Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jack Nicklaus

Fifty years ago in 1965 Jack Nicklaus won five tournaments on the PGA Tour, more than any professional golfer in that season. He was the leading money winner on the PGA Tour with earnings of $140,752. The 1965 season consisted of 40 official money events starting on January 11 with the Los Angeles Open and ending on November 28 with the Cajun Classic. 

Nicklaus’ five victories came at The Masters where he won $20,000; the Memphis Open which had a winner’s share of $9,000, the Thunderbird Classic where he pocketed $20,000; the Philadelphia Golf Classic where he won $24,300 and the Portland Open which gave the Golden Bear a check for $6,600 after he won. 

Besides the $20k that Nicklaus won at The Masters, the winners of the other 1965 major championships received the following. U.S. Open Champion Gary Player won $26,000. British Open winner Peter Thompson got the equivalent of paltry $4,600 in American currency and Dave Marr received a $25,000 check for winning the PGA Championship. Tony Lema received the biggest winner’s paycheck in 1965- $35,000 at the Carling World Open.  

The Top Ten money winners on the PGA Tour in 1965 were:

1. Jack Nicklaus $140,752
2. Tony Lema $101,816
3. Billy Casper $99,931 
4. Doug Sanders $72,182 
5. Gary Player $69,964 
6. Bruce Devlin $67,657 
7. Dave Marr $63,375  
8. Al Geiberger $59,699 
9. Gene Littler $58,898 
10. Arnold Palmer $57,770

Nicklaus played in 20 tournaments that season. He did not miss a cut and had 17 Top-10 finishes. In addition to his five victories, Nicklaus was runner-up five times in 1965. His Masters’ victory was by nine shots and his 72-hole score of 17 under par were both records at the time. 

Amazingly, Nicklaus finished as runner-up in the Player of the Year Award to the gregarious Marr. Over the years Nicklaus has transformed his image. At an early age he was the overweight, abrasive kid that overthrew “The King” Arnold Palmer from golf’s throne. But, how could Jack not be the Player of the Year in ’65? 

Dan Jenkins was covering golf for Sports Illustrated at the time. His recollections were interesting.

“I didn’t realize that. I’ve always that it was a PGA vote and for its champion. Your organization did that quite often. I was very much around then and do not recall Jack being hated by us writing slaves. We still favored Arnold. He was taking the game to a new level of popularity, but we recognized that Jack was younger and longer and unstoppable. Wish I could be more help at this stage of my development,” said the 85-year old Jenkins. 

Next week Nicklaus will host the PGA Tour at The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield GC in Dublin, Ohio. This is a course that Jack built and owns. Fifty years after he was the most dominating player in the game Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, will serve as gracious hosts to most of the world’s top players. Barbara will personally supply her own chocolate chip cookies and homemade milk shakes to any player that is obliged to consume them. For most of the world’s best players it will be like spending a week with your favorite grandparents.

This will be the 40th edition of Jack’s Memorial Tournament. The purse will be $6.2 million. Defending Champion Hideki Matsuyama won $1.116 million in 2014. 10th place paid $167,400- more than Nicklaus won in 1965. 

Several years ago I was in a meeting with Nicklaus and Ian Baker-Finch. The subject of career earnings came up and Jack told Baker-Finch and me that the biggest winning paychecks he ever had were $150,000 when he won The Tradition in 1995 and ’96. 

Golf has changed a lot in the last 50 years. The PGA TOUR is now run by the players and not the PGA of America. The players took over in 1968 and the TOUR is better for that. But, it’s refreshing to see the most dominant player of the modern era still involved as Nicklaus is. The Memorial is more than one of the top TOUR events. It’s a celebration of Jack’s great career.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Last week Rickie Fowler won arguably the most exciting professional golf event of the year at The Players Championship. He did so by making eight birdies in his final ten holes of play. This included a four-hole playoff. Fowler finished with six straight birdies in regulation. Three times in less than two hours, Fowler birdied the famous 17th hole, an island green par three (twice during the playoff). That feat probably ruined Mother’s Day for Pete Dye, the diabolical golf course architect.

