Jack Nicklaus ‘not interested at all’ in watching Tiger Woods’ comeback

ORLANDO, Fla. – Plenty of golfers have expressed excitement at viewing a 41-year-old Tiger Woods try to make his comeback (which began a couple of weeks ago at the Hero World Challenge).

But not all. One golfing great who says he won’t have his eyes glued to the TV as the 14-time major champion makes his latest return? Jack Nicklaus.

The Golden Bear, in Orlando competing with grandson Gary Nicklaus Jr. at the PNC Father/Son Challenge, was quite clear Friday when asked if he was interested in watching Woods’ attempt to reclaim his stake in the game.

“I’m not interested at all,” Nicklaus said.

Tell us how you really feel, Jack.

OK, but don’t take that to mean the Golden Bear has suddenly grown callous here. Nicklaus is not indifferent to the success of Woods, who is still chasing the Golden Bear’s record of 18 majors. The 77-year-old clarified that he does hope the best for Woods: just don’t expect him to be a TV viewer … for any golf for that matter.

“Do I wish (Tiger) well? Yeah, but I’m not interested in watching him,” Nicklaus said. “I’ve watched him play golf for 20-something years, why would I want to go watch more? I don’t watch anybody play golf.”

When you’ve won 18 majors and 73 PGA Tour titles, there’s really not a whole lot of reason to watch others play the game.

But Nicklaus did iterate that the television set is always on where he is, which means he does occasionally see a golf shot on the tube. He got a glimpse at a couple of Woods’ swings as he walked by the TV during the Hero World Challenge.

His takeaway? Maybe he doesn’t care to watch much, but Nicklaus echoed the optimistic sentiment of most observers.

“Tiger seemed to hit the ball pretty well over there and seemed to enjoy it and be pain-free and I wish him well,” Nicklaus said. “The swing as I saw, looked good. It looked like a swing of somebody who didn’t want to hurt his back.”

Could Nicklaus change his mind on tuning in if Woods’ comeback progresses to the tune of more PGA Tour wins and major titles?

We won’t know until (or if) that happens. For now, the Golden Bear appears fine to let Tiger Talk go on without him.

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus is not pretending that everything is humming on all cylinders heading into the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

He has right shoulder issues that have prevented him from playing much tennis for several months. He plays golf only occasionally, roughly a dozen times a year or perhaps a little more.

Nicklaus claims a practice session on Wednesday was the first one he’d had on a practice tee since 2005.

But when grandson Gary “G.T.” Nicklaus Jr., his teammate this week, iterated Friday that “if we play well, we play well” when the competition starts Saturday, the Golden Bear playfully interjected.

“No, it’s not if we play well,” Jack said.

Grandson got the memo.

“We’re going to play well,” Gary Jr. retorted.

The pair make up one of 20 teams competing in the two-day event at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes. For the first time at this tournament, the 15-year-old grandson will accompany his 77-year-old grandfather.

And they should make for an interesting team.

Jack Nicklaus’ credentials are known: the 18 major titles, 73 PGA Tour wins and stake as arguably the greatest golfer in the history of the game.

His partner boasts plenty of his own chops, though.

Among Nicklaus’ 22 grandchildren, Gary Jr. is considered the only one “that plays golf properly.” The teenager also possesses a combination of strength and finesse that might remind one of his grandfather.

“He’s got really strong legs, he’s a strong kid,” Jack said. “(He) hits it a long way (and) he’s got pretty good touch.”

But while the Father/Son doesn’t exactly entail U.S. Open pressure, this is golf with big names in front of crowds on TV.

It’d be understandable if Gary Jr. struggled in his first appearance under that extra attention. He feels the exact opposite.

“It’s a new experience for me. I like it, it’s fun,” Gary Jr. said. “I like the pressure when you’re hitting a putt, and you have people watching. … It helps me.”

That sentiment may arise from the fact that the teenager already finds comfort in performing in front of people.

Gary Jr. performs in a rock band at school and knows how to play the guitar and the piano. He also sings and has started writing his own songs in the last year or so. This artistic side has allowed Gary Jr. to become acquainted with attention, something with which his grandfather can relate.

“He likes being in front of people,” Jack said. “I always looked at playing golf to be out in front of people was fun. And I think he has pretty much the same attitude.”

The 15-year-old does harbor pro golf dreams – he recently shot 82 from tournament tees in a trip to Augusta National with his grandfather – but he has mixed the sport at least a little into his music.

While Gary Jr. quipped that the songs he writes are mainly about “girls,” he has added a golf tune to the arsenal.

That would be “Drive For Show, Putt For Dough,” a song he entitled after hearing his grandmother Barbara (Jack’s wife) say that phrase often.

Gary Jr. said he wrote it when he was bored one day. He offered one of the song’s lines, which goes: You can hit it far, you can hit it straight, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t make the putts.

Can the duo produce a winning tune on the golf course this weekend in Orlando?

It’ll be a tall task, especially with one rookie in tow. But after his grandson adjusted his stance on how they would perform, the Golden Bear couldn’t help admire that they’re on the same page.

“We’re going to play well, that’s a good attitude,” Jack said with a laugh.

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Tiger Woods with Jack Nicklaus following the Memorial Tournament in 2012. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – There has been plenty of buzz about Tiger Woods since he made his comeback at the Hero World Challenge in early December, and many of the players at the PNC Father-Son Challenge took notice.

One notable exception was Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus was in the midst of hosting a charity function that weekend and didn’t see much of Woods’ performance. Asked if he had an interest in watching Woods on the comeback trail, the Golden Bear replied succinctly, “I’m not interested at all.”

That’s not to say that Woods is a special case. Between his business and his growing commitment to charity and his large family, golf isn’t the priority it once was for the 18-time major winner. He does keep in touch with the game, and he enjoys being around players at his annual Memorial Tournament or at his Bears Club in Jupiter, Fla.

“Do I wish him well? Yeah, but I’m not interested in watching him,” Nicklaus said Friday afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, where he will compete this weekend with his 15-year-old grandson, Gary Nicklaus Jr., who goes by G.T. “I don’t watch golf much. The television set is always on, but I don’t really watch it.”

Later the Golden Bear conceded that of course he has an interest in how Woods play, “because Tiger is good for the game and has been for a long time.”

The little Nicklaus did see of Woods was encouraging, he said.

“Tiger seemed to hit the ball pretty well over there and seemed to enjoy it, seemed to be pain-free,” said the Bear, who turns 78 in January. “I didn’t see enough of his swing. I saw him [as I was] walking by the television set and saw him hit a shot or two. The swing as I saw, looked good. It looked like a swing of somebody who did not want to hurt his back.”

Other players admitted making a point to see what the 14-time major winner could do in his first competitive rounds in more than 300 days.

“I’ll tell you, he looked ready,” said Lee Trevino. “He looked good. He looked a little more like his old self.”

“Yeah, I was interested in watching him,” added Tom Lehman. “There’s a tremendous amount of upside for him at this stage of his career. I think there are a lot of possibilities for him going forward if he can stay healthy.”

Mark O’Meara, who has been closest to Woods since Woods turned pro in 1997, said he saw a difference in his friend.

“I think all of us know what he’s meant to the game and where he took this game over the last almost 20 years,” O’Meara said. “Over the last three, four years we’ve missed him. The ups and downs he’s had – and we’ve all had them in our lives – you know, that makes it difficult to compete at the highest level. I’m not around Tiger Woods like I used to be, but what I saw was really great, maybe above what I thought he could do. He looks happier and in a better place. And I’m happy for him that he is doing better.”


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