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December 06, 2001

Glimpse of greatness from Jack
By Dan Patrick

It was refreshing to see Jack Nicklaus on the leaderboard at the U.S. Senior Open this past weekend. Fans will follow Jack no matter how well he plays. Fans follow him with the universal thought of wanting to be there the next time Jack wins.

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus finished tied for fourth in the U.S. Senior Open, two strokes behind winner Bruce Fleisher.
Because it's Jack, you think there will be one more moment. Like the 1986 Masters; he wasn't supposed to win that last major tournament at age 46. And up at the Salem Country Club this weekend, you got the feeling that maybe this weekend had one of those moments in it.

Granted, it's the Senior Open. But Jack is not exactly settling into middle age. He has told commissioner Tim Finchem that he'd rather play the regular tour and miss the cut than play on the Senior Tour. Jack still wants to be challenged by a golf course.

Because he was on the leaderboard, Jack had a chance to be on the podium this weekend where his comments, criticisms and critiques took on an added impact. Jack said golf has become too much about the long ball. He railed against golf-ball manufacturers and wondered where technology was taking us in this game he cares so much about. I don't know if Jack was really talking about technology or just sharing some sour grapes with us.

Anyway, Jack was in the news and it was nice. We haven't seen him on a leaderboard much the past five years. Choosing to spend more time designing courses and with his grandchildren, Jack only plays in about a half dozen or so tournaments a year. It's refreshing to see a big name doing well on that tour, because there are a lot of players on the Senior Tour who have had much more success after 50 than they did before 50. Bruce Fleisher, who won this year's Senior Open, only won once on the regular tour. Aside from Hale Irwin and Tom Watson, the Senior Tour is being dominated by guys who are not big draws (such as Fleisher, Gil Morgan and Jim Colbert).

Since Jack really has nothing left to accomplish, it's great that he's out there for the good of the game and the Senior Tour. And Jack is by no means the best player on the Senior Tour. That isn't the point anymore for him.

As we know, Tiger Woods has the potential to obliterate Jack's records. But you can't take away what Jack did, and his accomplishments will always define greatness.
As we know, Tiger Woods has the potential to obliterate Jack's records. But like Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's records, you still can't take Ruth away from the record books. You can't take away what Jack did, and his accomplishments will always define greatness.

We follow Arnold Palmer around for different reasons. We follow Arnie because there may be one shot that he'll give us, one more chance to cheer with him. And he did on Thursday with a nice 40-foot putt for birdie. But mostly Arnie is not shooting his age; he shoots in the 80s now. There's almost a wincing pain when you watch him. Like Willie Mays with the Mets or Joe Namath with the Rams, you're kind of watching and thinking, "I got a chance to see him." Or, "Let me tell you what he used to be like."

With Jack, you don't get that feeling. You still think Jack can win. You figure you'll see the headline JACK IS BACK one more time. But following hip-replacement surgery and Father Time's march, that possibility seems less likely each day. Still, on Sunday morning, he had a real chance to thrill us once again. But a bogey on 13 was enough to keeping him from being the first three-time winner of the Senior U.S. Open.

Maybe next time, Jack. But thanks for the reminder of all those Sundays past when you were, undoubtedly, the best.

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Fleisher evens score with Senior Open win

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