<
>

Nicklaus unsure of his plans after Memorial

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. -- It turns out Jack Nicklaus might be
finished with more than just the Masters.

He spoke Wednesday about giving up a game he once dominated,
winning 73 PGA Tour events and 18 major titles.

"I'm about done playing golf," the 64-year-old Nicklaus said
at the Nationwide Tour's BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs. He's
competing here with his four sons: Jackie, Gary, Steve and Michael.

"I haven't made up my mind whether I'm going to play anymore
this year after the Memorial tournament" in June, Nicklaus said.

At the Masters this month, the six-time champion said it was
likely that he would not play at Augusta National in 2005. And that
was before he shot consecutive 75s to miss the cut.

Nicklaus has struggled with arthritis, injuries and a faltering
game the past few seasons.

"I know I can't compete at the level I used to compete,"
Nicklaus said. "If I go out and finish in the top 10, and that's a
great week, then I know it's time to hang up your spikes."

Gary Player, 68, empathized with Nicklaus.

"It's hard spending all your time playing golf, like you did
when you were a young man," said Player, here with his son Marc.

A year ago, the Golden Bear was the only Nicklaus around for the
Nationwide event's final two rounds. He won the pro-am competition
with son Steve and briefly scared the younger pros when he got to
within five shots of the lead after 36 holes. Nicklaus left with a
smile on his face, happy he was close to again playing successful,
competitive golf.

Time and his own high standards have made it hard to maintain
that momentum, Nicklaus said.

People continually ask him not to quit. "But I tell them,
'Well, you're not in my body,'" Nicklaus said.

A full day swinging clubs is more of a physical toll than ever
before. "It takes me a while before it wants to work," he said.
"If I'm not playing golf, it doesn't hurt too much. If I am
playing golf, that's when it really hurts."

Nicklaus was on hand to present the Nationwide's 2003 player of
the year award -- named in his honor -- to Zach Johnson, who claimed
his first PGA Tour win this year at the BellSouth Classic.

Looking at the sculpture of a younger Nicklaus, he quipped: "I
was that thin once?"

Johnson said Nicklaus was an idol to so many young players.

"He was the man I looked up to in this game," Johnson said.

Nicklaus started strongly on the Champions Tour this year,
finishing sixth at the Mastercard Classic with rounds of 68, 66 and
67. But he's only played two other Champion events, none since
March.

"If you're not capable of winning, then you're just cluttering
up the field. That's the way I look at it," Nicklaus said. "Then
again, maybe my standards are a little higher."

His competitive fire still burns strongly. He recalled talking
with Player after the 2002 Masters, when the South African was
pleased with a 78 at a beefed up Augusta National.

"You're Gary Player," Nicklaus chided his friend. "You've won
the tournament three times and you're proud to break 80?"

Then again, maybe Nicklaus just wants a break after so long in
the spotlight. He returned to The Cliffs to play with his children,
one of his life's great joys. Now, Nicklaus says he's just as happy
to fish quietly with his wife, Barbara.

"I spent all my weekends the last 40 years in press rooms at
golf courses," Nicklaus said. "Frankly, I just think it's time to
... do something else."