Golf: Forty-year run ends for Nicklaus

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The Independent Online
JACK NICKLAUS will have hip replacement surgery this month, forcing him to miss the US Masters for the first time in 40 years.

Nicklaus, who turns 59 next week, had put off surgery on his arthritic left hip with hopes that a strenuous exercise routine would allow him to play without pain. Instead, the winner of 18 major championships will have an operation on 27 January. "When I feel strong enough and able to play golf at a competitive level, I will continue to play tournament golf," the veteran American said. "If I want to play later this year and in the future, now is the time for surgery."

Nicklaus, six times a US Masters champion, did not say when he might return, although later this year is not out of the question.

Nicklaus was hobbling so badly at times last year that he stopped his run of 146 consecutive majors when he pulled out of The Open. This will be the third consecutive major he has failed to play. "I can hit golf balls all I want. And I can walk," he said in October. "But the two of them - they don't like each other."

Nicklaus first played Augusta National as an amateur in 1959 and missed the cut. He had played in every Masters since, winning his first in 1963 and his sixth in 1986. He showed last year he can still compete with the best when he became the oldest player to finish in the top 10 at the Masters, closing with a 68 and tying for sixth, three strokes behind Mark O'Meara.