Nicklaus Tees It Up at Houston

Associated Press

Jack Nicklaus, in his first tournament since winning the Masters two weeks ago, Tom Watson and defending champion Raymond Floyd head a field teeing off today in the first round of the $500,000 Houston Open.

Nicklaus, playing in the Houston stop on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1977, is a boost for the tournament, which has had problems attracting sponsors and the top players in recent years.

So when Nicklaus arrived at The Woodlands Country Club TPC course late Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday’s pro-am, the fans were still there waiting.

Nicklaus hooked his first three shots off the practice tee, but the Golden Bear soon started giving the fans what they’d waited to see.


“It’s nice to show up at 5 p.m. and see a fairway lined with people,” Nicklaus said.

The tournament has lost two commercial sponsors in the past five years and network television has not shown the event since 1982, opting instead to show The Legends of Golf, a senior tour event played in Austin, Texas.

Watson, returning for the first time since 1972 when he missed the cut at Westwood Country Club, was an early commitment, giving tournament director Duke Butler an early start on erasing last year’s $100,000 loss.

Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins, also absent last year, are playing.


ESPN will televise all four rounds.

John Mahaffey, the leading money-winner on the tour and who represents The Woodlands on the PGA Tour, also is among the favorites along with Calvin Peete, a two-time tour winner this year and No. 2 on the money list.