DUBLIN, Ohio – Like every year, Jack Nicklaus met the media Tuesday before the start of the Memorial he is hosting at the Muirfield Village Golf Club, which he built, and did what he always does – speak at length about a variety of topics for over an hour.
One topic, however, he touched on only briefly – a lawsuit filed against him on May 13 by Nicklaus Companies which alleges tortious interference, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Nicklaus, 82, said in a statement two weeks ago that claims made by Howard Milstein, executive chairman of the Nicklaus Companies, who also oversees Golf Magazine and Golf.com, were false.
“I’m not worried about it,” Nicklaus said. “I feel very comfortable where we are. And I’m here to talk about the Memorial Tournament and not about that.
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It’s 47e playing from The Memorial, which Nicklaus won in 1977 and 1984. This year he hosts another packed field, topped by seven of the top 10 players in the world – world No. 2 Jon Rahm, No. 3 Cameron Smith, the No. 3. 4 Collin Morikawa, No. 6 and defending champion Patrick Cantlay, No. 7 Viktor Hovland, No. 8 Rory McIlroy and No. 10 Jordan Spieth.
After a major renovation of the course was completed in 2021, Nicklaus believes players will be challenged by a firm and fast track.
“This year, now that we’ve had a mature year, the fairways are great,” Nicklaus said. “The guys came in today and told me how firm they were. I like firm greens, but I don’t like silly greens. I like them so that if you play a good shot, you get rewarded and the ball will knock it out a bit, but it won’t hit and go.
“Rough is not particularly thick this year. I don’t know why, but I think there are a lot. Admittedly, around the greens, there are plenty of them.
“The golf course is excellent. I even played there. I played there for the first time. I played it on Saturday and Sunday, and I hadn’t played. I didn’t play golf last year. Anyway, I hiked it on Sunday in 84. It was pretty good for me.
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Here are some other topics Nicklaus touched on.
On the PGA Tour’s abundant young talent
“When I played I thought we had a pretty good group of players. Just before us was the Hogan era, Snead, Nelson, then Arnold came in and it went down a bit. Then Gary is came and I came, so we rebuilt it, Trevino, Watson, Weiskopf, Miller, et cetera When I was playing I thought we had a damn good group of guys Maybe 20 guys who could win a tournament golf.
“All of a sudden the Tour isn’t just the US Tour anymore. The Tour has guys coming from all over the world who are the best players from all over the world who are now making a living and living in the United States They’re good. They’re really good.
“Tiger held them back for a while – he kept winning every week and no one could learn how to win. Well, all of a sudden when Tiger got injured, all of a sudden these young guys learned to win golf tournaments. All of a sudden it made some of these other young people say, hey, if these guys can do it, I can do it too. Right now, I think we have more good players in the game of golf on the PGA Tour than we’ve ever had in the history of the game, and I think that’s wonderful.
After being approached by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series. Nicklaus said he was offered $100 million to be CEO of the show, which is set to start next week in London.
“They obviously called me. And we have had a contract on a golf course in Saudi Arabia for over two years. Basically the same group. They entered the Bear’s Club. We met two guys. John Rees and Paul Stringer of the Nicklaus companies were there because we were doing the golf course, and they offered me this thing.
“I did it out of courtesy to them because we are building a golf course for them. I have no interest in wanting to do something like that. I don’t care what kind of money they would have given me. My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour. I grew up on the PGA Tour. I helped found the PGA Tour as it is today.
“My allegiance is there and it will stay there.”
Sports gambling is now legal in Ohio and online sports betting will be operational in the near future
“It’s the spirit of the times. We are part of it. I think they offered it to, what, nine organizations in the state of Ohio or something and we were the only golf tournament, so we got involved in that. If we don’t do it, someone else will, and it’s better to be involved where you control something where there was somewhere you can’t control.
On the only bet he said he ever made on golf
“My one and only bet I made in the game, I was 20, I was playing the US Open (1960) at Cherry Hills, and my dad came to see me. I’m an amateur now, we We’re in June. I’m getting married in July. He says, ‘Jack, you have 35 to 1. Do you want some?’ Dad, I’ll take $20. He said, ‘Do you want to win, place or show?’ I said, I’m not here for a place or a show.
“So I’m going down the stretch at the US Open as a 20-year-old amateur. I’m thinking about the $700 I could win to start our marriage. Well, I didn’t win, so I didn’t. I didn’t hit the $700 I lost my $20, my one and only golf bet.
On Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship two weeks ago, is not playing this week
Justin Thomas poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
“He called Barbara (Nicklaus’s wife) and then called me. He called the boss first because he knew if he could get through her, he could get through me. Anyway, JT called and he said, “I hate making that phone call.” You know how much I love Muirfield and I love your tournament and I love what you do and the things you and I have done together. I said, I know it. It says, but I tried something before the PGA; I played the week before and won the tournament. He said, ‘I think I should do that again.’ I said, JT, I understand; I had the same situation when I was your age. Everyone wanted us to play everywhere, and you can’t play everywhere. I understand. I said, I know you’ll be back. So I just wished him good luck. Go play. I am saddened that he is not playing, but not everyone can play.
Having played four rounds of golf recently – two at Augusta National and two at Muirfield Village – after not playing all of last year
“About two weeks ago I took (son) Jackie and (grandson) J3, his son, and Charlie, who is one of his boys, down to Augusta. I had been playing a scramble, an odd three or four holes here or there. But the inflammation has been my problem, and most of the inflammation seems to have come out of me for some reason. I said, okay, I can play with you guys. Really, are you going to play with us?
“I said, yeah. So I played nine holes. He said, we’ll see you later. I said, what do you mean? I’m going to play the back nine. I spun it around and shot an 88 without a birdie, which I haven’t birdied yet this year by the way.
“But I enjoyed it. I said, well, I’ll see if I can play again tomorrow. I played again the next day. Why am I playing? I don’t know. I’m tired of not play, I think. I really like to play golf. I don’t like to play golf like I did, that’s for sure, but I liked it. I had the chance to shoot my age both days (at the Memorial), and I choked.
“I don’t know why I play. I will continue to play. You have to do something to cry out loud. I sat there feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t do anything. It’s time to go out and do something.
On the albatross shot by his grandson, J3, at the 15th hole of Augusta National
“Day two we got to the 15th hole and the boys played a mix of front tees and back tees, going back and forth. I play far forward. They don’t have front tees. I don’t know where Condoleezza Rice plays from, but she has to play the same tees here that the members play, and it’s too long. Half of the members are over 80 years old. I don’t know how they play golf. I’m actually serious. It’s hard.
“Anyway, we got to 15 and I said, ‘Guys, you don’t want to play that new tee, you’re going to put it down. Then they played the next tee. J3 hit a really good shot there, and they had the pins in all the tough pin locations you could – far left on 15, far left on 14. He also birdied 14. Far right on 12 , as far as possible on 11. I don’t know why; I should never tell them I’m coming there because they do this to me all the time.
“Anyway, we got there and he killed a drive and played an 8 iron, hit just right of the pin, the ball sank, boom, in the hole. Everybody claps, shouts, etc. We got off and took our picture near the Sarazen Bridge.”