Augusta officials have virtually legislated him out of it. The golf course is now nearly 7,300 yards, and thats 7,300 yards of difficult up-and-down, hilly terrain. That 7,300 would equate to at least 7,500 anywhere else.
The cold, hard fact is, this is why this tournament is the least competitive of all the majors. This year only 93 started, compared to 156 at the other three biggies. If you were to take the 10 seniors from the mix ' not one of whom has a beggars chance of winning ' that gives you 83 remaining. Reduce that by the number of amateurs who also have absolutely no chance of pulling off a victory, and you only have about 75 people who can contend for the green jacket.
And yet, there is something very heartening about seeing the older gents play. Its what makes the Masters truly the Masters. You go to Augusta ' assuming that you are one of the fortunate ones who can score a ticket ' and you get to see history out there on the golf course in a parade of elders. That, friends, is something that is very special.
Nicklaus knows its special. And he also knows that the field is cluttered with men who arent competitive. So ' he offers a solution.
Have an event on Tuesday or Wednesday where the (old) champions play, he said. That gives the fans a chance to see them, a chance to say something to them. Let them play from a tee they can play from and just have - just part of the practice round, nothing special, no prizes, no nothing.
Just let them play as a group and let the people say, Thanks for being here, thanks for coming. They can play in a place they are not going to embarrass themselves, play a team thing, do something.
Wouldnt you like to see Arnold Palmer tee it up again beside Nicklaus and maybe Gary Player, at a length that they could reasonably handle? Who knows, maybe Byron Nelson would play a hole or two. Maybe they could increase it by adding all those who have finished runner-up ' that would include Roberto De Vicenzo, Tom Wieskopf, Johnny Miller and Greg Norman. Surely you could get 12 or 14 who would tee it up at, say, 6,300 or 6,500 yards. Jack certainly would be there.
If I would come back and play, I'd welcome something like that to come up here on Tuesday afternoon or Monday or Wednesday or whatever day it might be, Nicklaus said. Just go out and play with the guys and say, Hey, thanks to everybody, love being here. Let the people say something to you, whatever it is.
I think you'd find Arnold would come back and do that and I think the other guys would play, too. I think it would be a nice thing to do.
It really was comforting to hear Nicklaus make the suggestion. The suspicion was that he didnt realize what the public felt, the mass outpouring of respect that the people have for him and the other champions.
You know, this is not a celebrity walk-around, he had said before leaving Augusta. This is a golf tournament. It's a major golf championship, and if you're going to play in this championship, you should be competitive and you should be able to be able to compete with who is out there.
A lot of people chafed a little over that statement. Cant he at least give them the pleasure of acknowledging the great man that once was a great golfer, even if he doesnt think he is now?
Jack needs to accept the fact the fans know, as well as he does, he cannot compete against the current players, BUT we don't care! e-mailed Richard Burns.
We watch him because he brings back memories of what once was. The Masters is a place of tradition....always remembering what once was...how it used to be....and we love it! Jack doesn't need to make the putts anymore for us. Let us just watch him walk the fairways and remember.
Another, Richard DiLorenzo, said in an e-mail, He has denied us the catharsis of adulation. Somehow that He did it his way thing seems almost selfish.
But Jack does realize it, even if he didnt realize at the moment as he was packing to go home. Actually, he knows that the people want to salute the man who won six Masters, a man who apparently is not to be seen in competition here again. And that is why he has this unusual proposal ' let the gents come back and display what once was the best of their era.
I think they would get their - I don't know what the right word would be, get their ego fulfilled with a day of that, said Nicklaus. I certainly would. It would be enough for me. And it would certainly allow us to come back and play the golf course, enjoy the golf course under the conditions of how everybody is going to see it during the week.
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