Nicklaus to be honorary citizen of St. Andrews

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Three-time Open winner Jack Nicklaus on Tuesday will become only the third American to be honored as an honorary citizen of St. Andrews, Scotland.

The other Americans who received the honor were inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin in 1759 and golfer Bobby Jones in 1958.

Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion, won two of his three Open titles at the Old Course in 1970 and 1978. He made his final start in a major, his 164th one, in the 2005 Open at St. Andrews.

“When I stepped on it in ’64, all of a sudden to step out of the clubhouse, step here, look at the first tee, look at what was there, see the town, see everything, I fell in love with it immediately,” Nicklaus said during a news conference on Monday. “And I’ve had a love affair with it ever since.”

The honor was bestowed on Nicklaus, 82, by the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews Community Council. The ceremony will take place during the 150th anniversary celebration of The Open.

“I always said St. Andrews looked like an old gray town until the Open came around,” Nicklaus said. “All of a sudden, it just lit up like a light, and it was beautiful. And St. Andrews the week of the Open Championship is always beautiful. I imagine actually probably from anybody who makes a pilgrimage here to play this golf course feels that way.”

Nicklaus didn’t plan to play in Monday’s Celebration of Champions with other former winners, including Tiger Woods and Lee Trevino. Nicklaus said he didn’t even bring his clubs to Scotland.

Nicklaus also weighed on the ongoing battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, a new circuit being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. It has lured several high-profile players, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, away from the PGA Tour with guaranteed signing bonuses of more than $100 million and $25 million purses.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a two-time Open winner, wasn’t invited to participate in the Celebration of Champions or attend the champions’ dinner. In a statement, the R&A said it didn’t invite Norman because it wanted to avoid distractions during the week.

“First of all, Greg Norman is an icon in the game of golf,” Nicklaus said. “He’s a great player. We’ve been friends for a long time, and regardless of what happens, he’s going to remain a friend. Unfortunately, he and I just don’t see eye to eye in what’s going on. I’ll basically leave it at that.”

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