Jack Nicklaus thinks Tiger Woods got the proper ruling at the Masters.
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However, he’s not so sure he agrees with the slow-play penalty given to 14-year-old Chinese phenomenon Guan Tianlang.
Woods’ third shot on the par-5 15th in the second round hit the flagstick and ricocheted back into the water. He took his drop from 2 yards farther back – contrary to the rules – from the spot where he hit originally, and ended up making a 6. Tournament officials later said he deserved a two-stroke penalty for the violation, but not disqualification.
”Could they have disqualified him? Probably,” Nicklaus said Wednesday at a luncheon celebrating his support and that of his Memorial Tournament for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. ”But you’ve got all the best rules heads together and they said that they thought there was no intent to do anything (improper) and that two strokes was a strong enough penalty. And you move on.”
Nicklaus, a winner of 18 major professional championships to Woods’ 14, spoke on a variety of golf-related topics from anchored putters to renovations at Muirfield Village, which hosts his Memorial Tournament next month and also the Presidents Cup in October.
Nicklaus said he didn’t blame Woods for not disqualifying himself.
”People say, `Should Tiger have withdrawn himself?’ I don’t think so at all,” Nicklaus said. ”If Tiger did that, he’d be putting himself in a position of saying, `I’m above the rules.’ You accept the ruling whether it’s good or bad for you.”
The 73-year-old Nicklaus wasn’t so certain about the one-stroke penalty given to Guan for slow play during the second round at Augusta National.
”He’s in the eighth grade! The eighth grade and he’s playing in the Masters!” Nicklaus said, smiling. ”And he gets a penalty? Can you imagine giving a 14-year-old kid a penalty for slow play?”
He added, ”There’s hundreds of guys who are much slower probably than (he was) and they figure out a way to get away with it.”
Nicklaus said he undoubtedly spent too much time over many, many putts over the years.
Guan accepted the penalty without complaint.
During the Masters, Guan and his parents met with Nicklaus to discuss the player’s future. Nicklaus had high praise for the family. Nicklaus said he advised them to put his schooling first and to allow the youngster to be a party to decisions.
Nicklaus said when he was 14 he was more concerned about where he might take his girlfriend on a date, whether he could get out of history class or would be able to miss basketball practice. He said he welcomed the opportunity to meet with the family because it keeps him in touch with younger players and allows him to pass on the wisdom he had received when he was a budding star.
Muirfield Village in suburban Dublin is undergoing an expensive rebuild of its clubhouse before the Memorial Tournament, set for May 30-June 2. Nicklaus, famous for constantly tinkering with the holes at the course, said he hadn’t made any changes at all this year.
”I couldn’t afford it,” he joked.
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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Avondale, Louisiana, contributed to this report.