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The Loop

Verdi: Nicklaus on Tiger and Norman

SOUTHPORT, England -- Jack Nicklaus dropped by Royal Birkdale on Friday to spread a little sunshine that did not otherwise exist during the second round of the British Open. Tanned and ebullient in an orange sweater, The Golden Bear was asked what Tiger Woods' absence from the golf scene might mean to the masses.

"It could give a chance for some of the young guys to step up and win in the next eight or so months that Tiger is out with his injury," said Nicklaus, who has often wondered about the dearth of contenders to Tiger's throne. "If they win while he's not playing, maybe when he comes back, the guys who won will have more confidence. They should have. It certainly opens the door."

Nicklaus and his massive design company would have a vested interest in golf becoming an Olympic sport. He already builds courses in regions just now becoming familiar with the game, but a place in the 2016 Summer Games would be significant, Nicklaus believes.

"Would that make a difference in the United States? Probably not," Nicklaus said. "But in other areas of the world? Absolutely. Olympic sports receive government financing, and that would be a tremendous boost for people being introduced to the game and more facilities being made available to them."

As Nicklaus spoke about young players chasing an ailing Tiger, the leader of the British Open was Greg Norman, 53, who prefaced his appearance here as a "tune-up" for next week's Senior British Open at Royal Troon. How can this be?

"I don't know the answer," Nicklaus concluded. "I don't think Greg has been playing a lot of golf. But neither was I before the 1986 Masters. Then I remembered how to play and remembered how to win. That could happen to him."

--Bob Verdi