Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament typically draws a strong field. This year, eight of the top 10 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up at Muirfield Village.
Conspicuously absent, however, is Rory McIlroy as the Ulsterman continues to recuperate from a rib injury.
Nicklaus, however, lamented McIlroy, or as he sees it, Team McIlroy’s decision to pull out of a tournament he had previously committed to. And the Golden Bear is apparently so pissed off that he complained to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan about McIlroy, Paul Casey, and Justin Rose all backing out of his event.
Grandpa Nicklaus went all, “In my day!” during his pre-tournament press conference.
“You think I had any injuries when I played? Do you think Arnold had any injuries when he played? Do you think Gary had any injuries when he played? How many tournaments do you think that we entered that we withdrew from during the course of our career?”
Can you guess? Nicklaus displayed a zero with his thumb and forefinger. “Never entered if I wasn’t going to play,” the 18-time major champion said.
Now, Jack Nicklaus says, players are essentially making economic decisions by committee, when it comes to deciding to play or not to play.
“Would they withdraw back 30 years ago? Probably not, because that wasn’t the norm,” Nicklaus said. “We played through it. We had a ton of injuries and I played through it. But that’s sort of the norm today. And the guys … I made my own decisions. I didn’t have an entourage. I didn’t have a fitness trainer. I didn’t have a nutritionist, whatever you all have, somebody to cut my toenails in the morning. I didn’t have any of that. I did that myself.
Roasted! Jack Nicklaus clipped his own toenails. But really, it’s a different world on the PGA Tour than it was when Nicklaus played. And while Jack was all about winning majors, he’s an old school guy in the way McIlroy isn’t. When you make a commitment, you honor it, no matter what.
In this case, it’s clear Jack thinks McIlroy shouldn’t have pulled out after committing and should be there to support the event, even if he’s at less than 100 percent.
“The U.S. Open is a big thing in his career…And I sort of thought the Memorial Tournament was, too,” Nicklaus said.
The implication being, Jack doesn’t think his tournament is appropriately important to Rory McIlroy, which can’t be good for Rory. And, of course, this teases out the old “Rory is selfish” narrative, calling to mind his remarks about the Olympics and the fact that it’s not his responsibility to grow the game.
So while he may enter the U.S. Open in better physical condition than he would have had he teed it up at Muirfield Village, he’ll have a new headache.