AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jack Nicklaus climbed to the top of the
ninth green, gave a small wave to the cheering crowd and dipped his
head to brush the tears from his eyes.
This was the way the six-time Masters champion wanted to leave.
No drawn-out sendoff, just a simple goodbye. After a tap-in for one
last par and some smiles for the fans, he was gone. And the 65-year-old says
it's for good.
"I don't think I'll venture out on the golf course for a
tournament round again," Nicklaus said Saturday after shooting a
4-over 76 and missing the cut. "Unless I can gain 10 mph more club
head speed, I'm not coming back.
"I don't think that's going to happen."
Unlike Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus never wanted a ceremonial sendoff
at Augusta National. He had planned to make 2004 his last year,
preferring not to play if he wasn't competitive. But he was urged
to come back one more time by chairman Hootie Johnson a few weeks
after the drowning death of his 17-month-old grandson. And after
playing several rounds with his sons the last few weeks, Nicklaus
"If I'm ever going to come back, I've got as good a chance of
not embarrassing myself this year," he said. "`Suck it up and get
it over with.' That's how I looked at it."
And for awhile, it looked as if Nicklaus might make a grand
farewell. When he started his second round on the 11th hole
Saturday morning, his mind was on the three birdies he thought he
would need to make the cut.
So he set out with son and caddie Jackie planning to stay until
Sunday. But he bogeyed three of his first four holes, all but
ending his chances.
When he approached the ninth green, he knew there was no
tomorrow and his emotions got the best of him.
He looked out at the crowd as if to soak in the memory, then
bowed his head to wipe away the tears and compose himself. After
all, he still had a putt to make -- and a birdie chance, at that.
Nicklaus missed the 4-footer, and looked at the fans in
exasperation. After he tapped in, the crowd stood for one last
salute. Playing partner and good friend Jay Haas hugged him and
then Nicklaus was gone, disappearing into the crowd as he walked to
the scorer's hut to turn in his last Masters scorecard.
"I think," he said, "you say goodbye when you can play a