Is Jack Nicklaus Sending Tiger Woods a Message at Memorial's Skins Game?

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 1, 2010

DUBLIN, OH - JUNE 03:  Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods pose on the tenth tee during a skins game prior to the start of the Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 3, 2009 in Dublin, Ohio.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Interesting groupings for Wednesday's skins game at the Memorial.

Jack Nicklaus, instead of grouping himself with Tiger Woods, like we assumed he would, has chosen instead to put himself in a group with Phil Mickelson.

Jack explains it as a chance to play with Phil, because last year Mickelson had to skip the skins game.

But this does beg the question: couldn't Jack have played with both of them?

In the Nicklaus five-some are Jack, Phil, Ernie Els, Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair.

In the Tiger five-some are Tiger, Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson.

The two groups will play a nine-hole skins game on Wednesday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, a day before the actual tournament begins on Thursday.

Of course, Muirfield is the course Jack built, and The Memorial, ever since the very first one back in 1976, is his tournament.

Even though Jack and Phil are in the first skins group together, I have to say the second group is more intriguing. Tiger and Furyk battled at the Memorial last year, with Woods coming from behind and catching Jimmy on Sunday to win the tournament.

It will also be fun to see Tiger and Rory McIlroy go head-to-head, as well as Tiger with Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. Johnson is coming off a win last weekend.

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This is Tiger's first tournament since the neck injury and his ensuing rest period. On his website last week, Tiger said, "Although I'm not a 100 percent, I feel much better and look forward to competing next week."

It would have been nice to see Jack, Tiger and Phil in the same group, but that grouping would probably not have been fair to any of the five in the second group; they would have had no one watching them.

Jack, Tiger and Phil had to be broken up, I suppose, and maybe this was the fairest way to do it.

Perhaps instead of a showdown in the skins game on Wednesday, we'll get a showdown on Sunday in a battle between the world's top two players.

Tiger is coming off the sore neck and the layoff. Phil is coming off the missed cut and blowing another chance to take over the top spot in the rankings.

Maybe that makes them even heading into the weekend?

So, do I think Jack is reprimanding Tiger by not playing with him on Wednesday?

No. I just think Jack wants to mix it up a bit.

He is the host, after all. It's his prerogative.

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