Nicklaus’ comment motivates Woods

Tiger Woods found motivation from a source to win Memorial golf tournament. (AP)

Tiger Woods found motivation from a legendary source to win Memorial golf tournament. (AP)

Wait’ll you hear this: Guess whose swing advice Tiger Woods has been following? Not Hank Haney (he’s been busy with Charles Barkley). Not Butch Harmon. (They’re divorced.) Nor that moose of a caddie, Steve Williams.

None of the above. Jack Nicklaus, that’s who. Happened during a news conference at the Memorial, when somebody asked Jack what he thought about the progress of Tiger’s return from the disabled. Remember, the Masters and the Players had passed without a trophy. Now he had a round of 74 to face up to at Dublin, when Jack was put on the stand.

“If you look at his golf swing, I don’t think he moves out of the way of the ball like he used to,” the tournament host said. (Remember, he and Tiger had been paired in a Skins Game the day before the Memorial. Tiger had looked like best-in-show, but that was fun and games.)

“I think that’s probably protective, and that’s probably good.”

When that testimony reached Tiger, he agreed, then according to what I’ve heard since, went straight to the practice tee and let it fly.

After that, from what I saw on television, the turn in his game became official on the 11th hole Sunday afternoon. His ball lay in some gnarly grass above the green, no way to stop it — unless it found the cup. He took a full swing with a blade, the ball popped up and rolled gently down the green — and into the cup for an eagle.

On his way. Then, there was the approach on the 18th, which his eyes followed as if in concern — then the camera caught the ball lying about a foot from the cup. Birdie, over and back in the trophy business.

A lineup of challengers had their chances, some of a nameless variety, from Matt Bettencourt to Davis Love III, and they came to grief on various junctures.

And the poor chap Tiger was paired with, Michael Letzig, it’s amazing he didn’t die of shell-shock.

“That’s the best golf I’ve ever seen,” Letzig said. “[And] people have been writing that Tiger isn’t striking the ball well?” Letzig shot 75 — and had the best view in the house.

So now we move from Ohio to Long Island, back to Bethpage and a rematch with the Black course, where Tiger won the Open in 2002. This is a truly public course, five of them, in fact, cleverly named Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. And the Black is toughest of them all, and toughest to get on. Hopeful players sleep in their cars, hoping to get a starting time. It’s a museum course, originally laid out by the dowdy A.W. Tillinghast, and redone by Rees Jones for the ‘02 Open, but only tweaked for this one. It’s only for masochists, those who play to be punished.

Stars come to play the course that is owned and operated by the state of New York. Getting on is about as easy as getting out of Sing Sing. To play this public course, Tiger will probably arrive by yacht, his personal craft obtusely named “Privacy.” Phil Mickelson finished second by three strokes in ‘02 and will find the beery metropolitan gallery kinder this time. The world is aware of his wife Amy’s breast cancer.

This is a field playing for the national championship, and there are pros who have to go through qualifying hassle like any common Joe. Some who didn’t make it: Chris DiMarco, Jose Maria Olazabal, Lee Janzen (two-time champion), Aaron Baddeley, Steve Flesch, Jonathan Byrd and his fellow St. Simon’s Island resident, Love III.

Freshly charged with his diagnosis by Dr. Nicklaus, the captain of “Privacy” should have a smooth sail here. This course is long, tough, with rare elevations and one pond, and just the kind of brutal challenge Tiger feasts on.

Bring it on.

22 comments Add your comment

mike on hartwell lake

June 15th, 2009
9:48 pm

never cared too much for woods, that is til i saw his workout routine.
now i have complete respect for him and he deserves everthing that
comes his way.
if the other golfers prepared the same way, they’d win more tournaments.

War Jacket

June 16th, 2009
8:15 am

Tiger is the greatest golfer I have ever seen compete. I imagine Bobby Jones was just as dominate, but there is no way to compare the two. Jack was not as talented athletetically, but willed his way to victory. His biggest strength was between the ears. I also think that’s Woods’ biggest strength as well.

