Palmer to Return to AugustaTo Play

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NEW YORK -- Arnold Palmer, who bid an emotional farewell last year at the Masters, is returning for an encore.
 
The 73-year-old Palmer, a four-time winner of the green jacket, decided Saturday to play in the Masters for the 49th consecutive year, spokesman Doc Giffin said. That would tie Doug Ford for the most times playing in the tournament.
 
Giffin said an announcement was expected Monday from Augusta National.
 
'I can only say he loves to play in that tournament,' Giffin said.
 
Arnold Palmer and Jack NicklausThe decision comes one day after Jack Nicklaus, 63, said he would play in the Masters for the 43rd time. Nicklaus won the Masters a record six times, and this is the 40-year anniversary of his first green jacket.
 
Nicklaus and his youngest son played a practice round Thursday at Augusta National with Palmer and his 15-year-old grandson.
 
'Hmmm,' Tiger Woods said when told of Palmer's decision. 'Well, I hope he hits it long.'
 
The appearance by the Masters' two most endearing champions, not to mention Tiger Woods going for an unprecedented third consecutive victory, figures to deflect some of the attention away from the controversy over Augusta National's all-male membership.
 
Palmer and Nicklaus are the only past champions who are members of the club, and neither has been willing to comment on the debate.
 
Palmer, who won his first Masters in 1958, said that last year would be his final appearance. He shot rounds of 89 and 85, finishing the second round Saturday morning to standing ovations as he walked down every fairway and to every green.
 
'I just think it's time. My golf has been pretty lousy of late,' he said then.
 
Palmer also joked that he didn't want to get a letter, referring to Masters chairman Hootie Johnson sending letters to some of the past champions and asking them not to play.
 
Johnson established a new policy last year that sets an age limit of 65, provided that a past champion plays at least 10 tournaments the preceding year.
 
The policy was to go into effect in 2004, but The Augusta Chronicle reported Saturday that it was about to be rescinded.
 
'That's a great move,' Woods said. 'We all know a couple of guys abused the privilege. They would play one hole and withdraw or nine holes and withdraw. If you could play 36 holes, why not? That's the beauty of it. Put them off first, so everyone can watch them play.'
 
They can watch Palmer one last time, or maybe more.
 
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