Nicklaus to Skip US Senior Open

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Jack Nicklaus has missed the U.S. Senior Open only twice since he became eligible in 1990 by turning 50. His hip was bothering him after replacement surgery when he withdrew in 1999, and he had a bad back in 2002.
 
This time, he won't play because he doesn't want to.
 
Nicklaus missed the deadline for entering the U.S. Senior Open last week and still doesn't know where - or if - he will play the remainder of the 2004 season.
 
'I have nothing against the Senior Open,' Nicklaus said. 'I have always been very high on the USGA and their championships. Whether it was the U.S. Open or the U.S. Senior Open, they have always been among the most significant championships to me. I just felt that I didn't want to play.'
 
The subject of Nicklaus retiring has been broached since the Masters, and he said repeatedly that he wasn't going to play much, if at all, the rest of the year.
 
His last tournament was the Memorial, where he shot 1-under 71 the final day and tied for 63rd.
 
He has played only six tournaments this year, four of them on the Champions Tour. He withdrew last month from the rain-delayed Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla after rounds 75-70-76.
Nicklaus still is expected to play in the Memorial next year, and possibly two majors - the Masters and the British Open, because Royal & Ancient officials moved the event to St. Andrews for Nicklaus' final year of eligibility.
 
DADDY MAGS
Every other year, the PGA Championship is two tournaments in one - a major, and the last chance to make the Ryder Cup team. Jeff Maggert showed that in 1997 when he closed with a 5-under 65 at Winged Foot to clinch a spot on the team.
 
This year, he might not get that chance.
 
Maggert's wife, Michelle, is pregnant with twins and likely to give birth the week of the PGA Championship.
 
'The PGA is not looking good on my schedule at this point,' Maggert said. 'If I do play, it will be a situation where I've got a beeper on. And I don't know if I want to put myself through that.'
 
That makes the next month critical toward his chances. Maggert took a big step last week at the U.S. Open, where he finished third and moved up to No. 10 in the standings.
 
MASTERS CHARITY
Despite not having television sponsors for the second straight year, the Masters announced Tuesday it was donating more than $3.2 million to charity, bringing its total the last seven years to $22.2 million.
 
Masters chairman Hootie Johnson said $1.25 million would be given to a foundation that supports charities in Augusta, Ga., such as the Child Enrichment shelter program for children removed from their homes; and Girls Incorporated, an outreach program that focuses on drug abuse prevention and self-esteem.
 
Augusta National also is giving $1 million to The First Tee, an initiative to provide affordable access to golf. The rest of the money is going to major golf organizations, the Tiger Woods Foundation and The First Tee of Augusta.
 
SOUL MATE
No one was more interested in the return of David Duval than Ian Baker-Finch, also a former British Open champion whose game disappeared until he finally called it quits when he shot 92 in the first round of the '97 British Open at Royal Troon.
 
Duval played competitively for the first time in seven months at the U.S. Open and opened with an 83.
 
Baker-Finch was at Shinnecock Hills doing TV work and asked about Duval's round. He was told that Duval looked fine from his approach shots to around the green, but that he was struggling off the tee.
 
'Yep,' Baker-Finch said, pursing his lips and nodding his head. 'Same as me.'
 
OPEN PREPARATIONS
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are among several players who went to Shinnecock Hills ahead of time to prepare for the U.S. Open.
 
Strangely, hardly anyone goes to the U.S. Women's Open site ahead of time.
 
'We have a rule that you can't play there the week before, so I think that prevents the whole deal,' Annika Sorenstam said. 'That means you can't go to the course early because they expect you to play the week before.'
 
The rule seems outdated, especially since LPGA Tour players now are required to go to every tournament at least once in a four-year cycle.
 
Then again, nothing would have stopped the women from going to Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., two weeks before the Women's Open.
 
EUROPEAN DROUGHT
Europeans now have gone 34 years without winning the U.S. Open. Sergio Garcia came the closest at Shinnecock, closing with an 80 to finish in a tie for 20th.
 
Many thought this might be the year to end the drought because Shinnecock is a links-styled course.
 
Paul Lawrie of Scotland is among those who believe that theory doesn't hold water.
 
'We play two tournaments a year on links,' Lawrie said, referring to the British Open and the Dunhill Links Championship, a pro-am played on St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kings Barn. 'I don't know why everyone thinks this suits us so well.'
 
DIVOTS
Retief Goosen joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win multiple majors since the start of the 1999 season. ... Twelve players failed to break 300 for a 72-hole score in the U.S. Open. A year ago at Olympia Fields, Ryan Dillon was the only player at 300 or higher. ... The PGA Tour finally announced that the 2005 American Express Championship will be played at Harding Park, a public course in San Francisco. That means California will get two of the three World Golf Championships that count toward official money next year. The other is the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa. ... With two majors out of the way, Phil Mickelson is leading the points-based PGA of American player of the year race with 80 points, followed by Vijay Singh with 62. Tiger Woods is sixth with 36 points. ... The gimmick nature of the setup at Shinnecock Hills has been compared to Carnoustie. The common link - Colin Vernon, who caddied for Paul Lawrie at the '99 British Open and Retief Goosen in the U.S. Open.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jay Haas might not be the best player to never win a major, but he has had the most chances. The U.S. Open was his 77th appearance in a major.
 
FINAL WORD
'I'm glad I'm on this side of the ropes.' - Craig Stadler, after watching his son, Kevin, shoot 85 in the final round of the U.S. Open.
 
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