Even in retirement, Jack Nicklaus not a spectator
Photo by AP
DUBLIN, Ohio - Jack Nicklaus still loves golf. He just doesn't like watching.
It is rare for Nicklaus to sit in front of the TV even during the majors unless something grabs his attention, like good friend Tom Watson nearly winning the British Open at Turnberry last year at age 59.
Even when Tiger Woods was winning majors to move closer to Nicklaus' record 18, the Golden Bear only tuned in for an hour or so.
"It's not that I don't watch golf because I don't enjoy the game," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "I don't watch golf because I'm not a spectator. Never have been a spectator in any sport."
Golf usually is on TV in his house, and there are times when Nicklaus will walk through the room and pause to see who is leading. One tournament that made him stop and watch this year was the Quail Hollow Championship, especially when he saw Rory McIlroy, two days from turning 21, in the lead on the back nine.
Then again, Nicklaus had a vested interest.
When McIlroy was at the Honda Classic in March, he arranged to have lunch with Nicklaus at his Bear's Club. He later said it was the best two hours he ever spent as he grilled Nicklaus about golf and his preparations. Nicklaus took a liking to the kid from Northern Ireland.
"We talked about how to finish and what to do and what you go through in the game and things like that," Nicklaus said. "So I kind of took an interest in him. I thought he did all right."
McIlroy closed with a course-record 62 to win Quail Hollow by four shots over Phil Mickelson. Nicklaus, as he often does with younger players, wrote McIlroy a letter of congratulations.
"I drop him a note and said, 'What I told you is to play within yourself, but this is ridiculous,'" he said.
Nicklaus said he will watch Woods if he in contention at the majors, but even then for no more than the back nine Sunday.
"I was over in the Bahamas fishing during the Masters," he said. "We came in from fishing to watch the last nine holes of the Masters. I thought that was a pretty big sacrifice for me."
MEMORIAL SKINS: For the second straight year, the Memorial is replacing its pro-am with a Skins Game featuring tournament host Jack Nicklaus. The difference this time is that Nicklaus will be playing with Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.
Also, it will feature two groups of five players instead of foursomes.
"There were a couple of guys that I thought really played well this year that probably weren't originally in it," Nicklaus said. "So I asked the tour, can we expand that to 10 players."
Nicklaus and Mickelson will be joined by Sean O'Hair, Kenny Perry and Ernie Els. Woods will be in the second group along with Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk.
"I played with Tiger last year," Nicklaus said. "Phil made a special effort to come back last year. I said I would play with Phil this year. So we just sort of split it up that way."