It was a sweet win for Fowler who was recently voted as “co-most overrated player on the PGA Tour” by his peers in a poll released last week from SI’s Fowler received 24% of the vote along with Ian Poulter. Bubba Watson finished third with 12% and Hunter Mahan was fourth with 8%. The poll was conducted anonymously with players from the PGA TOUR, the LPGA Tour and the Champions Tour. It’s easy to say things anonymously.

The term over rated is defined as “having a higher opinion of someone or something than is deserved.” The fact that the poll was anonymously conducted raises plenty of questions on its validity. The poll provided a constant back drop during The Players, particularly by Golf Channel on Fowler and Poulter. A large portion of the stories written after Fowler’s win contained a headline with ‘overrated’ in it. These were sarcastic references to the poll validating Fowler’s win and the instant status he now has earned with his Players Championship.

In 2014 Fowler finished in the top five of all four majors. His peers saying that he was overrated was probably because prior to Sunday he had only had one PGA Tour victory. Saying Bubba Watson is overrated is ridiculous given his two Masters wins and a WGC title. In Hunter Mahan’s case, some people would say that he should have more wins given his talent.

And how about Poulter as co-over rated? Poulter is a lot of things. He is colorful, brash, outspoken, cocky, a fierce competitor, the modern day American Ryder Cup nemesis and a man who has 1.8 million followers on Twitter. For a guy who actually started working in golf as a club pro, Poulter has achieved two PGA Tour wins and 12 European Tour wins. Ian Poulter is anything but over rated.

As I watched Fowler’s remarkable performance on Sunday afternoon I sent several Tweets containing #overrated, which was my way of taking a slap at the poll. That night after Fowler’s win I sent the following tweet.

“Rickie Fowler- the legend is made. Only one over rated player left…..” The intent was to put into perspective what the win would mean to Rickie and to take one last shot at the “over rated” poll. It was never intended to slam Ian Poulter.

While my wife and I were enjoying a Mother’s Day dinner, Poulter responded to my Tweet. He obviously took offense and thought I was taking a shot at him.
“Oh Ted Ted Ted…. I thought you learnt you lesson the last time. Obviously not.”
Poulter followed that up with another Tweet containing a screen saved text I sent him last Thanksgiving setting up a phone call to apologize for our first social media encounter last October. He underscored it with, “I guess @tedbishop38pga is still confused. I should have replied to this message the way I wanted to.”

Literally moments after Pouter’s second Tweet, I received a text from Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press. It said, “I know you can’t be impeached twice J but the sarcasm was missing. This is gaining traction.”

To which I responded, “The whole ‘over rated’ poll was a farce as Fowler proved today. I never said Poulter was over rated, his peers did.”

After my text exchange with Ferguson, it was obvious that some were misinterpreting my Tweet. I then sent another Tweet trying to clarify the issue, “I guess my sarcasm on the ‘over rated’ poll went right over some people’s head like @IanJamesPoulter.  Fowler proved it was a farce. #relax”.
I spoke with Ferguson on Tuesday. He never wrote a story. He said he texted me Sunday night because he thought the sarcasm might have been missing and wanted to hear from me.

On the other hand, Golf Channel decided not to run my second Tweet in its web site story, which attempted to clarify my position. None of their television commentators referenced it or ever reached out to me at any time during the days that followed when they put me on the smorgasbord of criticism. No other media outlet contacted me besides Ferguson and many wrote about the Twitter altercation between Poulter and me.

Due to the popularity of social media, today’s society is more about written communication than it is verbal. Unfortunately for me, my social media communication lacks facial expressions and voice inflections. Good natured sarcasm is a staple in my arsenal and those who know me will validate that. Ian Poulter and I do have that in common.

The end of this story is simple. Ian Poulter sure as hell is not over rated. And thanks to Doug Ferguson for making the effort to clarify his interpretation of the situation before reporting about what he thought he saw.