Jack Nicklaus, class act.

No probs between these two.

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Jack Nicklaus was in the news this morning.  He still thinks Tiger can get to his record and still has not a hint of pridefulness about it:

In what now sounds like a broken record, Nicklaus maintains that records are made to be broken, including his gold standard of 18 professional majors, despite Woods’ rough weekend.

“I still think he’ll break my record.  Tiger’s talent, at 37 … it’s not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn’t that difficult. I don’t think for Tiger to get four or five more — or six or seven — is that big a stretch.”

Pretty cool.

Pretty classy.

Pretty much as good as it gets in pro sports.

Pretty great to count him as a Buckeye.

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Nicklaus’ record of accomplishment is unmatched.  There’s the 18 pro majors, but that doesn’t count his two US Amateurs.  The US Amateur is definitely a major; a week long match play tournament against the best in the country.  It.  Is.  Brutal.  (Likewise, Tiger’s three consecutive US Amateurs are too often overlooked.)

So by my math, that’s 20 majors for Nicklaus; 17 for Woods.  And not a hint of pettiness from Nicklaus concerning the probable elimination of his record.

This is not new for Nicklaus.

The 1969 Ryder Cup is the most famous example of Nicklaus’ sportsmanship.  He drained a five foot putt on the final hole of their match then conceded Jacklin’s two footer to leave their match and the Ryder Cup as a draw.

From Steven Redgrave:

Nicklaus and Jacklin: sportsmanship.

One of the most important putts in the history of the Ryder Cup and Nicklaus wouldn’t let his opponent fail. As he handed Jacklin the marker, he explained his behaviour. ”I don’t think you would have missed that putt, but under these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity.” The match was halved, the tournament ended in a tie for the first time in its 42-year history and the two players walked contentedly off the green, arm in arm. However, the Americans retained the trophy as the previous winners, so Nicklaus hadn’t exactly let the side down.

Funnily enough, his team-mates were not all best pleased that they had been denied an out-and-out victory. Neither was captain Sam Snead. But Nicklaus’s philosophy was this: he believed good sportsmanship should be as much a part of the Ryder Cup as good competition and ‘the concession’ is now immortalised in golfing history.

As for Nicklaus’ golf, you will hear talk about his playing against a softer field that Woods does today.  It may be so, but as a golfer I can tell you that you are defined by your play when under the greatest pressure.  Here are just a few examples where Nicklaus simply out-clutched his opponents in majors:

Q: Why should you hold up a 1-iron in a thunderstorm?
A: Because even God can’t hit a 1-iron.

1962 US Open, Oakmont.  Nicklaus shoots 69 in the final round against Palmer’s 71 to set up a playoff.  Playing on Palmer’s effective home course, Nicklaus is not rattled by the ‘Fat Jack’ and ‘Ohio Fats’ cat calls from the Pittsburgh gallery.  He cards 71, Palmer 74; Nicklaus wins his first pro major.

1970 British Open, St. Andrews.  Everyone is familiar with Doug Sanders’ infamous three foot missed putt.  (See 11:00 in link.)  It’s as bad a stroke as you’ll see and many say that miss handed Nicklaus that particular major.  But that version of history fails to note that Nicklaus made an eight foot birdie on the 18th to win the next day’s playoff.

1972 US Open, Pebble Beach.  Nicklaus one-iron on the 218 yard 17th with a howling wind in his face.  Hits the pin, stops three inches from hole.

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I happen to find his setting the Scioto course record (66) at 15 to be both fascinating and revealing.  How many 15 year olds have what it takes to close out a round for a course record anywhere (let alone Scioto)? How many child prodigies full of potential go on to realize that potential?

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Ironically, Carmelo Anthony prompted this post.

The germ of this post was found last night.  Coming off a tough home loss to the Heat, the Knicks were sleep-walking through the first half of their game against the Cavs.  With his team down 22, Carmelo Anthony gets ‘injured.’

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WczaxpzAsWg?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Compound tibia fracture?  Ligament tear?  Blown Achilles?  Dislocated pelvis?  If we examine the clip starting at the twelve second mark, we’re not sure which career threatening injury poor Carmelo has endured.  But we know it was serious because poor Carmelo was unable to leave the locker room for the rest of the night.  That he was able to leave the court under his own power reflects a stoic commitment to his team and craft and profession and …

Oh wait, that’s not what it reflects at all.

It actually reflects that he’s not hurt badly and could at least have come back to the bench after he showered if he gave two shits about his team and teammates.

IMG_0514

Not shown: $20MM/year delicate flower.

Unable to sit on the bench during his team’s attempt to overcome a 22 point deficit.  Unable to cheer for, support, BE PART OF his team’s great comeback.

What a dick.

What a pussy.

What a punk.

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I’m not going to catalog his history of this sort of thing.  Not going to link the video of his chicken-shit ‘fight’ where he throws a punch then runs away.  His jerking around of the Nuggets to get traded to New York.  Not going to talk about him tanking the Celtics game, shooting 6-26, because Kevin Garnett hurt his feelings; not going to talk about him acting the tough guy waiting for Garnett at the team bus behind scores of security.

‘Hold me back.’

Not going to build the case that he’s the most overrated superstar in a league of overrated superstars.  Not going to comment about mainstream media running too scared to report his dick-ness honestly.

But I will note that as of 12 hours after the finish of the Knicks’ win, I am unable to find a report that even raises the question of why Anthony was unable to leave the locker room for the second half of his team’s great win in Cleveland last night.

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I’ll just wrap this by saying you’ll often hear old farts like me calling out some of today’s athletes but you don’t normally have a context explaining from where it comes.  Jack Nicklaus is context.  Jack Nicklaus is a demonstration that some of the expectations placed on athletes are achievable.

  • ANon

    And let’s not forget the Bear’s 19(!) 2nd-place finishes in Majors.

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