Nicklaus believes Muirfield will 'come around'

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus' dream course in Ohio is named after the one in Scotland that just lost its place in The Open rotation because it refuses to admit women members.

The Golden Bear says he believes the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers -- as the club located at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland is formally known -- will change its mind.

"If that's what they wish to do, they won't have tournaments,'' said Nicklaus on Tuesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where the Memorial Tournament begins Thursday.

"Augusta (National and the Masters) had to get with the modern age; St. Andrews (the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, whose business spin-off, the R&A, runs The Open) had to get with the modern age. Their membership may decide that's not what they want.

"I think Muirfield has been too much a part of the fabric of the game of golf for so many years that they'll come around. I can't believe they wouldn't. I think they want to be part of what the game of golf is. Muirfield has been a big part of it.''

Muirfield has been site of The Open 16 times, the first in 1892 and the last in 2013, when Phil Mickelson hoisted the Claret Jug. Only one of the Open winners at Muirfield is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But two weeks ago, the club's membership held a vote to determine whether it would admit its first female members -- the club allows women as guests but does not have women who hold membership rights -- and it failed to gain the two-thirds majority necessary.

Almost immediately, the R&A announced that Muirfield would be taken off its 10-course rotation for The Open.

Nicklaus, 76, won the first of his three Opens at Muirfield in 1966, the same year land was purchased near his Columbus, Ohio, home for a development that would house a golf course he designed, which opened in 1974.

It was named after Muirfield in Scotland "because of what it meant to me,'' Nicklaus said. Muirfield Village Golf Club is now in its 41st year as venue for the Memorial. Part of its tournament logo is the Claret Jug, the prize given to the winner of The Open.

"We had the issue here for about 10 minutes,'' said Nicklaus, who said from the club's inception he made sure it was inclusive. "I hated golf courses that discriminated, and I just felt like I didn't want to be that part.

"One year later, the only person we haven't had is women (as members). So we immediately added women and it took me a year to smarten up to it.

"In today's age, Muirfield will change. They're too much part of the world scene not to. That's my feeling.''