Just like old times: Palmer, Nicklaus put on a show

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Another chapter in the Jack vs. Arnie rivalry is now in the books.

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer teed it up together during the first round of the PNC Father/Son Challenge Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, and it was just like old times – friendly banter and all.

“It’s great being out there and watching those two interact with each other because they’ve been friends for so long,” said Nicklaus’ son Gary, who teamed up with his dad to shoot 10-under 62. They are two shots behind Davis Love III and son Dru heading into Sunday’s final round.

The 72-year-old Nicklaus and 83-year-old Palmer are just glimpses of their former selves, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost the competitiveness they had when they were battling each other on the course back in the day.

“I’m not here to play second fiddle, man. I’m here to win,” Jack Nicklaus said. “It’s all about winning. I’ve played that way all my life. I don’t like second place. I don’t like third place. I don’t like any other place. I like first place.”

Palmer, who played with his grandson Will Wears, didn’t fare nearly as well. The two combined for an 8-over 80. At one point, Palmer joked, “Are we going to run out of balls?”

“Not a great day,” Wears said. “We’ll see if we can get it going tomorrow.”

But as much as the competitors might not care to admit it, Saturday was about more than what the two golfing legends - who have a combined 25 majors between them - shot on the course. It was more about the spectacle of Jack and Arnie going toe-to-toe again – and Golfweek was there for it all.

Here’s a little bit of what went on inside the ropes during the first nine holes of Jack and Arnie’s round:

• • •

It wasn’t the large crowd we grew accustomed to seeing following Nicklaus and Palmer in their prime, but Saturday’s gallery in Orlando was a good-sized one.

That crowd was on hand as Nicklaus and Palmer posed with their son and grandson, respectively, for a picture before the round. Then it was time for a photo of just the two legends.

“A.P.,” Jack said to Arnie. “100 years.”

The crowd roared with laughter - a perfect time to begin.

• • •

Will Wears had never played with the man he calls “Mr. Nicklaus” before Saturday. And you could tell when he stepped up to hit his first tee ball.

“You play well, Will,” Nicklaus said. “I want you to outdrive us now.”

So Wears took a deep breath and let it rip. His drive rocketed down the center of the fairway, prompting his grandfather to motion like he was going to put his driver away.

“I could barely walk on the first tee,” Wears said. “I was pretty nervous.”

Nicklaus had a similar reaction to son Gary’s tee shot.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” Nicklaus said as he stepped up to his ball.

“Because we’re here,” a person in the gallery shouted.

Wears would then sink a birdie putt to open the hole. That’ll calm the nerves.

On the next hole, Palmer didn’t even bother driving.

“Where’s your ball?” he asked Wears.

“Center of the fairway,” the grandson answered.

Palmer handed his driver back to his caddie.

• • •

Like his father, Gary Nicklaus hasn’t been playing much golf lately, either.

“What I do is mostly go out and play a little bit with my son every now and then,” he said. “Most of the time I’m watching him and trying to coach him, so I don’t play a lot.”

But he didn’t show much rust Saturday, especially on the front nine. He stuck his approach on No. 2 to less than 5 feet.

“Great shot, Gary,” Jack said.

Gary then sank the short birdie, one of several birdie putts he made on the day.

“Gary was putting really well,” said Jack, who played after Gary for most of the round, although the two switched it up later on the green when they went on a cold streak.

“We switched and started making birdies again,” Jack said. “He could see the line of what I had. Then after that I started hitting a couple putts.”

• • •

It wasn’t just a couple of putts that Jack made. He contributed a little more Saturday than he’ll admit.

“I played horrible today,” Nicklaus said before adding, “but a couple of shots were pretty good.”

One such shot was an approach he hit on No. 9, which he stuck to within 10 feet and set up a birdie putt for Gary, who had just made a 40-footer on No. 8.

• • •

It was on the par-3 fourth where Palmer and Wears' round started to fall apart. They both found the hazard and made double bogey. Wears would apologize afterward for making everyone wait, which caused the others to quickly tell him, “Don’t worry about it.”

On No. 7, Wears hit his drive left. Palmer then asked, “Where is it?”

“Left,” Will said.

“Is it OK?” Palmer continued.

“Should be,” Wears answered.

But it wasn’t. Palmer would hit a drive way left, too, and the pair would have to take another penalty stroke.

But Palmer never stopped encouraging his grandson.

“It’s OK, Will.”

"Knock it in, Will.”

“Good shot, Will.”

• • •

One of the funniest moments of the round came at the par-3 eighth. Jack and Arnie both hit poor shots – shots that found the marsh, Nicklaus short and Palmer left.

“Holy mackerel,” Palmer said as he walked back to the cart.

It wasn’t the performance we saw from their old selves, but it was still nice to see them performing.

It was even a good sight seeing Palmer drive his cart up in front of the green while Nicklaus was about to hit his approach.

“Forgive him; he’s an old man,” a spectator yelled.

"So am I," Nicklaus returned.

All in good fun. And with Jack and Arnie on Saturday, there was plenty of that.

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