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Golf Today 22nd December
New cart court case in Australia
Baddeley skips Ernie Els invite
Nicklaus making one last big push in 2000
New names knocking on LPGA Hall of Fame door
Golf Notes December 22: And now, a word about sponsors

Nicklaus making one last big push in 2000

Next year will likely be the last time Jack Nicklaus plays all four major championships. His performance could throw a wrench in those plans.

``Maybe I'll have to go back to defend,'' he said Tuesday.

Part of Nicklaus was kidding. That's been a favorite line he has used over the past couple of years to squelch speculation about his future. Besides, he is one month away from turning 60, well aware that no one beyond age 48 has ever won a major.

Another part of Nicklaus was serious, which is why he plans to play more tournament golf — both on the PGA Tour and the Senior Tour — than he has in some 15 years.

``I don't know how successful I'm going to be, but you never know unless you try,'' he said from the patio of his south Florida home, where he met with reporters for about two hours. ``I'd like to give it a try for a season and see what I've got.

``I think I may fool some people,'' he said. ``I think I may even fool myself.''

Nicklaus spoke with the enthusiasm of a man 20 years younger as he looked ahead to the 2000 season. Some of his incentive to play more comes from his 30-year-old son Gary, who earned his PGA Tour card in qualifying school last month.

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Some of it comes from the competitive juices that always have flowed freely in a man regarded as the greatest player ever.

``It's a lot better to work for something than to wait for your life to end,'' Nicklaus said.

He also feels his health will no longer be an issue. He is nearly a year removed from hip replacement surgery, and he figured out that the width of his right foot — 6E — was to blame for soreness that slowed him the latter part of this year.

Nicklaus estimates he will play 20 events on both tours next year, starting with the MasterCard Championship and Senior Skins game in Hawaii next month, followed by the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am the first week of February.

``At the end of the three weeks, I ought to have a pretty good idea what kind of a golf game I've got started for the year, and where I can go with it,'' he said.

He has played four events over the past two months and won three of them — the Three-Tour Challenge, the Father-Son Challenge with Gary, and the Diner's Club matches last week while paired with Tom Watson.

The competition will be a little stiffer next year.

On the Senior Tour, he will have to confront the likes of Watson, Tom Kite and Lanny Wadkins, the latest rookies on the 50-and-over circuit. At tournaments like Pebble Beach, the Masters and possibly the Nissan Open in Los Angeles, he'll be up against Tiger Woods and David Duval.

``I'm not going to have a grandiose belief that I'm going to whip Tiger Woods and David Duval,'' Nicklaus said. ``I would say the odds are relatively slim that I win again. But you never know.''

Never count out Nicklaus.

He proved that in 1986, become the oldest Masters champion at age 46. He nearly proved that in 1998 at age 58 with a bad left hip that caused a noticeable limp. Still, he managed yet another thrilling charge in the final round and wound up with a 68, tied for sixth, making him the oldest player to finish in the top 10 at Augusta.

``I had a chance on one leg to win the Masters,'' Nicklaus said. ``I'd like to go back on two legs and see what happens.''

Nicklaus has planned all along to play the four majors in 2000, particularly because of their venues. He won the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews, while the PGA Championship is on a course he designed (Valhalla).

He also plans to play all four majors on the Senior Tour.