Notes: In retirement, Nicklaus no spectator

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DUBLIN, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus still loves golf. He just doesn’t like watching.

It is rare for Nicklaus to sit in front of the TV even during the majors unless something grabs his attention, such as good friend Tom Watson nearly winning the British Open at Turnberry last year at age 59.

Even when Tiger Woods was winning majors to move closer to Nicklaus’ record 18, the Golden Bear only tuned in for an hour or so.

“It’s not that I don’t watch golf because I don’t enjoy the game,” Nicklaus said Tuesday. “I don’t watch golf because I’m not a spectator. Never have been a spectator in any sport.”

Golf usually is on TV in his house, and there are times when Nicklaus will walk through the room and pause to see who is leading. One tournament that made him stop and watch this year was the Quail Hollow Championship, especially when he saw Rory McIlroy, two days from turning 21, in the lead on the back nine.

Then again, Nicklaus had a vested interest.

When McIlroy was at the Honda Classic in March, he arranged to have lunch with Nicklaus at his Bear’s Club. McIlroy later said it was the best two hours he ever spent as he grilled Nicklaus about golf and his preparations. Nicklaus took a liking to the kid from Northern Ireland.

“We talked about how to finish and what to do and what you go through in the game and things like that,” Nicklaus said. “So I kind of took an interest in him. I thought he did all right.”

McIlroy closed with a course-record 62 to win Quail Hollow by four shots over Phil Mickelson. Nicklaus, as he often does with younger players, wrote McIlroy a letter of congratulations.

“I drop him a note and said, ‘What I told you is to play within yourself, but this is ridiculous,’ ” he said.

Nicklaus said he will watch Woods if he is in contention at the majors, but even then for no more than the back nine Sunday.

“I was over in the Bahamas fishing during the Masters,” he said. “We came in from fishing to watch the last nine holes of the Masters. I thought that was a pretty big sacrifice for me.”

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LPGA HALL OF FAME: Even though Lorena Ochoa is three years short of being eligible for the World Golf Hall of Fame, LPGA Tour vice president Jane Geddes said the Mexican star likely would get in one day through the Veterans Committee.

That remains somewhat of a gray area, because according to the committee guidelines, players under consideration should have been an active member for at least 10 years and been retired for five consecutive years.

That could be interpreted more as a guideline than a rule.

Either way, Ochoa probably should wait to be considered behind a greater shoo-in – Laura Davies.

The English star who dominated women’s golf in the 1990s remains two points short of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, meaning she needs either two victories or a major. Davies, who turns 47 in October, is determined to get there on her own.

As a global player, she has no peer. Last month, Davies closed with a 68 to win the Ladies German Open for her 40th victory on the Ladies European Tour and her 74th victory around the world. She has played on 11 Solheim Cup teams and won four majors, missing only the Kraft Nabisco for the career Grand Slam.

• • • 

MEMORIAL SKINS: For the second consecutive year, the Memorial is replacing its pro-am with a Skins Game featuring tournament host Jack Nicklaus. The difference this time is that Nicklaus will be playing with Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.

Also, it will feature two groups of five players instead of foursomes.

“There were a couple of guys that I thought really played well this year that probably weren’t originally in it,” Nicklaus said. “So I asked the Tour: 'Can we expand that to 10 players?' ”

Nicklaus and Mickelson will be joined by Sean O’Hair, Kenny Perry and Ernie Els. Woods will be in the second group with Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk.

“I played with Tiger last year,” Nicklaus said. “Phil made a special effort to come back last year. I said I would play with Phil this year. So we just sort of split it up that way.”

• • • 

PLAYING ALONE: Jim Furyk isn’t often the first player to tee off on Sunday morning at a tournament, much less a major, but such was the case at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open. He played with Tiger Woods the first two days, made the cut, then shot 84 in the third round.

He asked what the first tee time was for Sunday, and upon learning it was about 7:30 a.m., the USGA official asked Furyk if he wanted a non-competing marker to play with him since an odd-number of players had made the cut.

Furyk politely declined.

The official asked him again, which made Furyk wonder if he was required to take a marker. No, it was his option. Furyk declined again. Finally, the USGA official asked him why he wanted to play alone.

“I said, ‘I’ve been in the top 20 in the world for a quite a few years. I just shot 84. I don’t know who you’re going to get to play with me, but if he gets it going bad, I really don’t want to see what he shoots,’ ” Furyk recalled.

Furyk doesn’t recall how long it took him to play the final round, only that he birdied the last hole for a 75 and avoided finishing in last place. The other memory?

“I finished in time to have breakfast,” he said with a laugh.

• • • 

DIVOTS: NBC Sports executive producer Tommy Roy was at Pebble Beach over the weekend and had a frightening scouting report. He said the rough was as tough as he has ever seen. “My pants were soaked up to my knees,” Roy said. The question is how much it gets cut before the U.S. Open in two weeks, although it’s clear that the grass will be dense no matter what height. ... Charles Howell III is playing his first tournament as a father. His wife gave birth to a daughter last week. ... Zach Johnson, 34, was the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event in Texas this year. The other winners were Anthony Kim (24), Adam Scott (29) and Jason Day (22). ... Twenty-eight players shot all four rounds in the 60s at Colonial. That includes Heath Slocum, who went 69-69-69-67 and tied for 50th.

• • • 

STAT OF THE WEEK: The Memorial has not had a playoff since 1992, the longest active streak of any PGA Tour event.

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FINAL WORD: “The course is in great shape. Some things never change here.” – Robert Allenby on Muirfield Village.

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