Jack likes field at Memorial, takes shot at LIV Golf


DUBLIN — Last year, Jack Nicklaus steered away from discussions about the new kid on the block — LIV Golf.

When asked about the future of the rival to the PGA Tour, Nicklaus said “we’re here to talk about the Memorial Tournament.”

Not the case this year, as the Golden Bear spoke more in depth about the presence of the league that is taking away some big names from the PGA — including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith.

Still, with some of the big guns not in Dublin this week, the host of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday is excited about the field.

“They’re all here,” Nicklaus said about the players in a press conference on Tuesday. “We have the games’ biggest names competing here once again.”

The top five players on the PGA are at Muirfield Village – the event Nicklaus launched in 1976.

Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele tee off this week at the Memorial Tournament.

Absent are players like Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau, who have all gone to LIV Golf.

“This is probably as good a field as we’ve ever had,” Nicklaus added. “For all intents and purposes all the top players in the world are here. What more can you ask for?”

Other popular players return to Jack’s Place, such as fan-favorites Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Sam Burns and last year’s winner Billy Horschel.

The Memorial Tournament is considered by many players as the “unofficial fifth major on tour” and attracts the sport’s best names.

The 120-man field will take their shots at the $20 million purse, including seven of the top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Again, not in the field is Smith, the current Open Champion and Koepka, the reigning PGA Championship winner and DeChambeau, who won the Memorial in 2018.

Nicklaus wants to stay out of the verbal battles between the two golf leagues, but has chosen his allegiance to the PGA.

Last year, he skirted questions and focused the conversation to The Memorial.

He could not shake the topic this year, as LIV Golf has grown in popularity with some players and fans.

“There were certain players that it was probably the right thing for,” he said about some players “defecting” to join LIV. “It probably spurred the PGA Tour, I don’t think there’s any question about that, either, to move it to greater heights. But it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for what my legacy was. Obviously, I pretty much started what the Tour is out here.”

Nicklaus went on to say that he doesn’t see some players as part of the sport he loves and dedicated his life to.

“I don’t even consider those guys part of the game anymore. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. This is a PGA Tour event, and we have the best field we can possibly have for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here,” he said. “The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they’ve gone, and we don’t even talk about it.”

There it was.

He doesn’t like to talk about it at all.

He also added he doesn’t hold any grudges.

“It’s just where they chose to play golf,” Nicklaus said. “I wish them all well.”

But what if LIV Golf triple bogeys, and some of the prodigal players want to come back to the PGA?

“It’s not up to me,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d let them back or not. They made a choice about what they want to do and that’s what the rules are.”

Today’s money on LIV Golf and the PGA can be staggering, and a far cry from what Nicklaus earned when he played.

“The first year I played you made the cut — 70 players made the cut, but they only paid 50 of us. And I made money in every tournament I played in my first year. And I had a lot of ’em that I just made the cut,” he said. “I shot 64 in the last round in Pensacola to make last money. I think I shot 65 the last round in Palm Springs to make maybe last money or close to it. You know, in those days to pick up $250, which is what we were making when we would just make the cut, you know, you wanted that $250. That took care of another week or two of playing golf.”

The incentive for players to bolt to LIV Golf is ENORMOUS money.

“I look at it every day, are you kidding me?” he said. “It is staggering.”

Nicklaus, however, never changes his tune — and reiterates his desire was always about winning.

“I was all about how good I could be in a sport and money just took care of itself,” he added. “Some guys, they might not even care about playing golf, they’re just good at it. It’s a means to an end for them. If that’s what it is, that’s fine. Guys who have stayed for the most part are guys that play the game of golf for the game of golf and for the sport of it and the competition. To me, that’s what the thing is all about. Are they getting rewarded for that? Absolutely, they are, I think that’s great. We never made any money playing golf. What’s my lifetime earnings on the regular tour, $5 million? We had to play golf to make a name to go make a living. If I had been playing today, would I be doing golf course design, would I be doing other things?” Nicklaus mused. “These guys are really making a fantastic living and setting up their families for a lifetime by really playing the game well.”

Nicklaus could not hold back comments about LIV Golf this year.

But what he said came from his heart – which is all about The PGA Tour and the Memorial Tournament.

“This is an amazing field,” he noted.

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