Nicklaus celebrating 25th anniversary of Masters victory

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Jack Nicklaus was late and no one faulted him. He had a good reason.

The 71-year-old Nicklaus arrived a few minutes tardy Tuesday afternoon to his scheduled presser at Augusta National Golf Club  after spending some time   at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta.

"There were about 10 veterans there and so forth and so on that were either quads or paraplegics, and we stopped by and said hello," Nicklaus said. "It actually was a very nice visit."

The six-time Masters Tournament champion  then made his way to the Augusta National for his press conference and then the annual Champions Dinner. He will extend his stay for two days – he participates in the Par-3 Contest this afternoon with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player before hitting the ceremonial tee shot along with Palmer to open tournament play Thursday morning.

This year, Nicklaus is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his historic Masters victory, when he charged with 30 on the back nine of the final round for his last green jacket. His famous 12-foot birdie putt at No. 17, when he lifted his putter toward the heavens, capped the miraculous comeback.

"It was an exciting week," Nicklaus said. "It was fun having (son) Jackie on the bag. It was fun having my mother and sister here who had not been here since 1959.

"Even more fun was I holed a few putts on the back nine which made it possible that we could sit here and talk about it."

Down four with four holes to play, Nicklaus fired a 4-iron to 12 feet at the par-5 15th for eagle. He then knocked his tee shot stiff at No. 16 for birdie, sending the patrons into euphoria.

As he stood on the 17th tee, Nicklaus heard the groans after Seve Ballesteros shanked a 4-iron approach into the pond fronting the No. 15 green.

Nicklaus proceeded to hook his tee shot left of the 17th fairway, but recovered with a pitching wedge to 12 feet. He asked Jackie how he thought the putt broke. To the right, his son answered.

The elder Nicklaus remembered the influence of Rae's Creek and played the putt a couple of inches to the left. The ball started right and straightened up, disappearing into the hole.

"I have gone back and putted that putt a hundred times since," Nicklaus said. "I don't think I've ever found the exact spot or the place it was before, but it's never broken left again."

Nicklaus remains the oldest champion in Masters history. He believes it's easier now for someone in his late 40s or older to win the tournament thanks to improvements in equipment.

"Vijay (Singh) is what, 49 now? 48? To think Vijay couldn't be in contention is silly," Nicklaus said. "Freddie Couples is 51 and can certainly play well here at any time. I would even throw up my friend, (Tom) Watson. He can play pretty well, too."


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