DUBLIN, Ohio – It was a putt for fun, for charity, for the chance to continue playing in the rain. In truth, it didn’t mean anything. But given the man holding the putter, you know it meant everything.
It’s the only way Tiger Woods knows.
So when he dropped a downhill, curling 15-footer to match Kenny Perry’s par at Muirfield Village GC’s 18th hole, Woods earned a smile and a head shake from the only man who can match his impeccable golf skills: Jack Nicklaus.
That’s right: The two legends were together for a rare on-course appearance, Nicklaus and Woods taking part in an eight-man skins game as a prelude to the annual Memorial Tournament. It rained. It was cold. It was windy. But it sure was fun.
“Pretty cool,” said Stewart Cink, who was joined by Perry as they got to tee it up with Woods and Nicklaus. (The foursome in front was comprised of Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk and Camilo Villegas.) “It doesn’t happen very often, and who knows? It may never happen again.”
No surprise, given the men involved, but there was a flurry of highlights, starting with Nicklaus’ knockdown 8-iron from 129 yards to birdie the par-5 second and win two skins.
“It’s one of the great things about our game,” Woods said. “He can play with us – and even beat us.”
Nicklaus and Woods were tied with two skins each (Cink had one) as they played the demanding 444-yard, par-4 18th. At stake were four skins, which Perry seemed to have an edge on, thanks to a brilliant bunker shot that nearly went in and left him a tap-in for par.
Nicklaus couldn’t match, nor could Cink, so it was all on Woods’ shoulders. Exactly where he likes things, because he made the putt.
Then, to add even more drama to the affair, Woods stole the show in a chip-off to determine the final four skins. Getting a good read on Cink’s right-to-left pitch from 25 yards, Woods poured his shot in, much to the delight of a crowd that hung in for more than two hours.
As for Nicklaus and Perry – both of whom had chances to match Woods, but didn’t – there wasn’t anything to do but shake their heads and laugh. Woods had earned the most skins, but there was no question who won the respect.
“It was like the old Jack,” Woods said. “It was neat to see him grind over some of those shots.”
“His ability to focus in on the shot? It was impressive to see him lock in,” Cink said.