ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Will he or won't he?
That was the question fans of Jack Nicklaus here were asking yesterday after watching the 60-year-old legend take a sentimental stroll down the 18th fairway, stop on Swilican Bridge to accept their applause and close out the 129th British Open by missing an 8-foot birdie putt for a round of 1-over-par 73.
Nicklaus, who earlier indicated this would be the 37th and last Open of his career, left the door open after talking with Hugh Campbell, the chairman of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's championship committee.
"I would say the chances are I've probably played my last hole in the British Open," said Nicklaus, who won two of his three Open titles on the Old Course, in 1970 and '78. "Having said that, Hugh came to me and said, 'We're going to play 2005 here at St. Andrews largely because of you if you would come back.'"
And what was Nicklaus' answer?
"I said, 'Hugh, that's a long way away, but I will be 65 and I will be eligible for the last time [as a former champion]," said Nicklaus. "I won't say no, but I certainly won't play unless I can be competitive. At least I don't want to take up a spot."
Nicklaus was competitive early in yesterday's round, playing the first seven holes in 3-under par. But he didn't make another birdie and finished the round in much the same way as he did in last month's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He hit a terrific second shot to the 18th green, but he couldn't make the putt.
And, like Arnold Palmer five years before him, Nicklaus was given a warm ovation as he stopped on the famous bridge.
"It's much the same as the U.S. Open," said Nicklaus, who shared the moment with his son and caddie, Steve. "I wasn't playing good enough to make anything happen. But the reception we got at every hole was very nice. They let me know they appreciated the good years that I've had in Scotland and gave me a very, very nice farewell."
But perhaps not the last here for Nicklaus.