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SPORTS EXTRA / FOCUS ON GOLF: The Masters

Nicklaus Going to Miss Masters--Literally

Golf: Hip replacement surgery means he will skip event for first time in 40 years--so he's going fishing.

April 08, 1999|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AUGUSTA, Ga. — See Jack walk. See Jack talk. See Jack leave.

If you think Jack Nicklaus was going to stick around and watch the Masters when he can't play in it, well, you don't know Jack.

Nicklaus had hip replacement surgery 10 weeks ago, which means he is missing his first Masters in 40 years. He's 59 now and has won more Masters titles--six--than anyone. On Tuesday, Nicklaus walked around Augusta National, attended the past champions' dinner and then got out of town as fast as he could.

"I'm going to miss the Masters, but it's not going to be as emotional to me as missing a major championship because I stopped that streak last year at the British Open," Nicklaus said. "Once I stopped that, I was going to stop all the other ones. So they've all got to come to an end.

"Would I like to play the Masters? Sure. Would I like not to skip out on the Masters? Sure. But it didn't fall that way for me. Am I going to sit around and mope about it? I'm going to the Bahamas and do some fishing."

Until he skipped the British Open last year, Nicklaus had played in 154 consecutive majors in which he was eligible.

In the Masters, Nicklaus' record is unmatched. Arnold Palmer is the next closest, with four victories.

Nicklaus has finished in the top three 12 times, four more than Sam Snead. He has had 15 top-five finishes, six more than Ben Hogan, and 22 top 10s, five more than Hogan.

Next year, Nicklaus plans to be back to play in his 41st Masters. As for this year, if his physical rehabilitation program progresses, he thinks he'll be back on the course by the Memorial in the first week of June.

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