Arnold is on the countdown now. Hes 75 and has been playing professionally for more than 50 years. He played last week in the 3M Championship near Minneapolis as the days of his competitive life continue to dwindle down to a precious few.
Palmer says he will play the Administaff Small Business Classic ' he endorses the company - near Houston in October. He will possibly play the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in three weeks. Then he will walk away from competitive golf forever.
He hedges his pronouncement with probably. And he will continue to play publicly in exhibitions, he said. But Arnie knows only too well that not even he can go on playing tournaments forever, and that this year is, in all likelihood, the final chapter.
I have no intentions of playing at all, maybe a few charity events, and that will be it, said the man who has been dubbed The King by golf fans the world over.
Yes, he will leave the sport of golf in much better shape than he found it. That, he says, makes him happy.
Well, it's fine if they say it, if it's true, and certainly I hope that the game is headed in the direction that I think it is, said Palmer. And of course I'm very happy for that.
Palmer got a rousing send-off a couple of weeks ago at the U.S. Senior Open. And he responded with a lot of emotion as the fans cheered him around the course in one of his last tourneys ever.
Am I emotional? Certainly, he said. You can't not be after being on the Champions Tour or the Senior Tour for 25 years.
I feel very fortunate to have lived long enough to be able to do that. That in itself has a lot of sentiment to it. The fact that these people come out - I won one of the early Open championships for the Champions Tour, and to see the crowds and see the enthusiasm that was shown here this week does me a lot of good, and it is very emotional.
And Jack is equally as sentimental about the game. Its a wonderful game ' a game I love, he said as he prepared to walk off the stage at the British Open.
I love playing golf. Don't get me wrong, because I do and there's nothing I've enjoyed more in my life than playing golf and being competitive and being part of what's going on. But when you're not part of the competitive part of it, it loses its glow. And I haven't been part of the competitive part of it for several years now, realistically.
Nicklaus believes the game went whizzing past him sometime when he passed the age of 50 in 1990. Of course, hes been wracked by a succession of injuries ' a balky back limited him to two events in 2002, and he had a hip replaced in 99. But he promptly won five majors in his first two years on the Champions Tour, and as late as 96, when he was 56, he was winning The Tradition ' a Champions major.
But though Nicklaus is truly flattered by the massive outpouring of gratitude by the golfing public, he has never been interested in performing just for the people.
That's just me, he said in a moment of total candor. I can't go out and play for people. I've got to play for me. I'm the only person that I've got to please with my golf game really, and I'm probably tougher on myself through the years than anybody else would be on me. Maybe that's why I won a few things - because I was tough on myself.
People want you to play, but I can't play for them. The only person I can play for is myself. And when I'm playing for myself, and to be as if I can please myself, then I know I'll please people that are watching. But I know that I can't please anybody if I don't please myself. If I'm shooting 85, I can't possibly be pleasing anybody else. Somebody has come in, and whatever it cost them to buy a ticket, to watch Jack Nicklaus play golf, I'd like to have them see Jack Nicklaus.
Has he hung on too long at age 65? Of course he has, if you are talking victories. But something in the back of his mind always told him that, This week might just be the week. And Jack has finally decided that it isnt going to be this week, or this month, or this year - or forever. And therefore, since he cant possibly win, its time to hang em up.
I've already hung on too long, he said, - we all do that. There's a lot of other guys that have done that, too, not only in golf but in other sports, too.
Nothing in golf is ironclad, of course, and Jack leaves open the remote possibility of another appearance at his Memorial Tournament, Arnold at Bay Hill or some favorite Champions Tour appearance. But you can pretty much take it as gospel ' this is the finale. After Palmer bows out this season in Houston, its over. Two giants will have left the game. And its altogether fitting that they should go out together.
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