I would just like, however, to see someone/anyone rise to the occassion against Woods on the back nine of a big tournament. If you look at the Memorial and Bay Hill tournaments, all the 54 hole leaders had to to was to shoot two or three under to win. Routinely they can’t do it. They hear Tiger coming and collectively fold like cheap suits.

Davis Love III is of the worst offenders. I feel sorry for him in that after his playing days are over (if they aren’t already) he is going to be haunted for all of the chokes he’s had against Tiger, going all the way back to Tiger’s first win at Las Vegas to the Memorial. Love hits an iron in the water off the tee on 18. Give me a break.


June 16th, 2009
8:34 am

To paraphrase Norman Chad: Why is it that every Sunday afternoon I see Tiger battling it out against some guy who was behind me in line at Target last week.


June 16th, 2009
8:52 am

I loved what Woods said once in Sports Ill., concerning his practice routines and his approach to match strategy. Concerning practices, the writer asked him did he practice his game from difficult positions on the course and around the green…in anticipation of maybe finding himself in such dire straits during a match. Woods replied that he didn’t work on his game from the rough, bunkers, etc., because he never expects to find himself there when he’s competing. You gotta be pretty danged good to say that, He in essence was saying that he deals with that when and if it happens.
As for his approach to match strategy…Woods told the author that when he finally finds his game during a round or match, he knows he will stay at that level, which is usually incredible. He politely said that the other golfers cannot do that and they usually panic when they notice that he is taking charge of a match….whether they are ahead or not. He also said that he never gambles on his approach to a green. He said that he always tries to get close to the green, not try to go for broke in one fell swoop…like maybe many of his opponents do. He’s that confident in his putting game. Of course whe you are as good as that…you can say those kind of things. He just sits back and allows others to choke and-or screw up their chances.


June 16th, 2009
9:23 am

Nicklaus not talented athletically, War Jacket? I saw a show on tv last night that said he played three sports in high school besides golf. I started following the PGA in the 70’s and Jack was even more dominating in his career than Tiger is now. Longer than anyone off the tee and could hit long irons unbelievably high and long. Definitely athletic.


June 16th, 2009
11:24 am

Joey’s right, Jack was a great athlete–for his time. I played baseball against him in Ohio back in the 50s and he was as strong as an ox with great eye/hand coordination. But as far as physical conditioning goes, Tiger is the man!


June 16th, 2009
11:54 am

It’s nice to hear that Tiger is somewhat mortal, in that like all golfers pro and amateur alike, will head for the practice range when they hear a tip or critique of their own game. The difference is that most of us don’t get the results that Tiger does. It’s also nice for Furman to set the record straight and identify the homes of Davis Love and Jonathan Byrd as being St. Simons Island, and not Sea Island as all the national media types report. There is a difference, and St Simons is also the home of tour pros Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, and Brandt Snedeker.

Michael in Decatur

June 16th, 2009
8:19 pm

Tiger puts his pants on one leg at a time but it may be a while before another pro realizes it….


June 16th, 2009
9:56 pm

I don’t begrudge Tiger anything he wins, because he’s THAT good. I, as a golf fan, am sick and tired of all the other pros who simply “wilt” on Sunday if they see Tiger is within 8-10 strokes of them. As mentioned earlier, a lot of these guys only have to shoot par (or a stroke or two better) to give them all the breathing room they need….Why can’t they???? That problem is between their ears….Some young buck is hammering range balls right now who will have that mental fortitude. Bring him on!!


June 16th, 2009
10:22 pm

Who is better, Jack or Tiger? Well, in the end the record books will say Tiger, because he will surpass Jack’s major record by a half dozen or so.

The reality is that both players are far stronger than any of their competitors mentally, and that is ALWAYS the difference in golf. Lots of players have the talent, but they won’t win, or even compete at any high level, because their fear gets in the way.

If you were to compare the actual golf games of Jack and Tiger, they are really completely dissimilar.

Driving: Jack was far better than Tiger, who tends to spray the ball everywhere. Other than perhaps Greg Norman, Jack was the greatest driver ever.

Long irons: Jack by a bunch.

Mid irons: Tiger’s got him in a close call.

Short irons: Tiger in a landslide. He works magic.

Pitching and chipping: Tiger is the best, Jack was mediocre.

