Golf

Jack Nicklaus shares thoughts on Spieth, Palmer, Olympic golf during Concession Cup in Manatee County

Tom Watson, left, talks to Jack Nicklaus on the second hole during the par three competition at the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Tom Watson, left, talks to Jack Nicklaus on the second hole during the par three competition at the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP

EAST MANATEE -- He's no longer playing competitive golf, but his name and resume are iconic.

Jack Nicklaus, known affectionately as the Golden Bear, holds the record for the most major championships at 18 titles.

This past week, he visited the course he co-designed with two-time major winner and Bradenton resident Tony Jacklin for the biennial Concession Cup.

Here's what Nicklaus had to say during his trip to The Concession Golf Club on the eve of the Concession Cup:

Q: What sort of advice would you give to Jordan Spieth after his collapse at this year's Masters?

A: "I don't think he'll ever hit the ball to the right of that bunker of (No.) 12 again. Why in the world he did, I don't know. I don't think that was anything other than just a bad swing under nerves. ... He's a good kid. He's only 22 years old. He hasn't had much success at Augusta. He's only been second, first and second. So that's not too bad. I think he'll survive that."

Q: Arnold Palmer wasn't with you and Gary Player for the ceremonial first tee shot at this year's Masters. But he was at the champions dinner, so what was your conversation with him like?

A: "We all felt bad for Arnold. He's struggling. His mind's good. I had Arnold on one side of me and Tiger on the other side of me. Two different conversations, let me tell you. But it was alright. We had a great evening, and Arnold's mind's good. He talks about 100 subjects. He's just slowing down and he's struggling with it."

Q: How big is it for golf to be on the world stage in this summer's return to the Olympics?

A: "The Olympics will grow the game a lot. I don't think it will really affect much of the United States or Great Britain or maybe Japan or maybe Australia, what I call mature golf markets. But places like Brazil, where they're playing, or Russia or China or India. Large populations, where golf is part of the culture but just starting. It will just grow the sport great in those countries. That's why we're so excited for the Olympics for that reason. It's becoming even more of an international game. Now it's even going to grow into a bigger international game. I think it's really neat. I wish back when I was playing that we had the Olympics."

Q: The course playing host to the biennial Concession Cup has its beginnings with the 1969 Ryder Cup, where America retained in the first-ever tie in the event. You and Tony Jacklin were key to that moment. What do you remember about it?

A: "In '69, Tony and I were coming down the 18th fairway. We were the last group. ... I think I said something to Tony and he says, 'Well, I'm petrified.' I said, 'If it's any consolation to you, I feel the same.' Tony had played in the Ryder Cup before. ... And it was my first Ryder Cup. It was a Ryder Cup, and I had been a pro for, gosh, seven years. But the rules back then were they made it really difficult for anybody other than somebody about 45 years old to make the team. I'm kidding about that, obviously. But they did make it harder. Anyway, that was my first Ryder Cup. We're coming down the fairway. We both drove it in the fairway. We both hit it on the green. I believe that I hit it a little closer than Tony did. Tony ran the putt up whatever, it wasn't very long. And I knocked my putt about 4 1/2 feet by the hole ... left with a downhill, left-hill slider and I said, 'Boy this was a nice putt to leave yourself.' And I knocked it in the hole, and just in one motion I reached out and picked up Tony's coin. And I said to him, 'I don't think he'd ever miss that putt, but I'm never going to give you the chance.' I felt like Tony was a hero to English and British golf, because they hadn't had one in a while. He was the reigning British Open champion, and very, very popular. ... I felt like the whole purpose of the Ryder Cup was goodwill. It was a goodwill match between two golfing organizations. I think it didn't make a (difference) who won. I always felt like it was there to grow the game of golf with goodwill. ... My captain (Sam Snead) wasn't real happy with me. I told Sam he'd get over it. ... The United States retained the cup, because it didn't make any difference from that standpoint. But I didn't think that was important either way. And it's something I'm proud to be a part of."

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at jdill@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.

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