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Nicklaus says Memorial Tournament is built to last

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Jack Nicklaus is confident the tournament he created will live on.

Far more than a vanity project or a way to market his name, the Memorial Tournament has grown into one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour. And there's no reason to expect that to end once its famous, 67-year-old founder is no longer micromanaging every detail.

"I'd like to think the event can stand on its own two feet without me,'' Nicklaus said Tuesday, two days before the 32nd Memorial tees off with eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings in the field. "It is set in place that I can be here or I don't have to be here.''

Nicklaus was enthralled the first time he played in the Masters in 1959 as a callow 19-year-old amateur. He dreamed of someday leaving a legacy similar to what Bobby Jones created among the dogwoods and azaleas of Augusta, Ga. Years later, after Nicklaus become the game's dominant player, he began to follow through on his plans.

As a kid growing up nearby in suburban Columbus, Nicklaus strolled the farmland where Muirfield Village Golf Club now sits astride upscale housing developments.

"It was not very big - it was like 250 acres or something,'' he said of the land he asked several high school and college friends to look at. Smiling, he added, "It was a place that I used to come up here as a kid and hunt. I never shot anything, but I hunted.''

Investors and friends put up money and a $9 million public offering raised the funds to start building Muirfield Village in the rolling hills on the northwest edge of Ohio's capital.

Now it is considered a jewel of golf-course design and is one of the most popular stops on tour. Dublin, which used to be a simple crossroads, has become a bustling city.

Nicklaus hasn't won anything of note since the 1986 Masters, yet it still means something to the world's best players that the Memorial is his baby.

Carl Pettersson said he had two favorite memories from his victory a year ago at the Memorial.

"I chipped in on No. 11 for a birdie, and then shaking Mr. Nicklaus' hand on 18,'' he said.

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