Jacks Playing Days May Be Numbered

By George WhiteFebruary 13, 2004, 5:00 pm
NAPLES, Fla. -- Poor Jack Nicklaus. He had hoped for some time that he would see a sign ' any sign ' that he was playing well enough again to compete for victories on the Champions Tour. Well, this year, at age 64 hes finally demonstrated it. But alas, his back is so problematic that he cant be sure if he will ever play again.

Nicklaus is entered in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla. But that is the only tournament he plans to play as of this moment. He shot his age ' 64 ' in an unofficial round last month in the Senior Skins Game. He came close to contending at the MasterCard Championship recently. Same thing with the Skins, where only a late birdie by Tom Watson prevented him from winning.

But, he says, he cant trust a balky back to enable him to plan a golf schedule more than a week at a time.

I never know from day to day, he says, adding that these days, hes never sure what to expect when he puts his peg in the ground. Some days its the Jack of old. Some days, its just old Jack.

I went to Hawaii (for the Skins and the MasterCard) expecting not to play well, Nicklaus said, and I played well. I actually felt good, hit the ball well, putted the ball decently. I walked off shooting three good rounds, even had a chance to win the golf tournament if Id finished it up properly.

So, whats the problem?

At the end of last year when I finished 10th at the JELD-WEN Tradition, I thought I played a pretty darn good tournament ' but I finished 10th. I said, Maybe its time to hang up your spikes.

Maybe its still time to hang up my spikes, but Ill still let them get a little rustier and see how effective they are and figure it out as I go.

One major problem for the back is playing on multiple days. Nicklaus figures he can post a good score on any given day. However, golf tournaments, even on the Champions Tour, are three days. Throw in the Wednesday and Thursday pro-ams, and you have five straight days of torqueing up in the golf swing. Generally, thats been too much for Jack.

Its not fun playing competitive golf if youre not competitive, said Nicklaus. I cant practice too much. The body hurts if I play each day. I dont want to play golf every day because there are other things I want to do.

Of course, some people will say this is the same song, 50th verse. Nicklaus has, indeed, expressed these same sentiments in the past. And, of course, the expectations are still the same this week ' he believes there is only one reason to play, and he is going to play.

My expectations are to win, Nicklaus reiterated. Ive had six years of disappointment. But I hope to win every time I play.

And, should this week be the last time he plays ' or should the next time, or the next time ' he already has his life planned out how he wants to spend his time.

I used my boat five days last year, Jack said. Id like to use it a bit more. Ive got a lot of golf course (design) work that I enjoy ' which I probably do a little better than I play golf. My boys are involved a lot in certain aspects of what Im doing. Id like to be involved with what theyre doing.

'My wife, Barbara, has spent the weekends watching me play golf. I think, somewhere in my life, it would be nice if I spent the weekend doing something shed like to do.
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