On the 7th hole Nicklaus's knee seizes up while he's standing on the side of a hill preparing to hit a shot. Nicklaus is miked, and the sound of the joint popping goes out over loudspeakers mounted on carts, followed by an agonized "Oh, Jesus, that was my knee." Nicklaus bends over and waits for the pain to subside. On the next hole, for the first time in an exhibition, he boards a cart and rides the rest of the way. Momentarily forgetting that he's miked, he says to the driver of the cart, "It's hell getting old."
For the rest of the round, Nicklaus's grunts, groans and sighs are audible, but, as always, he digs deep and finishes with a birdie at the 17th and a solid par on 18. His score is in the high 70s, several strokes higher than Woosnam's.
Once the round is over, Nicklaus's only concern is Gary's score. He regards warily information that his 29-year-old son, through 13 holes, is in good position to qualify. Sure enough, back at the hotel he gets the bad news: Gary bogeyed the last three holes (by missing three putts inside of six feet, it is later learned) to fall into a seven-way tie for the one remaining spot. "Jeez!" Nicklaus says, dropping his head as if he had been the one missing from short range. Wordlessly he retires to his suite. When he emerges for dinner an hour and a half later, he has learned that Gary was eliminated in a playoff. Rather than going to Birkdale, the Nicklaus party will head back home to North Palm Beach, Fla.
Tuesday, July 14: Nicklaus is subdued on the way to the airport—"I've never hurt that much playing in front of people," he says about the previous day's exhibition and once on board he stretches out for some sleep. Three hours later, when he awakes, he's a new man. He spies Hurst outside the cockpit and asks playfully, "Are you leaving the flying to that good German, Otto Pilot?" Reviewing the stories of his day at Carden Park in the English newspapers, he seizes on a headline in The Express: NICKLAUS: I MUST QUIT FOR MY KIDS. The story is based on a comment he made at the press conference. "I don't think I've been much of a grandfather so far," Nicklaus had said.
Mildly annoyed, Nicklaus repeats the headline in a fey voice and gestures toward Steve. "Can you imagine quitting for reprobates like him?" he says, joking.
Nicklaus slips an icebag under his pants to reduce swelling in his left groin, and turns his attention to a movie, Addicted to Love. Afterward, with three hours left in the eight-hour flight, Nicklaus spreads out the architectural drawings for the King and the Bear, a course he is co-designing with Arnold Palmer at the new World Golf Village, in St. Augustine, Fla. According to Steve, his father's passion for architecture will make his withdrawal from competition easier. "He won't be haunted," Steve says. "He'll be too busy."
Nicklaus has long meetings scheduled at his company's headquarters, in North Palm Beach, for the rest of the week. "If I watch the British Open on television, it will be a total coincidence," he says.
Wednesday, July 15: By 9 a.m. Nicklaus has made the one-mile drive from his waterfront home at Lost Tree Village and is in his office. (His company occupies parts of five floors of the Golden Bear Plaza, off Highway 1.) The first order of business is painful—signing off on a deal to sell 14 Golden Bear Golf Centers, for $32 million, to a competitor, Family Golf Centers. While Nicklaus's privately owned course-design business is thriving, the publicly held divisions of his company, Golden Bear Golf, Inc., have struggled. The stock, which opened at $16 a share during the initial public offering in August '96, now hovers around $4. The biggest hit came in May when Golden Bear's golf construction subsidiary, Paragon Construction, announced an internal review of cost overruns at some of its 30 projects.
Golden Bear's troubles demand Nicklaus's full attention. "I'm home so seldom that when I go into the office, everybody needs me and I get swamped," he says. "Forget about playing golf or preparing for a tournament."
Is his hunger for competition satisfied by business? "Not quite," Nicklaus says after a pause. "In golf, when somebody beats you, you know it was fair and square. In business, you don't always feel that way."