“I don’t even consider these guys part of the game anymore”

The memorial at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club is ongoing, meaning Nicklaus, the reigning wise man of golf, holds the tribunal in all matters relating to the game. Nowadays, this includes LIV Golf, and more specifically his high performing members.

LIV Golf players currently hold half of the majors – Brooks Koepka’s PGA Championship and Cam Smith’s Open Championship – and claim a significant percentage of all off-course commentary. Still, no LIV players are on the field at the Memorial, for obvious reasons: it’s a PGA Tour event, and LIV players have been suspended from the tour. For Nicklaus, the LIV shared a deal made.

Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial in 2022. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial in 2022. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

“I don’t even consider these guys part of the game anymore,” Nicklaus said. “I’m not saying that in a mean way. It’s a PGA Tour event and we have the best possible field for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here. The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they went and we don’t even talk about it.”

Also absent from The Memorial ground due to LIV associations: longtime tour stalwarts like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau, who won the event in 2018. ‘they chose to play golf,’ Nicklaus said. “I wish them all the happiness.”

Where other player reviews who jumped to LIV used apocalyptic language and a sense of edge, Nicklaus was more diplomatic and live and let live. “There were some players for whom it was probably the right thing,” he said. “It probably spurred the PGA Tour, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that either, to move it to greater heights. But it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for what my legacy was. Obviously I pretty much started what the tour is here.”

His history with the tour is what caused Nicklaus to turn down — twice, he says — a $100 million offer to become CEO of LIV. But he remains cordial with many LIV directors, having done course design business with some of them, and noted that he sent Koepka a note of congratulations after Koepka won the PGA Championship at Oak. Hill last month. Nicklaus won the same event on the same course in 1980.

The ties between Nicklaus and LIV are many and tangled. LIV CEO Greg Norman was recently subpoenaed to deliver an email Nicklaus allegedly sent congratulating Norman on the start of the tour. The Nicklaus Companies, the company that bears Nicklaus’ name, is involved in a lawsuit against Nicklaus himself and is looking for any documentation relating to Nicklaus’ connection to Norman and LIV.

Brooks Koepka and Jack Nicklaus in happier days in 2018. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

Brooks Koepka and Jack Nicklaus in happier days in 2018. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

If there’s one non-Major tournament LIV players won’t miss, it’s the Memorial. One of the tour’s new “designated” events, with an increased purse of $20 million, the course features seven of the official World Golf Rankings, 25 of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings and 22 of the 27 winners in tour this year.

“I think it’s probably the best pitch we’ve ever had,” Nicklaus said. “We have a big field.”

The Memorial continues through Sunday. The US Open kicks off later this month in Los Angeles.

Leave a Comment