For 1st time since '58, no Nicklaus

`Not going to compete against the kids anymore'

April 08, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With all the changes to the course and the format at the 63rd Masters, the most noticeable difference might be in the absence of the tournament's most dominant player.

Jack Nicklaus will be fishing in the Bahamas today rather than on the leader board at Augusta National.

It will mark the first time in 41 years that Nicklaus will miss the Masters. After undergoing hip replacement surgery in January, Nicklaus is not expected to play competitively until sometime next month.

"It's not going to be as emotional to me as missing a major championship, because I stopped that streak last year with the British Open," Nicklaus said Tuesday before attending the Champions' Dinner here. "Once I stopped that, I was going to stop the other ones."

If his rehabilitation is successful, Nicklaus plans on playing in a Senior Tour event in Avondale, Pa., and then in his own Memorial Tournament. He is hoping to play in this year's British Open, but said his appearance at Carnoustie is doubtful.

Nicklaus provided those here last year with a memorable performance, charging into contention with a third-round 70 and staying near the lead throughout much of a final-round 68. He wound up tied for sixth, four shots behind Mark O'Meara.

"I'm certainly not going to compete against the kids anymore," said Nicklaus, 59. "I may scare them a round or two, like I did last year. But I didn't really scare anybody that much."

Nicklaus will be missed.

"It would be like your wife losing the diamond out of her wedding ring," said Greg Norman, who finished second here to Nicklaus in 1986.

Shark invisible

Speaking of Norman, the Great White Shark is almost invisible this year when it comes to the pre-tournament hoopla. That happens when you miss the cut the past two years and are coming off major surgery.

Norman, 44, now admits that the pressure he put on himself to win the Masters might have contributed to his infamous blowups here, most notably when he surrendered a six-shot lead in the final round three years ago to lose to Nick Faldo.

"In this situation with the Masters, when you want something as much as you want it, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't," said Norman. "But if I never get this golf tournament, there wouldn't be a golf tournament on this planet that I can say I've enjoyed more than this one."

Norman said the months he spent away from the game last season changed his perspective.

"I don't have the same sense of urgency anymore," said Norman, whose only major championship came at the 1993 British Open. "I feel like I'm more in balance."

Kuchar subpar

Amateur Matt Kuchar, who dazzled the crowds last year with his performance, might have a difficult time replicating his tie for 21st. And the way he's feeling, he probably won't be flashing his trademark smile.

Kuchar, who is finishing his junior year at Georgia Tech, was treated at a local hospital Tuesday for dehydration and flu-like symptoms. His parents feared he might have pneumonia, but he was later released.

Kuchar played in yesterday's par-3 tournament -- scoring a hole-in-one on the second hole -- and is expected to tee it up this morning.

Missing McCord

CBS golf analyst Gary McCord, who was essentially banned from working for the network here after making what tournament officials thought were insensitive remarks about the course in 1995, was mentioned twice here yesterday.

The first time came during the news conference with Masters and club chairman Hootie Johnson.

Asked if McCord's status will be reviewed yearly or if he will be permanently banned, Johnson said: "We really don't make that decision. CBS puts together the team of announcers, and we like the team we have. But that's their call."

McCord got another call later in the day, presumably from a member of the press.

"Gary McCord, phone call in reception," said a voice on the public address system in the press building.

McCord is reportedly in San Francisco with his family.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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