Before Monday's casual walk in the October sunshine, describing the gorgeous golf course he built on an old dairy farm, Nicklaus had played one round of golf since Aug.30 - and he couldn't remember where.
Competitive golf, Nicklaus said, is 'not a part of my life anymore.' That doesn't mean he won't play the occasional tournament, but it's a concession that we long ago saw his best.
Nicklaus doesn't have to play well anymore, though he'd like to be better than he usually is now. He has always understood there is more to life than golf and now - as then - he feels the tugs and pulls of business, family and gentle times.
In his prime, when he was collecting major championships and dominating golf as if it seemed no one else ever would, Nicklaus always found time for his kids and other things, completing a remarkable balancing act based on personal priorities.
It continues today as he talks about wanting to spend more time with his grandchildren - has 16 of them - making sure he knows them and they know him as more than the blond-haired star of grainy highlight shows on The Golf Channel.
His hair isn't golden any more. It's more dusty brown with wisps of gray, and it's beginning to thin slightly in the front. But the face that smiled at the 100 professional trophies he has won is unmistakable.
Like any golfer, Nicklaus still rides technology where it will take him, though he continues to rage against the new, longer golf balls that have 'made every course obsolete, including the one we're opening here.'
But Nicklaus does not yearn for his glory days.
It's been more than 17 years since that magical Sunday at the 1986 Masters, where he saved his best for last.
When he sees himself on The Golf Channel these days, Nicklaus changes channels.
'I know what happens,' he said.
Is there something, Nicklaus was asked, he didn't do that has stayed with him through the years?
'You always second-guess yourself, but I don't have any regrets,' Nicklaus said, fixing his blue eyes on his questioner.
'If I had one thing I chased (Bobby) Jones' record (for career major championships) and once I got past that, there wasn't a lot to chase. If I knew someone would come along chasing my record, maybe I'd have worked a little harder. Maybe I'd have won four or five more if I'd worked at it.
'I could've done that. But I didn't give up knowing my kids and spending time with them. There were things in life so much more important than winning another major. When I was doing everything, I didn't dream about being the best golfer ever. That was never my burning desire. I just let happen what happened.'
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