Golf: Nicklaus backs Woods

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The Independent Online
Jack Nicklaus yesterday defended Tiger Woods for failing to give a press conference following his opening round of 74 at the US Open. "Don't be too hard on him - he'll learn," said Nicklaus, the four times champion playing his 150th major at the Congressional.

"He'll come to realise you guys can make or break him in so many ways. He's young and he'll grow. I don't think I ever didn't stop to talk, but I try not to be too critical in my position. I recognise you guys have your jobs to do and at that point I've done mine. In fact, it flatters me that you're interested, that you want to know what I've done and why.

"I know the first time I did something like that was in 1963, when I was the defending champion and I think I shot something like an opening- round 76. I think I spent an hour in the locker-room talking with the press then. I found out you were just as interested in my thoughts as to why I played poorly as to when I played well."

Woods, who gave the briefest of comments on his way out of the club, was asked about his actions when he came into the media centre after his second-round 67.

"I just want to be considered one of the 156 players playing the tournament," he stated. "And if I'm not near the lead, I shouldn't be required to answer questions. When I'm that far back, I see no need. I feel it is a right for me to decline if I'm that far out of it. I was nine shots back."

The pressures on Woods are enormous. There is much more media attention now than in Nicklaus' prime and in every tournament he plays there are people wanting to talk to him after every single round.

It is something he and his management team from Mark McCormack's International Management Group are aware will continue as long as his current impact on the sport remains.