Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Farewell to a titan: Nicklaus retiring at open

Farewell to a titan: Nicklaus retiring at open
National Post Tuesday, July 12, 2005 Page: SR11 Section: Special Report: Post Golf Byline: Robert Thompson Source: National Post
Like Arnold Palmer before him, expect a huge ovation at this British Open when Jack Nicklaus crosses the fabled Swilcan Bridge for the last time, pausing only to dry his eyes and wave to the crowds.
For Nicklaus, who has won the Open Championship three times, it will be his final appearance at the tournament. Now 65, well past his prime and in his final year of eligibility as a past champion, Nicklaus' trips around St. Andrews are part of the end of a legendary career that many contend is the best in golf.
Nicklaus announced his intention to end his competitive golf career at St. Andrews a few months ago, during a visit to a golf course he was designing in the United Kingdom.
"From a tournament standpoint that will be it for me," Nicklaus said at the time. "I will play a few skins games and father-sons, but from any kind of tournament involvement, that's it."
The Royal and Ancient, the caretakers of the British Open, thought so much of Nicklaus that they apparently altered the rotation of British Open courses so that his final rounds would be at the Old Course, where he had won twice (his other win came at Muirfield).
Nicklaus has made some remarkable appearances at St. Andrews in the past. Six years after his first sighting of the Old Course, Nicklaus returned to St. Andrews in 1970 having gone without a major championship win in three years.
On the Old Course's difficult closing stretch, Nicklaus battled Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff. It was the scene of a rare outburst of emotion on The Golden Bear's part when, on the final hole of the playoff, he made birdie to beat Sanders and flung his putter high in the air.
After narrowly losing the "duel under the sun" to Tom Watson at Turnberry in 1977, Nicklaus returned to the Old Course to best Simon Owen and claim his third and final British Open title.
Nicklaus' final appearance at St. Andrews has also generated some negative publicity when the town council refused to give him the so-called "freedom of St. Andrews." The town had previously awarded the privilege to Bobby Jones and was criticized for not giving the same honour to Nicklaus.
Nicklaus expects his final competitive golf round to be a moving, difficult affair similar to his final U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach.
"I love St. Andrews. It's been a great part of my career. I expect I'll be just as emotional at St. Andrews,'' Nicklaus said, referring to his final Masters round this past spring. "I'm a sentimental old fool. I enjoy being part of history and what's going on, but I don't consider myself competitive any more. Hopefully, when I get to St. Andrews, I will have some kind of game. It won't be great, but I hope not to embarrass myself. I will enjoy it."
Nicklaus has admitted his fondness for the Old Course, though he still contends his favourite course in Scotland is Muirfield.
"I played the Old Course one time and loved it," Nicklaus recently wrote in Golf Digest. "It wasn't so much the architecture. There are only two holes I consider exceptional ... But what makes St. Andrews special is its unique feel. The way the Old Course begins in town and ends in the town."

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