Jack Nicklaus at Presidents Cup: I don’t believe in rooting against anybody

Jack Nicklaus holds court Tuesday at his Muirfield Village course, host site for the Presidents Cup.
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DUBLIN, Ohio — Even though Jack Nicklaus has no official position at the Presidents Cup, he remains a presence.

The winner of a record 18 major championships is an unofficial host for this week's biennial match-play competition between the United States and an International side.

On Tuesday Nicklaus, 73, discussed his pride over the Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village becoming the first course to host a Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and a Solheim Cup, in addition to annually hosting the annual Memorial Tournament.

He also addressed the Presidents Cup format, the art of pairing players in matches, how the crowd noise at Ryder Cups affected him, and, of all things, attending his second hockey game.
Here are some highlights from the always-quotable Nicklaus on Tuesday:

On crowd noise at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup:

"I never believed in rooting against somebody. That was never in my vocabulary. My vocabulary was always just play better. You see that, and it sort of, it gets a little tough if you're the guy they are not rooting for. But the other thing is that we don't ever do it but once a year and back when I was playing it, was once every two years.

"So when we went over to Britain and so forth and played the Ryder Cup, it was difficult at times. Frankly more difficult in England than in Scotland. The English crowd was tougher than the Scottish crowd. You always found that you knew where you were, where you were playing."

On finding a partner for Tiger Woods when Nicklaus was Presidents Cup captain:

"I paired Tiger with whoever he wanted to play with, as I tried to get him whoever he wanted to play with in the singles, and I did that with a lot of the guys. I didn't specialize with Tiger on that. I'd ask all the guys at the beginning of the week, who would you like to play with, who would you enjoy playing with, who would you like to give it a shot?"

On pitting Tiger Woods against Greg Norman in singles at the 1998 Presidents Cup (Tiger won):

"I love The Presidents Cup format of pairing. We pick one, the other team picks one, vice versa, go back and forth. I told at lunch this story about Norman did not want to play Tiger in Royal Melbourne.

"I think Norman had been injured and had not been back very long, so he asked Peter Thomson not to give him, and word got to me that he didn't want to play. And so I said — and Tiger said to me, 'I want Norman.'

"So my goal was to get Norman for him them, so we kept going back and forth on the pairings and we have four left and Peter was the first pick; he was had. So I paired Norman; I walked out and got the pairings, and Norman said to me: 'Why did you do that do me?

"And I said, 'Hey, you're not on my team,' of course, got a big laugh out of that. Norman didn't like it to start with but he laughed about it later. That's just part of the fun."

On dropping the puck at the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets home opener later this week:

"I don't understand, first of all, I've never seen a puck dropped. I've never heard the phrase until about two weeks ago."