Originally created 07/11/98

The Bear's long run 071198 - The Augusta Chronicle



One of sports' longest streaks ended Wednesday with Jack Nicklaus' surprise announcement that he won't compete in the British Open next week or the Professional Golf Association championship later this summer.

Nicklaus, arguably the best golfer of all time, has set so many victory records -- six Masters, five PGAs, four U.S. Opens and three British Opens -- that it's easy to forget he also happens to be golfdom's Cal Ripkin. His "iron man" marks: 154 consecutive majors for which he was eligible, and 146 straight that he played, starting with the 1962 Masters.

It has been a remarkably long run, but even at that it was cut short. Were it not for his ailing hip, the veteran 58-year-old champ would still be competing with the young whipper-snappers. In April that familiar final round "surge" at the Augusta National even led many to wonder if the Golden Bear could win a seventh green jacket.

Though he will still be around for senior tourneys and, hopefully, a few more runs at the Masters -- breaking the majors' streak likely marks the beginning of the end of golf's "Nicklaus era." And what an era it has been.

His game, titles, character, integrity, charisma and sportsmanship have dominated golf for nearly half a century -- making him a giant not only in his sport, but all sports. When they get around to picking the century's greatest athletes, Jack Nicklaus' name will be somewhere near the top.