Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo disagree — over a key piece of course management

Nick Faldo, Jim Nantz, Jack Nicklaus

Nick Faldo, Jim Nantz and Jack Nicklaus in 2016 in the CBS booth at the Memorial.

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Nick Faldo says you should. (And he says he was told to do so by Ben Hogan.) Jack Nicklaus says you shouldn’t. 

Whom to trust over whether or not you should aim your ball at trouble? Good question. Faldo’s a six-time major champ; Nicklaus an 18-timer (and Hogan won nine). Ultimately, the decision likely comes down to some combination of personal preference, risk management and situation. But the back-and-forth between Faldo and Nicklaus, during CBS’ broadcast of Saturday’s third round of the Memorial, may persuade. 

The conversation started with Billy Horschel — who leads by five heading into Sunday — on the tee on the 186-yard, par-3 16th at Muirfield Village. His pin was cut 12 feet in on the green’s left side (and 39 feet in from the front), and a few yards left of the hole was a lake. In question, essentially, was whether Horschel, who’s right-handed, should flirt with the water and try to get in close. Or play away from trouble.


“I would be playing right at the middle of the green,” said Nicklaus, the tournament’s host and the course’s founder. “I would let the ball turn a little bit left. But I don’t think you should be playing left to right in there.”

“Why wouldn’t you fade it in there, Jack?” asked Faldo, now an analyst with CBS. “I would think that’s the hold-off. one-yard fade.”

“I don’t ever aim the ball into trouble,” Nicklaus said. “Period.” 

“Don’t ever aim ball at the trouble,” Faldo said. 

“Don’t ever aim the ball at trouble,” Nicklaus said. “Don’t ever aim the ball at out of bounds. Don’t ever aim the ball at a lake. You always aim away from it. And if you have to play back towards it, make sure that you can’t hook it enough to get there or make sure you can’t fade it enough to get to it. 

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Said analyst Frank Nobilo: “This is a good discussion. There’s 24 majors up there.” 

Indeed. At this point, announcer Jim Nantz asked Faldo if he ever aimed at trouble.

“Mr. Hogan said you aimed at the trouble and then worked it off the trouble,” Faldo said. “Like you’d aim it at the lake and fade it off it.” 

“If you were sure you were going to do that,” Nicklaus said. 

“Yeah, if you trust your …” Faldo began.

“And that’s what I did,” Nicklaus said. “I thought I was pretty good at what I did, but I didn’t trust it that much.” 

“You could have done a lot better than those 19 seconds,” joked Faldo, a reference to Nicklaus’ number of runner-up finishes in majors.  

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“Yeah, I know,” Nicklaus said. “That’s when I aimed at the trouble.”

“So you’d work it with no fear of overdoing it? You never flew it over?” Faldo said. 

“What I tried to do was not ever put pressure or make myself nervous,” Nicklaus said. “I tried to keep comfortable.” 

As they talked, Horschel and playing partner Luke List hit relatively straight shots — there was slight left-to-right movement — and each player finished right of the hole and about 20 feet away.  

“You’re making us nervous questioning you,” Faldo said. 

“I just wish you would have gotten the Hogan memo,” Nantz said. “What a career it could have been.” 

“You could have been so much better, Jack,” Faldo said. 

“I wasn’t as good as Hogan,” Nicklaus said.  

“Oh, there’s a line,” Faldo said. 

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