Plenty more to come in my Saturday morning column at mypalmbeachpost.com but here’s a quick taste of the hot topic from the Honda Classic’s second round.
At the invitation of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and some other people you may have heard of, like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, got together for dinner on Thursday night.
The gathering was at the Nicklaus home in North Palm Beach and the idea was to a little Team USA bonding prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup matches in September and October at Hazeltine. Europe has won far too many of these competitions for anybody’s taste, so Love got Jack’s help in starting the adrenalin engine a little early for guys who have played in the Ryder Cup and rising young stars who have not.
There can only be 12 players on the U.S. team, so about half of the players at the dinner won’t make it. Didn’t stop anybody from wanting to be there, however, listening to Jack tell his stories.
Tiger, still rehabbing from multiple procedures on his back, made the drive down from Jupiter Island. He’s a vice captain with hopes that he might be back playing later this year.
Another vice captain, Jim Furyk, came from Jacksonville. Another, Tom Lehman, flew in from Phoenix. Dustin Johnson, who is skipping the Honda Classic, showed up. Jordan Spieth, who is not playing in the Honda, was one of the few notables who did not make the pilgrimage to Jack and Barbara’s house. Rickie Fowler tweeted out a photo of himself eating ice cream with Nicklaus.
“We asked Jack questions and yes, he held court,” Love said. “We asked about preparing for major championships and about being nervous, how he handled pressure, things like that, and just him telling stories.
“His memory is just phenomenal. He remembers every shot, every hole, every situation that he was in, and he’s always honest, whether it’s about how well he played or how poorly he played.”
Many of Team Europe’s leading stars are in the Honda and playing well, as usual. One of them, defending champion Padraig Harrington, was unfailingly honest, too, when asked about the Ryder Cup vibe and the U.S. longing to get a better handle on it.
“We have made the U.S. guys care, and they really care,” Harrington said after shooting a Friday morning 68. “I saw the guys after the last loss. The older guys were seriously devastated. I can’t tell you how much you could see the devastation of losing. It is a huge deal to Phil and Jim Furyk and guys like that. Wow, were they cut up about losing.”
Sounds like another great Ryder Cup showdown coming up, with dinner at Jack and Barbara’s as the appetizer.