Jack Nicklaus: Game not up to par

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus will make a rare competitive golf appearance next week when he teams with Gary Player at a newly reconfigured Legends of Golf event -- although the Golden Bear scoffed at his own golf abilities.

"My golf is not exactly for public consumption very often,'' Nicklaus said Wednesday at a news conference in advance of the Memorial Tournament.

His beloved Muirfield Village Golf Club is now 40 years old, and this will be the 39th playing of the event founded by the 18-time major winner, who played the course over the weekend.

"Terrible,'' Nicklaus, 74, said when asked about the state of his game. "I play the members tees right now. I can't even think about looking back to the back tees. And I threw my 95 mile-an-hour clubhead speed at it, and it looks like it has a headcover on the club.

"I haven't played too badly. I probably play 15 times a year. And played two days, shot 75, 74, which wasn't terrible. But I holed every putt I looked at ... meaning that I finished every hole. I don't play very well. I guess 75, 74 is not too bad, but it's from 6,500 or 6,600 yards, not 7,300 yards.''

Nicklaus then joked that his game was "peaking'' for next week's Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf in Branson, Missouri, a tournament that will feature two of the rounds played on a par-3 course.

The Legends of Golf event is what sparked the formation of the Champions Tour (then-Senior PGA Tour) in the late 1970s. The Memorial boasts eight of the top 12 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 1 Adam Scott, who is coming off a victory at the Colonial, and No. 6 Rory McIlroy, who also won Sunday at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship.

But former No. 1 Tiger Woods, who has won the tournament five times, is not in the field while he recovers from back surgery. Nicklaus said that Woods called him on Wednesday morning to express his regrets.

"It was a very, very nice call, wishing me well [with] the tournament, sorry he couldn't be here,'' Nicklaus said. "He said he's doing well, progressing well, and he's looking forward to getting back into the game. He misses it.''

Asked if he pressed Woods for details on his return, Nicklaus quipped: "I didn't ask him because I knew I was going to talk to you guys.''

Woods has given no expected date for his return. The U.S. Open begins in two weeks.