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Arnold Palmer confirms he won't play Masters

Arnold Palmer is going to the Masters without his golf clubs.

``I'm not going to play in anything at Augusta this year,'' Palmer said Wednesday. ``I'm going to say hello to my friends and do a couple functions that I would like to do, and then come back home.''

Palmer played in his 50th consecutive Masters last year and said he would no longer compete in the major championship he helped put on the map with charisma and four green jackets.

But as the Masters approaches, Palmer realizes he will have to adjust to being at Augusta National without having a spot in the field.

That means no practice rounds, not even the Par 3 Tournament. And while Palmer said he might consider becoming an honorary starter, it won't be this year.

Instead, he'll attend the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night and chairman Hootie Johnson's buffet on Wednesday, and spend time in between chatting with his legion of friends and fans.

``I have no intentions of going on the golf course,'' Palmer said. ``I'm just going to socialize. I may change that in years to come. But at the moment, I just feel like I want to get my feel for not playing in Augusta. For 50 straight years, I played and I loved it. And I would still enjoy it.

``But I just want to get the feel for not doing anything.''

This could be the first year without Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, since 1954. Nicklaus had planned to play, but he said chances were between ``slim and none'' that he would play the tournament because he wants to spend time with a family still grieving over the recent drowning of his 17-month-old grandson.

Nicklaus said he would be at the Champions Dinner and probably would play a practice round, perhaps even the Par 3 Tournament. And he did not rule out playing Thursday if he felt up to it.

Palmer had said he would stop playing the Masters in 2002, when Johnson sent a letter to past champions indicating they should no longer player after 65. The policy was rescinded, and Palmer played the next two years to bring his record streak at Augusta National to an even 50.

While he plans to leave Thursday morning at the latest, Palmer will still watch the Masters.

``That's something that is still left,'' Palmer said. ``I enjoy watching it.''


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