Any time you’re invited anywhere by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, you say yes please and if you’re invited to the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in their home state of Ohio, you’re jumping up and down with delight and ensconcing yourself for the week, not just for a couple of days. The Memorial is Jack’s baby and every year there are honourees/honorees, both playing and journalistic and there is a plaque for each person honoured.
Maureen and I went there in 2009 – can’t believe it’s so long ago because it’s so fresh in the memory – because Dai, my husband, was one of the journalists honoured, in his case posthumously. Fortunately, Maureen and I were still breathing and knew even before we set off that we’d never have another experience like this. We were right.
At a lunch, Maureen was standing around when Barbara Nicklaus came up and introduced herself; then it was Tom Watson; then it was Jack. It was golfing heaven. The professional honourees that year were JoAnne Carner, whom I knew fairly well from covering the LPGA Tour and Jackie Burke, whose wife had been at college with Maureen, so, really, we were away in a coach. We had breakfast with Padraig Harrington, chatted to David Feherty in the hotel bar – where he told us that his alcoholism was doing press-ups in the car park, just waiting for him to slip up – and wandered around in a delighted daze.
We treated ourselves to a facial and full make-up on the day of the presentation – I managed to keep my acceptance speech to the requisite four minutes, miraculous and think I didn’t disgrace myself in front of that consummate master of ceremonies Charlie Mechem, who is still doing the job. He’s a long-standing friend of Jack and Barbara and was for a few years commissioner of the LPGA, making that difficult job look delightfully straightforward! Every tour should have a Mechem at least once in its lifetime.
For some reason, there was no photograph taken of me being presented with Dai’s plaque, so we ended up going down to Jack and Barbara’s house, where we had a happy snap taken, much to Mo’s disgust. The reason? She’d assumed all the formalities were done and had headed out to the golf course to watch Olly (Jose Maria Olazabal), dressed in her oldest sun top, secure in the knowledge that she could top up her tan and was unlikely to meet anybody that she knew. Instead, I track her down – there are thousands of spectators and it wasn’t easy finding anyone – and haul her off to have our photo taken with our hosts. The photo has pride of place on my desk but Mo can’t stand it – all she sees is that tatty top – and insists it has no place there, making her cringe with embarrassment. She has banned it from the blog.
On the Saturday of the tournament, we abandon golf watching and go shopping, so when we get back, Mo stops off at the hotel reception to check the scores while I go up to the room. Next thing I know she’s knocking on the door – why? She has a key – and when I open it, a little indignantly, she pushes past me, gesticulating madly…..Tiger, Tiger’s next door…….She’d bumped into him, struggling with his key and an inordinate number of takeaway bags and exchanged pleasantries, congratulating him on the 68 that had got him back in contention.
The next day, he played superbly, had a 65, with birdies at the last two holes, to win by one shot from Jim Furyk. It was a masterful performance, full of exciting shots, his fourth win at the Memorial. Jack presented the trophy and predicted that Tiger would win his 15th major at the upcoming US Open and overtake his total of 18 major titles within two or three years…..
It never happened and now we have the latest, sad, sad, horrible pictures of Tiger in decline, arrested by the police, looking lost and broken, a man with no idea who he is or where he is. He needs help and if he has any friends, he needs them now.