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Hip problem could keep Nicklaus out of Masters

Associated Press

Greenville, S.C. January 8th 1999 - Jack Nicklaus hasn't yet quite admitted it, but hip replacement surgery could be facing the nearly 59-year-old golfing legend.

A degenerative hip disease has plagued Nicklaus for 10 years and is now getting worse and may keep him from chasing his seventh Masters title at Augusta in April.

"My plans this year? I'm not sure," Nicklaus said this week. "I'm working on my body, specifically my hip, to see if I can play. Right now, I can't play at all. It's very frustrating when you physically can't do what you've always been able to do."

Nicklaus was in South Carolina to speak to the annual Greenville Chamber of Commerce dinner and do some promotional work for Greenville-based Dunlop-Maxfli.

"I'm preparing myself for surgery, mentally," he said. "If I have to have it, I will."

Surgery would mean four to six months of rehabilitation, Nicklaus said, meaning he would miss the Masters for the first time in 40 years. It may be necessary if he is to fulfill his goal of playing in all four majors in 2000.

Nicklaus has had health problems before, with back and knee surgery in the past, but he said "nothing hurt this bad before."