few years to do that, but I know my golf game isn't the same. My body doesn't like it.

Then, he lets a little sliver of light in on his persona, the persona that used to be totally a golfer.
I go home and I have a hard time filling a little bit of the void at home because when I'm at home before, I go to the office, I do my things I'm doing at home. But I always used to always go to the golf course, too, and get myself ready for the next time I play. And I go home now, I'm not getting myself ready for the next time I play, and what am I going to do today? I've got a little bit of that.

No one who has not been there will ever know how difficult it is to retire from the thing you love. Jack Nicklaus loves his family, he loves his fishing, he loves his business, he loves just puttering around. But there is one other thing ' he truly, dearly, loves golf.
For 45 years, he has been Jack Nicklaus. And he cant let go. And, come to think of it, why should he paint himself into a corner with no way out?
If Jack wants to play, has even the slightest inkling anytime in the future that he can play ' he should play! He has earned that many times over.
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Related Links:
  • Scorecard - Jack Nicklaus
  • Full Coverage - British Open
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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”