Jack Plays Final Round at Augusta

By Mercer BaggsApril 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
There should have been more. There should have been more cheers. There should have been more tears. There should have been more to-do about Jack Nicklaus final* competitive round at Augusta National.
 
But Jack didnt want it that way. He didnt want to take one final ceremonial tour of the grounds that he has dominated like no other and be bothered with applause at every turn, on every swing.
 
Sure he was going to receive as much any how, but it would have been more personal had everyone else known what he knew. He didnt want it to be that way. He wanted to keep some distance between himself and his emotions as he made that final walk ' even if those emotions caught up with him at the finish line.
 
And maybe he didnt fully know himself. Maybe had he made a few more putts or hit a couple of shorter irons into the greens, then maybe he would have sung a different tune after finishing his record 163rd round in the Masters.
 
Or maybe this time it wasnt about Jack Nicklaus the player. Maybe it wasnt about the man who won six Masters Tournaments taking a final bow and bathing in the appreciation of others.
 
Maybe this trip was about some personal therapy. And perhaps that was achieved. And if it was, then maybe, just maybe he thought: Well, Ive done enough here.
 
He says thats it. There most likely will not be another. And there will certainly never be another Nicklaus. Tiger Woods may eventually win more green jackets than Jack, but he will never be Jack. In the same way that Jack was never Arnold Palmer.
 
Truth is: Jack doesnt feel for the fans the way that Arnold does ' not that anyone does. It doesnt mean as much to him that the fans adore him ' never has. If it did, he would have worked so hard early in his career to try and win them over that he never would have become the player that he did.
 
It doesnt make him cold or callused. He still loves his audience, but loves more to give them a good performance. That's always been the most important thing, the performance.
 
He had to be a little more detached. Thats what helped make him the greatest of all time. Nobody has ever played golf better, at least not when it mattered most.
 
We want definition. We want a definitive start and a definitive end. We want to properly celebrate our heroes when that end arrives. We want to give them the adulation we feel they deserve ' and let them know they played a positive part in our lives. It makes us feel good, too.
 
But Nicklaus has gotten that throughout the better part of his life. Hes had enough. He doesn't need it anymore. At least thats what he said.
 
But put an asterisk by Jacks admission that this is it. Hes said this before.
 
Remember, just a month ago there was between slim and none that Jack would make the 69th Masters his 45th.
 
That, however, was a statement born of emotion, said in the aftermath of the death of his 17-month-old grandson. He likes to speak in definitive terms when he gets emotional.
 
Just like he did this Saturday.
 
'You know,' he said in what may well have been his final post-round press conference at Augusta National, 'this is not a celebrity walk-around. 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.'
 
Hes long said that he will stop playing when he is no longer competitive. And he hasnt been competitive in this event since 2000. Hes said time and time again that hes played plenty and now its time to devote the majority of his time to wife Barbara and his family.
 
And yet Golf, that siren, keeps calling him back.
 
And he listens. He cant help but listen. He and Golf have this relationship. They have so much respect and love for one another. Theyre both who they are in large part because of one another.
 
Jackie thinks there might be more. His oldest son, the one who carried his bag in the improbable 1986 victory and again in this 77-76 missed cut, says that come next spring his dads desire will blossom with the azaleas.
 
So maybe there is still more to come.
 
If not, then it will have ended Saturday, on the ninth green, unannounced, with a missed 4-foot birdie putt.
 
It just seems like there should have been more. He deserves so much more.
 
Fortunately, this is the Masters, where champions can always compete, if not contend. And there will always be more waiting for him if he ever decides he wants more of it.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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