LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Helen Nicklaus, mother of five-time PGA champion Jack Nicklaus, died Wednesday morning at a Columbus, Ohio, nursing home.
She was 90.
Nicklaus, who received the PGA Distinguished Service Award on Wednesday night at the Kentucky Derby Museum, did not withdraw from the tournament.
He had visited with his mother on Monday prior to arriving at Valhalla Golf Club. She had been seriously ill the past two years with heart and kidney problems, according to PGA of America CEO Jim Awtrey.
It was her wish that she not disrupt "a time that would be a critical point in Jack's career," Awtrey said.
Nicklaus played a practice round Wednesday before leaving the course. He canceled a scheduled news conference.
"Jack and his family have been a significant part of the PGA. Our hearts go out to them," Awtrey said. "They will certainly be in our prayers."
Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional majors, has said this year will be the last time he plays all four majors in the same year.
Masters champion Vijay Singh is looking forward to the year's final major, even though he has been winless since his triumph in Augusta.
"I really am excited a week, two weeks before the majors and work on my game hard to get it right," Singh said. "It is a big event for us, for every player out here, and we all want to win it."
Singh, who won the 1998 PGA at Sahalee in Washington, tied for eighth at the U.S. Open and finished tied for 11th at the British Open. Both of those were won by Tiger Woods, who is the defending PGA champion.
"The pressure is all before you get to the tournament itself," Singh said when asked how difficult it was to defend a title. "But once you tee it up, I think the ball is in the air and you just go on and play the game like you do any other golf tournament."
Singh is in today's featured pairing with Woods and Nicklaus.
Colin Montgomerie, the Scottish player regarded as one of the best who have yet to win a major, said extreme concentration will be a key this week.
"I tell you it is a very warm place here in the summer," Montgomerie said. "Concentration is required, because it is not just for the five hours that we were on the course the first couple of days. But it is also the hour and a half that we need to warm up, practice before we go.
"It will be somebody very tough that is going to win this, mentally as well as physically."
Mark Brooks, who beat Kenny Perry in a playoff at the 1996 PGA at Valhalla, hasn't won since.
However, after dismal years in '97 and '98 when he didn't crack the top 100 on the money list, Brooks rebounded last year to win more than $500,000 and finish 74th in earnings.
"I haven't played that great the last couple of months, but overall I have played a lot more consistent the last two years," Brooks said.
So far this year, Brooks has three top 10 finishes and has won $522,163.
Russ Cochran and Perry, both natives of the Bluegrass State, have more in common than their home state.
Both held the lead during the final round in '96, only to come up short.
"I was coming off a better streak the last time we played here," said Cochran, who skied to a final-round 77 four years ago. "I went out there without too many people (watching) and did my own thing. This time it's a little different. I'll be pressing to play well because I'm not playing well."
Perry had similar thoughts.
"In 1996, there were no expectations of me," he said. "This year, there is a lot more so there is a lot more pressure on me. I am hoping I can relax (today) and just go out and play some golf."
The purse for this week's tournament is $5 million, an increase of $2 million over last year's prize money. The winner will collect $900,000, while second place is worth $540,000. Those who miss the 36-hole cut will receive $2,000.
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