July 10, 2005

Nicklaus calling time after 41 years at Old Course

By Jon Bramley

ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - No matter who wins the
134th British Open this week, no-one will receive a warmer
reception from the Scottish galleries than Jack Nicklaus.

St Andrews is a fitting stage to call time on 41 years of
Open Championship visits there and the most glittering career
in the history of golf.

The Old Course has been a happy hunting ground for the
65-year-old Nicklaus, who admits he will be hard pushed to bid
farewell without a tear or two after winning two of his three
titles here in 1970 and 1978.

"It has a special place in my heart," he told reporters
during a recent visit. "There are two British Opens -- the one
played at Muirfield, Lytham, Troon and the rest and the one
played at St Andrews.

"If you want to be remembered, then you have to win at St
Andrews. Ever since I first competed here in 1964, the people
have been real nice to me and that's why I think it's
appropriate to finish my career at St Andrews."

The Royal and Ancient, organizers of golf's oldest and most
prestigious event, evidently agree and pushed St Andrews up the
pecking order of venues to coincide with Nicklaus's departure.


Under the rules, everybody -- even three-time champions and
golfing gods such as the great American -- must qualify after
they turn 66 and Nicklaus is too big a name in the sport and
too long in the tooth to go through that lottery.

So St Andrews, rather than Augusta, home of the U.S.
Masters, will be the scene for Nicklaus's final farewell after
a career which has reaped a strongroom's worth of silverware
including a record 18 majors.

"When you look at the great players who have won a St
Andrews Open -- Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Tony
Lema, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods -- you can
smell the sense of tradition," Nicklaus said.

"Especially so when you think that if Old Tom Morris came
back today he would immediately recognize it as the same course
he played on way back 200 years ago.

"To come to St Andrews for the first time is to fall in
love at first sight."

His affection is reciprocated. The "Golden Bear" has always
attracted the largest following here and the Royal Bank of
Scotland recently decided to honor him by putting his image on
two million five-pound notes.

The local council considered making him an honorary citizen
of the borough as they did for one of Nicklaus's greatest
predecessors as a St Andrews Open champion, Bobby Jones.

In the event, councillors decided against conferring the
honor, depriving Nicklaus of the opportunity of formally
stating his love for the place as Jones so eloquently did 47
years ago.

"If I could take everything out of my life except my
experiences at St Andrews I would still have enjoyed a rich and
full life," said Jones.

Nicklaus has no daydreams of a fourth title on his swansong
-- a chronic back problem plus the likes of Tiger Woods will
see to that -- but he entertains reasonable hopes of making the
cut this week to delay that emotional adieu until Sunday.

"I don't expect to be competitive to any degree. It would
be great to play in all four rounds but I can't imagine anyone
quaking in their boots because I show up at St Andrews," he

"It will be a matter of personal pride to finish as high up
the leaderboard as possible -- and, also, to finish my career
next Sunday and not Friday."