Jack Nicklaus not concerned about prospect of record low score at Open

Three-time Open champion Jack Nicklaus insists he has no concerns about the Old Course yielding a record low score this week.

Branden Grace created history when he became the first man to shoot 62 in a major during the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, while Ross Fisher holds the course record at St Andrews after a 61 in the Dunhill Links three months later.

If a lack of wind leaves the Old Course vulnerable to similar scoring Colin Montgomerie is among those to fear a sub-60 score could be possible, telling Golf Monthly recently: “It doesn’t deserve to have a 59 on it.”

Branden Grace
South Africa’s Branden Grace celebrates after recording the first 62 in men’s major championship history on day three of the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale (Peter Byrne/PA)

However, Nicklaus had a completely different response when asked about the chances of that happening during the 150th Open this week.

“So what?” the 18-time major winner said. “That’s sort of the way I look at it.

“They’re shooting low now compared to what they shot 100 years ago. But times change and golfers get better, equipment gets better, conditions get better.

“But I don’t think it really makes a whole lot of difference, frankly. It’s St Andrews and it is what it is, and it will produce a good champion. It always has. That’s the way I look at it.”

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus stands on the Swilcan Bridge in his final competitive Open appearance in 2005 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nicklaus last played in the Open at St Andrews in 2005, but has returned this week to be made an honorary citizen of the town on Tuesday.

“As many of you might know, I declined to come back the last couple of times because I made my farewell in 2005 and I didn’t want to come back and dilute that for what it was. It was fantastic then,” the 82-year-old added.

“But when I got the invitation this time to be an honorary citizen of St Andrews and to follow Bobby Jones and Benjamin Franklin, I’ve got to come back. It’s pretty special. I’m sure it will be a very humbling experience.”

Nicklaus refused to be drawn on the R&A’s decision not to invite two-time Open winner Greg Norman to compete in Monday’s Celebration of Champions or attend the Champions’ Dinner.

Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf and he and Nicklaus have clashed over claims that Nicklaus originally approved of the Saudi-backed circuit before later saying he had turned down an opportunity to be involved.

“Let me just sum this up with a couple of words,” Nicklaus said. “First of all, Greg Norman is an icon in the game of golf. He’s a great player.

“We’ve been friends for a long time, and regardless of what happens, he’s going to remain a friend. Unfortunately, he and I just don’t see eye to eye on what’s going on. I’ll basically leave it at that.”