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Gary Player unhappy at Masters changes

Gary Player is ``sad and hurt'' and Jack Nicklaus is reserving comment after Masters officials established new age limits for the major tournament.

Under the new rules, next year's Masters would be the last for Player, 67, and almost certainly the last for Nicklaus, 62. Player won the event three times and Nicklaus a record six times.

``I was shocked that they broke their word,'' Player said Friday after completing the second round of the Countrywide Tradition, a major on the Senior PGA Tour.

Player recalled that longtime Masters chairman Clifford Roberts had told him that he would be allowed to play in the tournament for as long as he wanted.

Masters officials announced Thursday that, beginning in 2004, the tournament would not allow players over 65, and golfers could compete up to age 65 only if they played in 15 tournaments that year.

Nicklaus has no intention of playing 15 tournaments a year.

``I don't think I played 15 tournaments the year I won in '86,'' he said. ``I was playing 12 or 14 tournaments a year, something like that.''

Still, he wouldn't say what he thinks of the new rules.

``Let me think about it awhile, then I'll release something,'' he said.

Nicklaus didn't play in this year's Masters because of an ailing back.

Nicklaus would be 63 at next year's Masters, nine years younger than Arnold Palmer was at his Masters farewell this year.

Player seemed as incensed about eliminating Nicklaus from the tournament as he was about his own omission.

``They give Arnold an opportunity to play until he's 72,'' Player said, ``then all of a sudden they come out with 65. ... Jack Nicklaus doesn't play 15 tournaments. I don't think he's going to make an effort to go play more just to play at Augusta. That would be ridiculous to have Jack Nicklaus not play.''

Player prides himself in being in great physical condition, and said he practices the game diligently

``I was trying to be the oldest player to make the cut,'' Player said, ``and they destroy your incentive.''

However, 1976 Masters champion Raymond Floyd said he believes the new rules ``are very fair.''

``We're kind of a club, we past Masters champions,'' he said, ``and I think as a group that we probably abused it somewhat -- guys teeing off and withdrawing every year. What is that? To tee off and play one hole or three holes or nine and withdraw. I mean, that got to be the norm, not the exception.''

Floyd, 59, said those who aren't eligible to play still can be part of the Masters.

``Sixty-five is certainly long enough to be playing,'' Floyd said. ``Let's face it, you can't compete. Maybe one of us that's fit or playing well can go out and make the cut, but that's still not competing. To be a part of the tournament and be invited to come to the dinner and play in the par-3 and practice rounds, you still can feel a part of it.''

Ben Crenshaw, at 50 a rookie on the senior tour, won the Masters twice, most recently in 1995. He also was hesitant to comment, but made an obvious reference to the recent changes that have lengthened the already-tough course at Augusta.

``That course is going to run us all off sooner or later, anyway,'' he said.

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