Johnson Personally Admits Mistake to Nicklaus


That dust from the Augusta Past Champions decision settled a bit more Monday when Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson placed a telephone call to Nicklaus as he was returning from the Tradition in Scottsadale, Arizona -- his first competitive golf tournament in three months.
Nicklaus had expressed discontent with the decision to limit the ability of past Masters champions to compete in the tournament.
'I don't know if they had me in mind or not,' Nicklaus said. 'I felt what happened the first time was -- they obviously felt it wasn't right.'
''Jack, we made a mistake,'' Nicklaus quoted Johnson as saying. 'He said 'Did you ever make a mistake?' I said, 'Absolutely, Hootie.' And I said it takes a big person to admit you made a mistake and I appreciated that very much.
'Whether I ever play again or not, that's not the issue,' Nicklaus said. 'The issue is that I certainly play enough tournaments to be able to qualify under that scenario, so I am very pleased with that decision.'
While not upset by the age requirement of 65, Nicklaus still believes the lifetime exemption should be the rule.
'If you look in the qualifications, number one in the Masters book for
eligibility, it says 'Masters champion, lifetime,'' Nicklaus said. 'I think we earned that. And all the guys -- if it's Doug Ford, Billy Casper or Gay Brewer -- they earned that right to play a lifetime. If they want to stop that here on in that's their choice.'
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