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Nicklaus leaves hospital after hip replacement surgery

BOSTON - Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, recovering from hip replacement surgery, said his game was not the prime reason for undergoing the operation.

"Golf wasn't the reason I came here," Nicklaus said Monday at a news conference at New England Baptist Hospital. "The quality of life was the reason I came here."

Nicklaus, 59, who will be on crutches for six weeks, will miss the Masters in April for the first time in 40 years and possibly the U.S. Open in June, but doctors have said he should be able to play competitively again.

"I don't have any illusions, at the age of 59 or 60, of coming back and competing with the Tiger Woods and David Duvals," Nicklaus said before heading home to North Palm Beach, Fla. "But I'm looking forward to having this stabilise my hip and allow me to function to a quality of life."

"Postoperative recovery to date has been right on track," said Dr. Benjamin Bierbaum, who performed the operation last Wednesday.

Bierbaum, head of the orthopedic surgery at the hospital, said Nicklaus will be on crutches so the bone and soft tissue can heal. After that, he will go through a rehabilitation program that could take at least six more weeks.

"My wife told me the one thing I'm going to do is dance at my son's wedding," Nicklaus said of the upcoming Feb. 20 marriage of his youngest boy, Michael. "Other than that, I'm going to do nothing for six weeks."

A winner of a record 18 majors, Nicklaus had a degenerative left hip for years. He tried to avoid a hip replacement with a rigorous exercise routine, but consented to the operation when that failed.

Nicklaus agreed to use a ceramic hip replacement as part of a study directed by Bierbaum and involving 10 hospitals. Ceramic is smoother than materials typically used in hip implants and is believed to last longer.

Despite the hip problems, Nicklaus became the oldest player to finish in the top 10 in the Masters last April when he thrilled the Augusta gallery yet again with a final-round 68 to tie for sixth. But he was hobbling so badly in the summer that he pulled out of the British Open, ending his streak of 146 consecutive majors.

This will be the first time Nicklaus has missed the Masters since 1958, four years before he turned pro and began one of the greatest careers in golf.