In recent years, Jack Nicklaus has become as comfortable in the broadcast booth at golf tournaments as he was racking up PGA Tour wins during his years inside the ropes. During the final round of the Honda Classic, as the competitors struggled to make pars on Nicklaus’ challenging PGA National course, the Golden Bear joined NBC’s Johnny Miller in the booth to weigh in on topics ranging from Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal on Friday, the anchoring controversy, and Tiger Woods’ prospects to break his career record of 18 major championships.
McIlroy withdrew on his ninth hole Friday after going seven over par. As he walked off the course towards his car, he reportedly told reporters that “I’m not in a great place mentally. “ Later, he explained that he had been bothered on the course by a sore wisdom tooth that interfered with his concentration. According to PGA Tour policy, a player may withdraw during a round “because of injury or other disability which requires medical attention, or serious personal emergency.”
Nicklaus and Miller were in agreement that McIlroy’s withdrawal was inappropriate. “Walking off the course was not the right thing,” commented Miller. Nicklaus concurred, and observed: “If he would have waited five more minutes, he probably wouldn’t have done that. I think he’s a good kid. I think he’s probably just so frustrated with what’s happening with the way he’s played the last month or so that it just got to him.”
Many observers have speculated that McIlroy’s rocky start this season might be attributable to his adjustment to Nike clubs. (He formerly played with Titleists until signing a huge contract with Nike in the offseason.) Nicklaus is skeptical that the equipment is the principal problem. “It’s easy to blame it on your golf clubs, but frankly I don’t really buy that,” said Nicklaus. “His talent is so much greater and a much greater influence on his golf game than his clubs. He could play with anything.”
On the subject of the proposed ban on anchoring, Nicklaus said that he has remained “neutral” on the issue, but did comment that any movement towards bifurcation of rules would be undesirable. “The one thing that would disturb me is if the Tour took another position from the USGA’s final position,” said Nicklaus. “Ultimately the decision should be made by the ruling bodies of golf.”
Tiger Woods has not won a major since his U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines in 2008, and, at age 37, the clock is ticking on his quest to break perhaps the most coveted record in golf: Nicklaus’ 18 career majors. Woods has 14. Miller thinks Nicklaus’ record will stand. “I don’t like his odds,” he commented about Woods’ prospects.
Nicklaus, ever the diplomat, assesses Tiger’s chances differently. “Thirty-seven is not that old,” noted Nicklaus. “I won four after that. I don’t think for Tiger to win 4-6 more is that big of a stretch. I don’t see any reason why he won’t, but he still has to do it.”
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