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Palmer & Nicklausopen jointly designed course

Jack Nicklaus isn't too worried about the confrontation between Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour over media rights. Nor is he uptight about his old rival, Arnold Palmer, using a golf club that violates USGA rules.

Nicklaus and Palmer officially opened their first collaboration today, a golf course appropriately named "The King & The Bear" that figures to be a top attraction at the World Golf Village.

But their news conference quickly became a comedy routine, during which they fired playful jabs at Woods, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, and each other.

Nicklaus and Palmer each have designed more than 250 golf courses around the world, but this is the first time -- and likely the last time -- they have built one together. Nicklaus was asked what a course might look like if Woods ever got into the design business.

"Whenever he needs some money, he'll probably get into it," Nicklaus said.

Palmer, standing next to Nicklaus at the podium, then looked over at Finchem and said without missing a beat, "And then, maybe the commissioner will listen to him.''

Woods, who will make about $54 million next year in endorsements, complained last week that Finchem only speaks to him when the PGA Tour wants him to play in certain tournaments. Woods also said his discontent with the tour over media rights could evolve into a bigger problem if it's not fixed.

Woods did not rule out giving up his PGA Tour membership.

Nicklaus shrugged off whatever impact that might have on the tour, saying it was no different than other players' complaints in the 31 years since he and Palmer led a revolt that eventually established what is now the PGA Tour.

"Tiger and the tour will end up doing what's best for the game. I'm staying out of this issue,'' Nicklaus said after the press conference. "It's no different than others before him. Arnold and I went through the same issue, but not to this magnitude -- because the press was not at the same magnitude that it is today.''

After leading a breakaway from the PGA of America in 1969, Palmer and Nicklaus were concerned in 1983 that the tour was getting too heavily involved in the growing Tournament Players Club network, instead of focusing on the tournament golf.

Then-commissioner Deane Beman responded by producing an annual report and putting together a lucrative retirement plan for the players.

When asked whether he ever dealt with marketing and media rights, Nicklaus said, "Everybody went through that. Are you kidding? It's exactly the same."

"We survived,'' Nicklaus said. "So will Tiger. So will the tour.''

He also chided Palmer for endorsing Callaway Golf's plan to market the ERC II driver in America, even though it does not conform to U.S. Golf Association rules.

"I just look forward to hearing what you have to say about golf clubs,'' Nicklaus said at the beginning of their news conference.

Palmer, a USGA spokesman the past 25 years, has said he did not see anything wrong with illegal equipment -- as long as it is used for recreation, and not tournament play.

That means his ERC II will not be allowed when he and Nicklaus team up next April in the Legends of Golf, the event that led to the formation of the Senior Tour. It will be played on The King & The Bear course.

"What kind of clubs are you going to use?'' Palmer asked .

"Legal ones,'' Nicklaus replied. "What are you going to use?''

"I'll let you make that decision,'' Palmer said.

"If I let you use an illegal one and I can borrow it, I think we'll both do a lot better,'' Nicklaus said.

 

 

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