Golf

Jack Nicklaus talks Tiger Woods, ’86 Masters, at Honda Classic

Jack Nicklaus attends the 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Tuesday, Dec.15, 2015, in New York.
Jack Nicklaus attends the 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Tuesday, Dec.15, 2015, in New York. Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

Eighteen-time major champion Jack Nicklaus said Sunday that Tiger Woods looks “very healthy.”

Nicklaus, who spoke Sunday during the final round of the Honda Classic, saw Woods during a dinner for the U.S. Ryder Cup team on Thursday at Nicklaus’ North Palm Beach home.

Woods is recovering from back surgery and told the group he “was feeling great and he was able to stand over a putt and chip now without having any leg pain,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said he didn’t want to talk much about Woods’ health but said he hoped the 14-time major champion would be able to play again soon.

“I’ve told Tiger many times, and I told him again the other night,” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘You know, Tiger … nobody wants their records to be broken, but I don’t want you not to have the ability to have that opportunity to do so by your health.’ ”

The former Ryder Cup captain jokingly said he couldn’t “imagine how them coming over to have dinner at an old man’s house is going to help any,” but he offered up his home to an estimated 29 players, led by current U.S. captain Davis Love III.

“But what the dinner was about was I think more about getting the guys together, trying to get a little bit of bonding,” Nicklaus said, “trying to have them pick my brain a little bit about being a past captain and past player, trying to build a little enthusiasm within the group, and I think guys were very pleased with that.”

▪ As Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player dominated their era of golf, Mark McCormack, who managed all three players, used his press connections to turn them into a sensation. As many clamor to declare Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day as the new “Big Three,” Nicklaus thinks the field is too strong to make an exclusive declaration.

“I think you’ve got more good players right now than you’ve had in a while,” Nicklaus said, “and I think that’s only really good for the game of golf. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

▪ This year’s Masters Tournament will mark the 30th anniversary of Nicklaus’ last major title. Nicklaus, who started the final round four shots back of the lead, won the 1986 Masters by a single stroke, and his son, Jack Nicklaus Jr., was on the bag.

“It was not a big transition,” said Nicklaus, who changed caddies before the Masters, “but to have him on the bag when you won your last major, yeah, that’s pretty special. There’s no question about that.”

The Golf Channel will have a special titled ’86 airing Tuesday, April 5, at 9 p.m.

▪ Nicklaus said about a dozen players, ranging from Spieth to McIlroy, seek him out for advice.

“I’ve had a lot of guys come to me,” Nicklaus said. “Most of them are afraid to approach me. And I really — I’m very flattered by it. … I’m happy to give my time to any one of them who wants to talk to me and sit down.”

WGC-Cadillac Championship

When/where: Thursday through Sunday; Trump National Doral.

Course: Blue Monster, par 72, 7,528 yards.

Purse: $9,500,000 (winner’s share $1,612,432).

2015 champion: Dustin Johnson, 9-under-par 279.

TV: Thursday: Golf Channel, 2-6 p.m.; Friday: Golf Channel, 2-6 p.m.; Saturday: NBC, 2-6 p.m.; Sunday: NBC, 3-7 p.m.

Tickets: Weekly grounds tickets $187.25. Children 18 or under free with a ticketed adult. For more information, cadillacchampionship.com.

Schedule: Wednesday: Gates open at 7:30 a.m.; practice round for professionals; Thursday: Gates open at 9 a.m.; first round tees off at 11:15 a.m.; Friday: Gates open at 9 a.m.; second round tees off at 11:15 a.m.; Saturday: Gates open at 7:30 a.m.; third round tees off at 8:30 a.m.; Sunday: Gates open at 7:30 a.m.; fourth and final round tees off at 9:30 a.m. Awards ceremony on 18th green after tournament ends.

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