Nicklaus hosts Ryder Cup team dinner
The Golden Bear opened his home to Captain Love, vice captains and more than 20 potential players
February 26, 2016
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- The 2016 Ryder Cup will be held September 27 - October 3 at Hazeltine National Golf Club. (Photo courtesy of Twitter: @jacknicklaus)
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was there. Jim Furyk is still recovering from wrist surgery but came down anyway. Tom Lehman flew in from Phoenix.
In all, there were 25 players in attendance, including Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner.
They were all there Thursday night for U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III and Jack Nicklaus, who hosted the dinner at his house, not far from PGA National, site of this week’s Honda Classic. On the menu was steak and lobster with ice cream for dessert -- the latter was Nicklaus’s brand, of course.
There were stories about the two Ryder Cup teams Nicklaus captained, the six he played in and the 18 majors he won. Nicklaus’s stories also included the 1998 Masters, when the then-58-year-old Golden Bear tied for sixth and beat three of the four guys in the room on this night, including Woods. The only one he didn’t was Furyk.
“Once they heard Jack talk about the Ryder Cup, his great memories of it, and we talked a little bit about preparing for major championships or for Ryder Cups, and so we all learned something for sure,” Love said Thursday. “We got to see Tiger, Phil and Jack, all in the same room, and talking to each other and asking each other questions. We had an awful lot of wins sitting there for some young guys to listen to.
“It was just great to get everybody together, because you know, that's not even all the guys that might make the Ryder Cup team but it was a big group of guys that are now excited about it, thinking about it and are part of the process.”
The Ryder Cup won’t be played for seven more months. It doesn’t matter.
Bradley said he could recall past Ryder Cup dinners two weeks prior to the biennial event when some assistants weren’t in attendance. More than a half-a-year out from this year’s matches, it’s clear there’s a different approach and a different attitude.
Even those who have never played in one -- and many players in the room haven’t -- were eager to soak up the experience, and to pick the brain of Nicklaus, who showed off his trophy room full of big game trophies and hardware he’s won on the golf course.
“It’s one step in the process to creating the type of culture we want,” said Brendan Steele. “It’s a good start to change things we haven’t done as well in the past.”
Particularly in recent Ryder Cups. The U.S. has lost eight of the last 10, including the last three in a row. Two years ago in Scotland, the Americans were waxed 16 1/2-11 1/2 at Gleneagles and one of the takeaways was that captain Tom Watson never really got to know his team and mismanaged it from the beginning.
This year in Minnesota is also a chance at redemption for Love, who led a losing American team in 2012 when Europe rallied from four points down on the final day to complete the Miracle at Medinah.
“I think it’s necessary for us,” Bradley said of the team-bonding exercise, another of which will take place later this summer at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. “The veterans on our team showed last night they’re way into this. It was my first time seeing (Tiger) in a while. I didn’t expect him to be there.(The message) was to let all the guys know this time around is going to be executed differently. The presence of a few guys made that known.
No one’s presence was bigger than that of Nicklaus, who ended the night by holding an impromptu Q&A with players as he held court to wind down the night.
“I think some of it was just learning a little bit more of his prep work, kind of how he went about things, and then the confidence and belief that he had going into a tournament once he had that preparation done,” said Rickie Fowler. “He knew he was ready to play on Thursday. And I feel like I've begun to learn a little bit more what he's talking about the past couple years, where Thursday I'm ready to go and know what I'm bringing to the golf course and know what I'm capable of.
“Jack obviously always enjoyed the Ryder Cup, The Presidents Cup, and getting to play for the country. I think that’s something that all the guys look forward to, having the opportunity to wear red, white and blue and go play for the U.S.”
Billy Horschel was another player in the room. He has never played in a Ryder Cup and badly wants to make the team.
He also perhaps summed up best what the evening was all about.It was a cool night. I think we all learned something walking away.