Nicklaus tenders claim to bow out on winning note

And who else would have the gumption, the chutzpah, to dare suggest, however flippantly, that as a grandfather of 16, sporting a hip that has been replaced and a golf game that is in desperate need of something similar, that he could actually compete with what is undoubtedly the finest field ever assembled for an Open Championship? Only Jack Nicklaus, the Bear who is more golden here than he has ever been.

An indication of the carat was provided by a few of the honours bestowed on the 18-time major winner yesterday. The main Scottish bank has issued two million £5 notes with Nicklaus's face on to mark his farewell from competition (barring the odd defending champion's exemption). The only living people to have been previously able to use fivers as their own personal ID cards in Great Britain are the Queen and the Queen Mother. Therefore it is a real honour - for the Windsors, that is.

Then there is the fact that the Open happens to be here at the home of golf at all, a wonderfully fitting tribute that is no coincidence, as Nicklaus revealed yesterday.

"It's my eighth Open at St Andrews and I picked it for my farewell," he said at a packed press conference. "I picked it five years ago, actually. We were at the Champions' Dinner and I fully expected it to be my last year here. I was talking to Peter Dawson [the Royal and Ancient's chief executive] and asked when the Open was coming back to St Andrews. He said they were thinking about 2006. I said, 'Oh that's too bad, I'll be past the age limit by then'. He said, 'That's right, but if it happened to be 2005, would you come back?' I told him, 'Peter, you don't want to do that.' Next thing, I read it had been rescheduled to 2005. I thought that was an awfully nice compliment."

It was "awfully" unheard of, in fact, and will remain so until perhaps Tiger Woods retires in about 36 years' time. By 2041 the world will be a different place, but even if the Old Course has been turned into a retail park and Woods is Governor of Florida, the name of Jack will need no surname.

Not least among the Association of Golf Writers, which yesterday broke generations of tradition to bestow its "lifetime achievement award" on someone who is not one of the game's unsung heroes. "We felt we had to honour him," said John Hopkins, the association's chairman. "We just had to."

While everybody else was banging on about how touching it will be see him striding over that Swilcan Bridge for the last time on Friday, Sunday or whenever that photocalled piece of nostalgia hits the back pages, the man himself remained focused on the real big picture here.

"You know, the only emotion I get about the bridge and all that is right here with you guys asking about it," he said. "Honestly, I haven't paid much attention to it. I'm here as a competitor and we'll find out whether that competitor can make the cut and play through to Sunday. I don't understand sometimes what goes on in my head. But at the moment my head is saying, hey, I can play this golf course and I'm going to play and they should let me play."

As Dawson so expertly put it, "Jack is a player, not a monument". And Nicklaus is refusing to let his appearance here descend into the ceremonial waltz that he so hated being part of at the Senior USPGA Championship a few years ago, when the organisers pitched him in with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and those two waved, smiled and larked around while Nicklaus kept his head down and shot as low as he possibly could.

"Oh, I think it'll be fine here," he said. "Tom Watson is so very competitive and I certainly hope that Luke Donald thinks he is. I hope they don't look at it as ceremonial pairing. I know I don't."

Watson and Donald could not think otherwise if they follow his schedule. They would see it is no different to any other Nicklaus Open at St Andrews - including staying with his wife, two sons and daughter at the hotel they always use. Nicklaus insisted: "My routine's the same as the last, the one before that and so on. There's no way that I'm going to get out and walk around the town or anything like that when I'm at a golf tournament. But I hope to come back some day and maybe take that walk around the town. I understand it's a very nice place."

With that he was off on his way to a practice round - but as he marched towards that first tee, somebody shouted: "You going to miss all this, Jack?" He stopped and smiled, but not for long. In that steely gaze it was possible to see that Nicklaus is not prepared to miss anything this week. Least of all the cut.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all