PGA Tour

Nicklaus picks Phil for PGA

2013-07-25 20:42
Phil Mickelson (Getty Images)
Rochester - Jack Nicklaus expects Tiger Woods will move closer to his record of 18 major triumphs, but he sees British Open winner Phil Mickelson as a favourite for Augusts’ PGA Championship.

Speaking in a teleconference Thursday ahead of next month's final major showdown of the year at Oak Hill, the 73-year-old golf legend said second-ranked Mickelson has sealed his place among the sport's all-time greats after winning a fifth major title last week at Muirfield.

"He's obviously playing awfully well. He would have to be the favourite going into the PGA Championship on his record the way that he has played," Nicklaus said.

"Phil is going to go down in history as one of the great players of the game.

"There's no doubt about that."

Nicklaus credited Mickelson with realizing how he needed to change his game to deal with conditions at the Open championship, much the way Mickelson realized he had to change his style before collecting three Masters titles, including his first major triumph after an 0-for-46 start when he won at Augusta National in 2004.

"His ability to see that he needed to adapt his game to the Scottish conditions was important," Nicklaus said.

"He's a terrific player. I give him great kudos for what he has done the last couple weeks.

"I give Phil a tremendous amount of credit and I'm proud and happy for him."

Nicklaus said he is also confident that world number one Woods, a 14-time major champion whose dream since boyhood has been to surpass the career major win mark of Nicklaus, will win another major even though he has not won a major since the 2008 US Open.

"Will he win more majors? I think so. When? I don't know," said Nicklaus.

Woods has won four US PGA titles this year, giving him a career total of 78, four shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, but Australia's Adam Scott won the Masters, England's Justin Rose captured the US Open and Mickelson charged to victory at the British Open.

"I don't know what is happening between his ears," Nicklaus said of Woods.

"Each person handles things differently. Winning four times this year, he had to have something working in those tournaments.

"Something prevented him from winning the majors that have been played so far.

"You have to give Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson some credit for playing better."

And when it comes to next month's PGA, "you would be pretty hard pressed to not to make him one of the favourites, if not the favourite."

Nicklaus also expects the PGA winner will have to adapt to the touch layout at Oak Hill, last used in a major when American Shaun Micheel won the 2003 PGA Championship.

"The player has got to suit his game to the golf course," Nicklaus said.

"Mickelson will adapt well to it. Tiger will adapt well to it.

"You have so many good players who will like Oak Hill and have a good chance to win.

"The PGA is a pretty open ball game for somebody to win."

As for the record six-under 274 Nicklaus fired at Oak Hill to win the 1980 PGA, Nicklaus said he expects that mark will fall this year.

"I would suspect in this day and age, with as far as golf balls go and the way players are, that record would probably go," Nicklaus said.

"That record will probably fall."

Nicklaus also touched on slow play, saying improved golf ball technology and long, harder courses carry a share of the blame for rounds taking much more time to play than in his era.

"The main culprit of slow play to me is the golf ball and the distance it goes," Nicklaus said.

"It's all part of equipment. You change (the course) a little bit.

"The longer and more difficult a golf course is, the longer it takes to play it... it escalates right through the game.

"It's a vicious circle."


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