‘New’ Memorial week will be reviewed, Nicklaus says


Memorial Tournament founder Jack Nicklaus speaks to the media at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Tuesday.

Courtesy of Del Duduit

DUBLIN — Jack Nicklaus is a class act all around.

For years, he was the face of the PGA Tour.

He loves the Tour, and the game of golf, and will do anything to keep it active and important with today’s youth.

So much so that he went along with the PGA Tour’s request to move The Memorial Tournament back a week, and right before the U.S. Open, which is slated to begin on Monday at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

The tournament played at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin has been a mainstay and tradition during Memorial Day weekend festivities since 1976.

The Memorial Tournament is considered by many players and fans to be the unofficial “fifth major championship.”

But on Monday and Tuesday, the number of patrons was down in size — as well as the playing field which was set for action on Thursday.

Last year, the tournament had 120 players.

This year – 74.

“Yesterday (Monday), was normally a very big day gallery-wise for us because it was always Memorial Day,” Nicklaus said, during his traditional Tuesday press conference. “And yesterday we had maybe 1,000 people here.”

Regardless of the change in weeks, and the dwindling field and fans, Nicklaus was excited for the tournament to begin.

“We’re going to have a good tournament this week either way,” the ‘Golden Bear’ added. “In spite of all the different things. And as I say, we did that as a favor and the Tour asked us to do that, and we said yes. So we’ve always been a supporter of the Tour, but we also want to support what’s best for The Memorial Tournament.”

Nicklaus added that discussions about the new week are ongoing, and there will be a review with PGA officials after the tournament is over.

“So that is to be determined,” he added.

The Memorial Tournament is one of eight $20 million signature events on the PGA Tour.

The all-time Major Championship winner and Ohio State Buckeye graduate said the Tour asked him to do something he would never do as a player.

“When I played, I would rarely play a week before any Major Championship,” he said. “So I’m asked to be a part of putting on a golf tournament in a week that I would never play. That to me, is the essential part from my standpoint.”

Nicklaus would prefer the week they’ve always had.

It’s worked out.

It’s been tradition.

And it’s been popular.

He has been loyal to the PGA Tour when many big names have bolted to the LIV Tour.

Nicklaus has provided many memories over the years, including 18 Major Championship wins – the most of any professional golfer.

But one of his most endearing moments was in 1977 — when the Memorial Tournament was in its second year.

As host of the event, he also had the duty of running the tournament — as well as playing in front of his home crowd.

“I spent most of the time on the golf course picking up papers and cigarette butts – throwing things in trash cans,” he recalled. “My caddie ended up with pockets full of trash and garbage and he’d have to empty his pockets about every four holes. “

Nicklaus was more interested in how the course looked, and what the players thought of it and the cleanliness of the grounds.

“I wanted to make sure the players enjoyed it, and I was concerned about taking care of the players and making it what it should be,” he said. “That was my goal.”

By the way, Nicklaus won the tournament that year — and shot rounds of 72, 68, 70 and 71 to take home $45,000.

“Doing all those things and then winning the tournament was probably one of the best feats in golf I’d ever had,” Nicklaus said. “It’s tough to play in a tournament and also run something. I don’t run it anymore — Dan Sullivan and his crew and now Jackie (son) is the chairman of the tournament — and now I just sit back and I’m sort of the figurehead out here and do press conferences and everyone hopes I don’t say anything bad.”

Even though The Memorial Tournament has been moved on the calendar, for now, it is still a coveted trophy.

Nicklaus won it twice, as did current LIV-villain Greg Norman.

Other big-name past winners include Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Curtis Strange, Fred Couples and a guy named Tiger Woods — who captured the crown five times, including back-to-back-to-back wins from 1999 thru 2001.

Big names which have not won at Muirfield include Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and current No. 1 player on the PGA Tour Scottie Scheffler.

“It’s a pretty good tournament to win,” Nicklaus added. “No question about that. A lot of guys have won here and gone on to win majors. A lot of guys who have played a long time finally won here too. If Tiger can win a tournament five times, I think that says it all. It’s a good tournament.”

Time will tell if the tournament goes back to its original slot on Tour, or if the PGA will keep it one week before the U.S. Open — a time and place Nicklaus would never play.

Nicklaus loves the PGA Tour, and has done so much to promote it to everyone.

So who’s loyal to whom now?

Del Duduit

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