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Golf: Nicklaus Withdraws from Masters Tournament - 2002-04-03

Jack Nicklaus, the most dominant golfer in the history of the Masters tournament with six green jackets won over 23 years, has withdrawn from the first major tournament of the year because of lingering back problems.

Nicklaus will be absent from the Masters for only the second time since 1959. He also skipped in 1999 when he was recovering from hip replacement surgery. The 62-year-old Golden Bear has also expressed concerns about competing against players half his age on an Augusta National course that has added nearly three-hundred meters to its length.

The back injury has plagued Nicklaus for nearly a year, and he also withdrew from this week's Legends of Golf on the Senior PGA Tour. Nicklaus has not played an official tournament since July 29, when he tied for third in the Senior British Open.

Nicklaus' six victories, the last one coming in 1986 when he was 46, tell only part of the story of how Nicklaus dominated Augusta National with power, skill and experience in 42 appearances in the Masters. He has set or tied 66 records at the Masters, and has missed the mid-tournament cut only three times since his first appearance as an amateur in 1959.

Nicklaus won his first Masters in 1963 and became the first back-to-back champion in 1965-1966. In the 1965 Masters, Nicklaus set the tournament record of 271 with a nine-stroke victory over chief rivals Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, has been selected as the host for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Hazeltine has hosted two U.S. Open championships, a U.S. Senior Open and a pair of U.S. Women's Opens. It also will be the course for the 2006 U.S. Amateur tournament.

Hazeltine will also host two PGA Championships, this year and in 2009, before taking the spotlight again in 2016 the international event between the United States and Europe for the first time.

Originated in 1927, the Ryder Cup previously was held in odd-numbered years. But the event was postponed in 2001 because of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

The U.S. team will now defend its title from September 27 through the 29 at the Belfry in England.

The Ryder Cup will move to Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 2004.