A Tiger Turnaround - COPIED

By Randall MellMarch 4, 2011, 5:03 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – So Bobby Jones is giving advice to a young Jack Nicklaus . . .

They’re huddled together in an Augusta National cabin, back when Nicklaus was 19. The greatest player who ever lived is sharing his wisdom with the young man who will succeed him. They’re talking about the golf swing, about slumps, about fixing flaws.

The image this conjures makes you straighten your back and creep to the edge of your seat in the interview room at the Honda Classic.

It’s a couple hours before his pro-am tee time, but Nicklaus has transported himself back to his terrific moment with Jones. His eyes are far away, seeing Jones in that cabin, hearing Jones tell him about his “seven lean years” from ages 14 to 21. Jones is telling Nicklaus that part of his problem was that he was relying way too much on his instructor, Stewart Maiden. He is telling Nicklaus that in his struggles he kept running back to Maiden for help.

“Until he taught me not to run back to him, when I learned that, then I became a great golfer,” Jones told Nicklaus.

Nicklaus had the same swing coach (Jack Grout) his entire life, but he believes today’s players rely too heavily on their coaches when their games go awry.

“A lot of times, guys run back to their swing coach too much,” Nicklaus said. 

Listening to Nicklaus Wednesday, you wonder what he would tell Tiger Woods today if they were to huddle in some cabin at Augusta National. Because, according to Nicklaus, he’s hardly talked to Woods in the last year. They had a brief conversation at the Memorial almost 10 months ago, another conversation at last year’s Masters, but that’s it.

If Nicklaus, 71, were to huddle with Woods, you wonder if he’d channel Bobby Jones for him. We’ve heard Nicklaus do that before.

“He plays a game with which I’m not familiar,” Jones said after Nicklaus won his second Masters in 1965 by a whopping nine shots.

Three decades later, Nicklaus would use those same words to describe Woods’ game.

Nicklaus still believes in Woods’ game.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t bounced back by now,” Nicklaus said. “I think he’s got a great work ethic, or, at least he did. I assume he still does. I haven’t seen him practice for a long time, but he’s got such a great work ethic. He’s so determined in what he wants to do. I’m very surprised he hasn’t popped back.

“I still think he’ll break my record.”

Woods, 35, has won 14 professional major championships, four short of Nicklaus’ record.

Nicklaus won his 13th and 14th majors when he was 35.

Like Woods, Nicklaus said he changed his swing more than once in his career.

“I made changes constantly in my swing,” Nicklaus said. “If you don’t make changes, you don’t improve, I don’t care who you are, because your body continually changes. My body at 46 was certainly different than it was at 25 and 35, as Tiger’s body is a lot different than it was at 25.”

And like Woods, Nicklaus went through a major slump.

“Jack Grout, who worked with me from 1950 through 1989, until he passed away, never set one foot on a practice tee [during a tournament], ever,” Nicklaus said. “He came to a lot of tournaments. You never saw him on the practice tee. He taught me to be able to make my own changes, make my own adjustments . . . so I could understand how to play the game. That was the important thing, that I knew how to play the game.

“Grout tried to teach that to me from the inception. He was familiar with what Jones had done.”

Nicklaus, it should be pointed out, wasn’t speaking directly about Woods’ swing changes, but generally about swing changes.

Speaking directly about Woods, Nicklaus believes a stabilizing atmosphere in the wake of Woods’ divorce should help him. He seemed pleased to hear that Elin Woods, who divorced Woods in the wake of his sex scandal, is seeking a home near Woods’ new Jupiter Island home in South Florida so their children will be near their father.

“I know he’s spending time with his kids,” Nicklaus said. “He got maybe off track, but I think he’s really a principled kid. Did he have some waywardness? Yes. But are we all perfect? No.”

Nicklaus said he found new motivation playing for his children in his 30s. Still dominant late into his 30s, Nicklaus endured the worst slump of his career at 39. His confidence bottomed out in 1979, his first winless season as a pro.

“No question about that,” said Nicklaus, who plummeted to 71st on the PGA Tour money list that year. “You had to really fall down pretty bad to get that far down [the money list] in those days.”

After amassing 65 PGA Tour victories in 17 seasons as a pro, Nicklaus lost his swing. He said his swing became too vertical. He lost power, started hitting weak pop-up shots. He was unable to hit penetrating shots into wind, and his short game, never a strength, was awful.

So Nicklaus decided at the end of ‘79 to put his clubs away for almost four months before rebuilding his swing from scratch. He huddled with Grout at the start of the ’80 season.

“I said, `OK, let’s start over,’” Nicklaus said. “We started with grip, stance, posture, everything. But the biggest thing we started out with was to shallow my arc.”

Nicklaus says he’s waiting for Woods to have that special moment that brings him back, the way Nicklaus snapped out of his slump in the summer of ‘80. Nicklaus came out of his funk at a major when he won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol. He had won the U.S. Open there in ’67, breaking Ben Hogan’s 72-hole scoring record.

“I wasn’t very happy going to the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “But you just keep working at it, and you keep doing things, and all of a sudden, something kicks in. I think that’s what will happen with Tiger.”

Nicklaus believes his short-game work with Phil Rodgers helped him snap out of his slump. He also thinks something about Baltusrol, where he had success before, also helped revived him.

“I shot 63 in the first round and missed a little putt for 62 on the last hole,” Nicklaus said. “All of a sudden, I said, `Hey, maybe this is my time to start doing it the right way again.’ All of a sudden your mind turns around.”

Nicklaus went on to set the U.S. Open scoring record yet again and win the PGA Championship at Oak Hill later that summer. He believes something similar will spark a turnaround in Woods.


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.