Sand game: No contest…Tiger.

Putting: A tie. Although Tiger has gotten away from his early-career habit of charging every putt, he is still much more aggressive than Jack ever was, and Tiger is the best par putter I’ve ever seen…he never gives into bogey. Jack was a lagger…many of his putts just died into the hole, and consequently he almost never 3 putted.

As far as competition they had in the primes: Tiger’s field is MUCH deeper than Jack’s. He has maybe 2 dozen guys who can legitimately compete with him for the major title, but none of them are really world class.

Jack had a shallower field, but the guys he had to beat were significantly better than anyone Tiger plays against. You be the judge: Jack’s foes: Hogan, Arnie, Player, Casper, Trevino, Watson, Miller, Weiskopf, Norman, Ballesteros. In a team match format (in their primes) these guys would crush Tiger’s foes: Els, Mickelson, Singh, Goosen, Cabrera, Harrington, etc.

Final analysis: Tiger is a better player, Jack was the better winner. But…the story is completely written yet.


June 17th, 2009
11:24 am

I laugh when I read such sage words as, “Tiger puts his pants on one leg at a time.” I dare any of these wise folks to get on the course and play against him – they would require a diaper. It’s so easy to be critical of the other players who “fold” against Woods. If so many fold, maybe we are blaming them for something we all never experience – first hand experience. Besides, this is a GAME that makes tons of money because a bunch of wealthy people think it is somehow important in life. It aint. It’s a game and Woods does it better than anyone in the history of the game.

Red Clay Hound

June 17th, 2009
11:42 am

What a relief, intelligent, balanced discussion on a blog. Maybe I should focus on the the links instead of the fields and courts of play that I love so much. Most conversations there seem to turn to acrimonious rants and the usual unfounded expectations that can never be met.

Bill M

June 17th, 2009
2:22 pm

I agree with most on here. I don’t mind seeing Tiger win, I would just like it to be when he shoots a final round of 65 versus a 66 by his closest competitor. I would also like to see Garcia break down in tears after the round and blame the golfing gods again because he did not win,lol.

Joe Fan

June 17th, 2009
5:21 pm

It would be incredible to witness Tiger against the likes of Nicklaus, Hogan, B. Jones, Trevino, Watson, Palmer all in their prime, all with the same equipment. These were men whose livelihoods depended upon them winning not just playing to pick up an inflated runner-up check on Sunday like most of today’s pros do. I would venture that Tiger would not dominate this group but would do well to win occasionally.


June 17th, 2009
5:58 pm

Brownie’s got it right. Also back in those days the golfers didn’t work out like they do today.


June 18th, 2009
10:43 am

Howard, what you said about Tiger and practicing hitting out of the rough and from bad situations reminds about what they said about Jack,he was not a good sand player because he was never in the sand!


June 18th, 2009
11:12 am

I’m a huge golf fan and think grew up watching Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. Nicklaus was terrific; but Tiger is the best I’ve ever seen.

But, let us not also forget “Slammin’ Sammy.” What a flawless swing!


June 18th, 2009
11:14 am

Just remmeber this, Jack played against a field That included 9 players who all won at least 6 majors!

No one Tiger plays against has won more than 3 majors.


June 18th, 2009
11:17 am

Short irons: Tiger in a landslide. He works magic.

Pitching and chipping: Tiger is the best, Jack was mediocre.

Sand game: No contest…Tiger.

Jack did not need a short game because he was always on the green from 200 yards out!


June 18th, 2009
3:31 pm

warjacket, Jack was athletic even after getting polio.


June 19th, 2009
10:56 am

Give Jack the same equipment as Tiger and the workout regimen as Tiger and he would have won 20-25 majors in his lifetime. Arnie Palmer would be up there to as would Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriauez and Gary Player. Give them the competition that Tiger plays against and they would dominate the field just like Tiger has.

Tiger is great, no doubt about it, but golfers like Jack and Arnie were just special to watch on the course. Personally, Im pulling for Lefty this weekend. Would be very special to see him win the U.S. Open.


August 31st, 2010
10:24 pm

Every time i come here I am not dissapointedchi flat irons , nice post