Nicklaus holds court prior to Presidents Cup

DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - Even though he doesn’t have an official title at the Presidents Cup, Jack Nicklaus remains a presence.

Fred Couples, captain of the U.S. side, put it all into perspective.

“We know who’s in charge,” he said. “Jack Nicklaus.”

The winner of a record 18 major championships is an unofficial host for this week’s biennial match-play competition between the U.S. and an International side.

On Tuesday he discussed his pride over the course he designed, Muirfield Village, becoming the first to host a Ryder Cup (1987), a Solheim Cup (1998) and a Presidents Cup (in addition to the annual Memorial Tournament).

“Obviously, that’s pretty special,” said the 73-year-old Columbus native. “We are the only ones who can say that.”

Nicklaus was a four-time captain of the Presidents Cup, which has been dominated by the Americans. A similar thing was happening in the older Ryder Cup until the Europeans upset the U.S. side at … Muirfield Village.

Nicklaus, as a veteran of elite match play competitions and as an ambassador of the game, addressed the course, the art of pairing players in matches, pressure on the International team to be competitive and, of all things, attending a hockey game.

_ Nicklaus said he knew he had to lengthen the 18th hole at Muirfield Village when one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, Robert Garrigus, approached him at the 2012 Memorial.

“Garrigus came in here last year and he says, `Jack, remember I drove it up to 76 yards from the hole last year?’” Nicklaus said. “I said I remembered. He says, `I drove it to 64 yards today.’ I wanted to wring his neck.”

Now the par-4 hole stretches another 45 yards to almost 500 yards. Long hitters can no longer just drive over the nine bunkers along the right side of the fairway. Instead, they’ll have to deal with a black walnut tree 305 yards off the tee then hit a long, uphill approach to a hard, fast, tilted green.

“You have to play a very significant shot in,” he said.

_ Asked how he decided pairings when he was a captain in both the Ryder and Presidents Cups, Nicklaus said he left it up to the team.

“I’d ask all the guys at the beginning of the week, `Who would you like to play with?’ Or, `Who wouldn’t you like to play with?’” he said. Then he would try to pair players with friends and not with enemies, if at all possible.

At the same time, if a player wanted to play against someone, he would try to accommodate them.

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