What Jack Nicklaus couldn’t believe watching the final round of the Masters

DUBLIN, Ohio — Jack Nicklaus was eager to take in the final round of the 2019 Masters — enough so that he rushed in from his fishing boat to catch the back nine.

“I had watched most of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, whether I watched it in the daytime or watched the replays in the evening,” the tournament host said Tuesday in the lead-up to the Memorial Tournament. “On a Thursday after they hit the tee shot, I leave and go to the Bahamas. Because I have 10,000 phone calls, and I’d rather look at a bonefish than answer 10,000 phone calls that nobody cares what I say anyway.

“I watch it so I can make a nice observation of the tournament and what I think about the tournament and so forth.”

But as Nicklaus was settling into his viewing, he couldn’t believe what players were doing on the 12th hole.

“It looked as though Brooks [Koepka] or [Francesco] Molinari might win the golf tournament. And then when the guys started filling up Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole, I’m watching them one after another hit the ball right of the bunker, and I said, really? You just can’t hit the ball right of the bunker, how many times have you seen the tournament lost because they hit it right of the bunker?”

Contenders Koepka, Molinari and Tony Finau each took what Nicklaus perceived as an overaggressive line and found the water short of the green at No. 12. The contrast with Tiger Woods‘ decision to hit 9-iron to the middle of the green made all the difference.

“Tiger hit the ball, and of course he had a little cut shot over the left side of the bunker into the middle of the green, and the tournament is over.”

Nicklaus said that Woods played “beautifully” coming home. “I knew he was in a position that he knew that he didn’t have to do anything special. All he had to do was play good, solid golf.”

Nicklaus maintained, as he always has, that Woods could still challenge his record of 18 major championships — depending on his health. “He may be solid enough that it’s all right. And if he is, I think he probably will break my record,” he said Tuesday. But he recalled a round with Woods from the lead-up to the Masters, when the two played with President Trump.

“He played just fantastic. But his neck was bothering him. And I’m sitting there, like, really? He shot 64 and everything was just perfect. But he said, ‘I have a little problem with it.’

“He’s going to have a lot more of those problems. We all have a lot of those problems. But if you manage them and you know how to take care of yourself, you know how to pace yourself, you can do that.”

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