Letters from the Memorial
Even with its annual weather delays, the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, remains one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour. Muirfield Village is a first-class track, the clubhouse milkshakes are second to none, and what player in his right mind can say no to Jack Nicklaus? Ever the good host, Jack was kind enough to share a handful of e-mails he received after the 2010 Memorial ended on Sunday.
Dear Mr. Nicklaus,
Thank you for a great week. I'll never forget the moment you handed me the Memorial Tournament trophy on Sunday evening on the 18th green. I was very proud to prove you right. Remember when you bumped into me before the British Open two years ago at Royal Birkdale? I had finished second at your tournament the month before, so I reminded you how much I love your course and your event, and you said, "You'll win it one of these days." I took that comment to heart. That's why it was so funny when you told the writers on Sunday night that your line was something you use on everybody, to "keep them coming back." You were kidding about that, right?
At the trophy ceremony, you introduced me by saying the Memorial was my first victory in America. Then you added, "I guarantee you it isn't going to be his last." Coming from the greatest player of all time (I mean you, not that other guy who hasn't broken your record yet), it meant a lot to a 29-year-old English lad who had missed the cut in his first 21 starts after turning pro in 1998.
I used to be a slow starter, but not last week. I birdied five of the first seven holes on Thursday and shot 65 and finished it off with a bogey-free 66 to pip Rickie Fowler, the kid dressed like an orange Creamsicle; Ricky Barnes, who looks like a male model; Phil Mickelson, who may win the Grand Slam this year; and all the rest.
Let me share this: The best move I ever made was deciding to work with Sean Foley, a tremendous instructor. Don't worry, Mr. Nicklaus, I promise not to tell that guy who hasn't broken your record about Sean. But I must say they'd make a good team.
My only regret was messing up my victory celebration. I started to throw an air punch, but halfway through I swung my arm down. I probably looked like a cobra with a cramp. If you can leave that bit out of the highlights video, Mr. Nicklaus, I'd appreciate it.
Justin Rose, 2010 Memorial Tournament champion
Dear Mr. Nicklaus,
I hope you didn't mind me wearing my lucky all-orange outfit on Sunday. I just wanted to fly my Oklahoma State colors. Besides, my caddie supported your alma mater by wearing an Ohio State cap. Donny Darr, an assistant coach when I was at OSU, is now the head coach at your OSU. I always wanted him on my bag for a tournament, and last week we made it happen. I didn't mind his Buckeyes gear. That's his job now. And yes, sir, I noticed that even you wore your scarlet and gray in the CBS booth on Saturday. Love your school spirit.
As you know, my orange power came up short. I just didn't play as well on Sunday after leading the tournament for the first three rounds. Like I told you when I walked off the 18th green, I really wanted to win, but, hey, I'm 21 and I'll be back. The only shot that frosted me more than our losing to Augusta State was that five-iron I hit into the water at number 12, your copy of Augusta National's 12th hole. I tried to hit a little cut into the wind and made a bad swing. It happens.
I don't have time to be annoyed, though. I have to get up early tomorrow for 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying here in the Columbus sectional. If I play like I did this week, I should have no problems, but that's the thing about golf. Every day is different.
It'd be cool to see you at Pebble. If I'm there, I won't be hard to spot. Please give my best to Mrs. Nicklaus, and congratulations on your upcoming 50th wedding anniversary. Wow, 50 years!
Thanks, Mr. Nicklaus
Thanks for hosting another great Memorial. I love the chance to show off my rain gear. (Not really!)
Now I remember why I've played your event only six times since 1999. Your greens kicked my you-know-what. I'm spending the next four or five days with my man, Dave Stockton, the greatest putter ever, to make sure my touch is ready for Pebble Beach. As you know, Jack, putting is critical at Pebble with those bouncy poa greens. Dave will tune my stroke like a Stradivarius.
The great thing is, I came here looking for confidence and I found some. My game is solid the driving, the irons, the chipping. Even my trick shots. Did you see the one I pulled off on the 14th hole in the third round? The ball was hanging on a finger of rough above the greenside bunker, so I had to stand with one foot in the sand, the other way up in the grass and aim 90 degrees away from the pin. It was a semibackward shot that I kind of hit over my right shoulder and hooked. It was pretty neat when it landed on the green and rolled to about 20 feet. Did I mention that I made the putt for par?
By the way, is it OK if I call after the U.S. Open to get some tips on how to win three majors in a row?
Thanks in advance,
I had fun this week. I even had fun with the writers, like you keep telling me I should. On Sunday one of them asked if I came close to running out of gloves, since I signed and gave them to the spectators I hit with errant shots. I went through three gloves in the first 15 holes. As I said then, thank god I get gloves for free. That drew some laughs, which was great. It felt like old times. My swing is coming back, too, Jack. I can hit a draw now I couldn't at the Masters. My high fade is still MIA and my tee shots are scary bad, but seriously, I think my game is better than 50% of the way back to where it used to be. I squeaked out a top 20 (19th, actually) with my C game. Not too shabby.
Will I be ready in time for Pebble Beach and the Open? I honestly don't know. St. Andrews and the British Open? Maybe.
So Jack, don't get too comfortable being four major championships ahead of me in the record book. You never know what's going to happen next. Nobody knows that better than me.
All the best, buddy
When you get done fooling around on your Blackberry, can you pick up a loaf of bread and a quart of milk at Kroger? Make sure it's the one percent, not the skim. And take off your Captain's Club blazer before you go in. Nobody there is going to be impressed.