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Jack Nicklaus says discussion of returning Memorial to traditional date ‘in process’

By admin Jun16,2024

Jack Nicklaus has a message for anyone wondering why the Memorial Tournament moved off its traditional date closer to Memorial Day, and whether it might someday move back.

“That discussion (with the PGA Tour) is in process,” Nicklaus said Tuesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club. 

Translated: Nicklaus is not thrilled that the tournament he founded and has hosted since 1976 is bumping against next week’s U.S. Open.

“We would prefer the other week,” Nicklaus said, meaning two weeks before the U.S. Open, which before the switch this year was the tournament’s spot on the tour schedule for decades. The Canadian Open filled that spot this year. “We are here this week because the tour asked us to help them out. They said they had a thing they wanted to do, and what the players asked for, and we said yes, but that we would review it after this tournament.

The “thing” the tour wanted, and pushed by top players, was bunching of the higher-money, limited field events such as the Memorial to make travel and scheduling around major championships more logistically friendly. The Memorial immediately precedes the U.S. Open while the Travelers, one of eight signature events, follows immediately after the national championship.

The tour also wanted to schedule non-signature events in consecutive weeks, both so they did not get left in the wake of the more lucrative events and to give players opportunities through the “Swing Five” format to gain enough points to qualify into the signature tournaments.

Nicklaus understands the reasoning, but is not all-in with the result, at least when it comes to the Memorial. For one thing, the Golden Bear finds it somewhat hypocritical to expect the top players to show up in Dublin the week before a major championship when he seldom did so during his playing days.

“I would rarely play a week before a major championship,” he said. “So I’m asked to be putting on a golf tournament that I would never play, and that is the essential (issue) from my standpoint.”

June 4, 2024; Dublin, Ohio, USA; As he ends a news conference Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Jack Nicklaus is represented with a younger version of himself on the June 4, 2024; Dublin, Ohio, USA; As he ends a news conference Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Jack Nicklaus is represented with a younger version of himself on the

June 4, 2024; Dublin, Ohio, USA; As he ends a news conference Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Jack Nicklaus is represented with a younger version of himself on the “Jack Nicklaus Award” for top collegiate golfers. Nicklaus spoke during his annual news conference prior to the Memorial Tournament.

But not the only issue. Nicklaus pointed out that Monday attendance at the Memorial, which was decent when the event was played the week of Memorial Day, dropped this year.

Memorial tournament director Dan Sullivan confirmed that Monday attendance dipped due to not opening on Memorial Day, but offered that Tuesday’s attendance was equal to last year. The tournament does not release attendance figures.

Nicklaus added that “from the sponsor’s standpoint, Memorial Day is what the name is and we were around Memorial Day,” Nicklaus said, adding that hosting the tournament a week later in June gets into high school graduations.

Nicklaus stressed that the Memorial will thrive in spite of the schedule change.

“We did this as a favor (to the tour),” he said. “We’ve always been a supporter of the tour, and will continue to support what is best for the tour, but also want to support what’s best for the Memorial Tournament. So that is to be determined.”

Jack Nicklaus at the 1977 Memorial Tournament.Jack Nicklaus at the 1977 Memorial Tournament.

Jack Nicklaus at the 1977 Memorial Tournament.

Golden Bear’s 1977 Memorial win ranks high

Nicklaus has won the Memorial twice (1977 and 1984), but the first victory on the course he designed still holds a special place on his list of favorites.

“Well, ’77 was the second year of the tournament and I spent most of my time on the golf course picking up papers and cigarette butts,” he said.

Nicklaus’ caddie, Angelo Argea, had to empty the pockets of his bib every 3-4 holes because his boss kept filling them with trash.

“I was more interested in the cleanliness of the golf course, how the players enjoyed it, how we were taking care of the players and making sure everything was as it should be,” he said of his priorities. “To do that, and that was all I was doing, and win a golf tournament with it, that was probably one of the best feats I’ve ever had in the game of golf.”

Nicklaus pleased to see Ohio State golf excelling

As a former Ohio State golfer, Nicklaus was happy to see the Buckeyes tie for third last week at the NCAA Championship in Carlsbad, California.

“(Coach Jay) Moseley has done a good job with it. They’ve got a good golf course to play and practice on, to develop a golf game,” he said, referencing the Scarlet course. “I think a lot of guys shy from coming north to play.”

Not Nicklaus, who grew up in Upper Arlington.

“I had offers from a lot of schools to play elsewhere, and I wanted to come to Ohio State,” he said. “I loved going to the football games, the basketball games and being part of  fraternity life and school life. That was as important to me as playing on the golf team.”

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Golf legend Jack Nicklaus wants Memorial to return to early June

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