Lawrie calls for age limit as Nicklaus bids farewell

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The Independent Online

The Venerable Green Jackets of Augusta have always been a law unto themselves - just ask Bill Gates, once turned down for membership. In fact, just ask the whole of womankind. But even these belligerent old golfing burghers may struggle to avoid enforcing a rule that in the past week has become an obvious necessity.

The Venerable Green Jackets of Augusta have always been a law unto themselves - just ask Bill Gates, once turned down for membership. In fact, just ask the whole of womankind. But even these belligerent old golfing burghers may struggle to avoid enforcing a rule that in the past week has become an obvious necessity.

It has been a long time since a 73-year-old made such a splash - five of them, no less, in the water on the par-three 16th as he chalked up a 14 in a quite ridiculous round of 106 - and the ripples Billy Casper's appearance caused show no signs of disappearing. Yesterday, Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion and the last European to win a major, made the most vehement attack yet on the absence of an age limit at the Masters.

"When you come to 60 I don't think you're competitive on a tour of that size. Mr Casper is 73 and there's no way he can compete at that age," the Scot said.

Indeed, if Lawrie had his way then Jack Nicklaus, 65, would not have been making what was almost certainly his farewell here this week.

"Sixty is more than plenty," he said. "It's obviously one of the rules Augusta have where no matter your age you are allowed to come back and play. My exemption at The Open is until I'm 65, which in my opinion is a little bit too long."

Advocates of the Masters' policy claim that it defines the tournament from every other, but the most famous champion of all went so far as to intimate that enough is enough.

"You know, this is not a celebrity walkaround, this is a golf tournament," Nicklaus, the six-times Masters champion, said. "You should be able to compete."

Nicklaus, however, believes there should still be a stage for the former greats. "I've never said this before, but what would be nice is to have an event where the old champions play on say a Tuesday and give the fans the chance to see them."

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