Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Golf world comes to Jack's house

Presidents Cup opens Thursday at Muirfield Village

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DUBLIN, Ohio -- Even though he doesn't have an official title at the Presidents Cup, Jack Nicklaus remains a presence.

Fred Couples, captain of the U.S. side, put it all into perspective.

"We know who's in charge," he said. "Jack Nicklaus."

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

On Tuesday he discussed his pride over the course he designed, Muirfield Village, becoming the first to host a Ryder Cup (1987), a Solheim Cup (1998) and a Presidents Cup (in addition to the annual Memorial Tournament).

"Obviously, that's pretty special," said the 73-year-old Columbus native. "We are the only ones who can say that."

Nicklaus was a four-time captain of the Presidents Cup, which has been dominated by the Americans. A similar thing was happening in the older Ryder Cup until the Europeans upset the U.S. side at... Muirfield Village.

Nicklaus, as a veteran of elite match-play competitions and as an ambassador of the game, addressed a number of issues on Tuesday.

Asked how he decided pairings when he was a captain in both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, Nicklaus said he left it up to the team.

"I'd ask all the guys at the beginning of the week, 'Who would you like to play with?' Or, 'Who wouldn't you like to play with?' " he said. Then he would try to pair players with friends and not with enemies, if at all possible.

At the same time, if a player wanted to play against someone, he would try to accommodate them.

"Couples asked me to give him Vijay (Singh) one match. I remember I had (Phil) Mickelson) ask for (Angel) Cabrera," Nicklaus said.

At Royal Melbourne in 1998, Tiger Woods requested playing Greg Norman in singles.

"So my goal was to get Norman for him," Nicklaus said.

The U.S. is 7-1-1 in the Presidents Cup and has won the last four matches easily.

The internationals could turn the tide at Muirfield Village, much like the Europeans did there in the Ryder Cup.

The U.S. team includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley -- all major-championship winners.

Woods, who has won the Memorial five times, would like nothing better than to win the Presidents Cup, which gets underway on Thursday, on Nicklaus' course.

"It would be fun," he said. "It would be fun to win it in front of the home fans."

Captain Nick Price's international side has Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Charl Schwarzel, Louis Ooosthuizen -- and several relatively obscure players yet to make their mark on the world stage.

On a different front, Nicklaus has been chosen to drop the ceremonial first puck for the NHL opener of the Columbus Blue Jackets when they play the Calgary Flames on Friday night.

"First of all, I've never seen a puck dropped. I've never heard the phrase until about two weeks ago," he said, laughing. "I don't know how far you drop it from. I don't know what you're supposed to hit and who you're not supposed to hurt with it. So I'll find out on Friday night.

"I need to learn something; I need to broaden my horizons."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 C8

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