Nicklaus Looks To End Title Drought
Wednesday, June 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
BETHLEHEM, Pa, (AP) â€” After missing the cut at Pebble Beach two weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus realizes he'll likely be a spectator at future U.S. Opens, an event he won four times.
This is the U.S. Senior Open, however, where he has won twice, and Nicklaus isn't worried about making the cut. He wants another championship.
``You got to start with one obviously,'' Nicklaus said. ``It's been a couple years since I've won a golf tournament. Certainly, the Senior Open is the premier event for senior golfers in the country and I'd like to give it another shot.''
Nicklaus, 60, has more PGA Tour victories than anyone except Sam Snead, but he hasn't won a title since capturing the 1996 Tradition.
He hopes to end the drought in the Senior Open, which starts Thursday at Saucon Valley Country Club.
``I look forward to playing,'' said Nicklaus, who played here in 1992 when Larry Laoretti won. ``I liked the course almost as much as Larry Laoretti.''
Laoretti, who has played in just a handful of events this year, is thinking about recapturing the magic of eight years ago.
``I am like semiretired,'' he said. ``It's very difficult to compete with these great players just coming out and playing once every month. You never know, though.''
No one really knows. Tiger Woods isn't here. There's no clear-cut favorite on the Senior Tour. And, it's difficult to repeat as champion.
Dave Eichelberger, the 1999 winner, is trying to become just the third player to win consecutive Senior Open titles in the 21-year history of the event.
``I really feel like I am playing well and actually feel like I have got a chance to do it,'' Eichelberger said. ``I feel I have got as good a chance as anybody right now.''
Hale Irwin, who along with Woods were the only two golfers to shoot in the 60s in two rounds at the U.S. Open, said Pebble Beach was good preparation for this week.
``I don't want to say I use the U.S. Open as preparation for this tournament, but I think the preparation in terms of getting your mind set for the narrower fairways and the heavier rough is certainly beneficial,'' Irwin said.
Irwin, the 1998 Senior Open champion, will be among 156 golfers playing the 6,749-yard, par-71 course. The championship purse is $2.25 million, up from $1.75 million in 1999. The winner receives $400,000.
The field includes Larry Nelson, No. 1 on the money list; Ed Dougherty, last year's runner-up; Tom Kite; Tom Watson; Lee Trevino; and Arnold Palmer.
They'll have to contend with a course that can be difficult. The golfers have found the undulating greens to be especially challenging in their practice rounds.
``These greens are very severe,'' said Kite, who is playing in his first Senior Open. ``If the greens dry out, if they get firm and fast, we can be in for a very long, difficult week.''
Trevino, who is coming off last weekend's victory in the Cadillac NFL Classic, raved about the rough.
``I have never seen rough that is so uniform anywhere else in any other U.S. Open that I have ever played,'' he said. ``It looks like it is 4 to 6 inches, and it will penalize you if you get into it, but it is mowed absolutely perfect.
``There are not patches here and there, and you are going to get lucky and one guy is going to have a good lie and the next one isn't.''
Trevino, 60, said he's peaking after ending a 27-month championship drought.
``I was hitting the ball pretty good and I got a tremendous amount of confidence,'' he said.