DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – Jack Nicklaus pressed both hands to his lips for a farewell kiss to the crowd as he walked off the 18th green Friday afternoon at the Memorial.

Two groups behind him, Tiger Woods fired at as many flags as he could and moved quickly into contention.

An emotional day at Muirfield Village ended with Jeff Sluman, whom Nicklaus picked as an assistant captain at the last Presidents Cup, atop the leaderboard thanks to a flop shot that dropped for birdie and a 1-under 71. That gave him a one-shot lead over Woods and four others heading into the weekend.

Woods was tied for the lead along the back nine until missing the 17th green and making his only bogey of the tournament, dropping him to a 68. He was joined by Jonathan Kaye, Harrison Frazar, Lucas Glover and Nick O’Hern, the Australian lefty who beat Woods in the second round at the Match Play Championship.

Still, the day belonged to Nicklaus.

He played what might be his final PGA Tour event on American soil, and wasn’t too happy with how it ended. The cheers that echoed around the course he helped design were usually for par, sometimes for bogey, always just to see the 65-year-old Nicklaus approach the green.

The score made him sick to his stomach – a 5-over 77 to miss the cut by six shots.

“It will probably close out my golf in the United States in regular tournament golf, more than likely,” Nicklaus said. “I may come back here, but I certainly wouldn’t plan on it.”

Then again …

“I just can’t stand finishing with a 77,” he said.

Sluman had few complaints with his 71, especially since it put him in the lead at 8-under 136. Sluman was among the few players near the lead who didn’t drop any strokes over the final three holes, although it sure looked as if he would when he missed the green to the left at No. 17.

His flop shot was perfect and rattled into the cup for a birdie, and he avoided trouble on the 18th.

“I hit it pretty solid, just didn’t get as much out of it because I didn’t hit as close as I needed to,” Sluman said. “I obviously am in a pretty good position.”

O’Hern (70) and Frazar (68) each had a chance to tie for the lead until bogeys on the 18th hole, while Glover and Kaye each had 70 and played the final three holes in par.

Vijay Singh birdied the 18th hole, but all that ultimately meant was that he finished one shot ahead of Nicklaus. Singh missed a half-dozen putts inside 12 feet, took another double bogey on the 17th and followed his 77 with a 74 to miss the cut for the second time this year.

Woods walked into the scoring trailer and a PGA Tour official welcomed him by saying, “One down, 141 to go.” He missed the cut two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson Championship, ending his record cut streak at 142.

“It’s kind of nice playing on the weekend,” Woods said with a laugh.

He is in the middle of a logjam on the leaderboard, thanks to a Muirfield Village course that tempts players to attack off the tee and into the green, then punishes them if they fail.

Still, Woods has history on his side. Every time Nicklaus says goodbye, Woods seems to hold the trophy. It happened the last time Nicklaus played the PGA Championship, in 2000 at Valhalla, and again at Augusta National in April when Woods won the Masters.

“Hopefully, I’ll keep that string going here,” Woods said.

Sluman was among the early starters and failed to separate himself from the field, rarely getting his approach shots inside 20 feet.

His lone birdie putt came at the par-5 fifth, a 40-footer after an indifferent wedge.

The frustration on Nicklaus’ face was evident throughout the back nine. He gave the gallery fleeting hope with a birdie putt on the 14th, but it all came undone on No. 15. From the fairway, Nicklaus flared a fairway metal into the creek, took a drop, then skulled his next shot over the green and into the gallery.

He bogeyed the next two holes, then watched his birdie putt on the 18th come up just short.

There was plenty of nostalgia as he walked along Muirfield Village in competition for perhaps the last time, and defending champion Ernie Els detected a tear in Nicklaus’ eye as they finished.

But good golf is all that ever mattered to Nicklaus.

“I try when I’m out there to play golf,” he said. “That’s what these people came in here to see. They came to see Jack Nicklaus play golf, as well as they came in to see 104 other guys play golf. And I wanted them to see me – not what I did today.”


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