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Nicklaus sets with 77 round

Jack Nicklaus reverted to the role of elder statesman Saturday, shooting a 6-over-par 77 to fall far out of contention after three rounds of the 125th British Open.

Only 24 hours after he reached the midpoint within a shot of the lead, the 56-year-old dropped 14 shots off the pace set by Tom Lehman, who had a course-record 64 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"I wanted it to be my day," said Nicklaus, winner of 20 majors. "I felt good this morning, my body felt good I warmed up beautifully I wasn't nervous, not any more than what you would normally want to be."

Nicklaus' 69 Thursday came hours after a physical therapist _ in a 6,000-mile phone call _ talked him through an hour-long routine to free his spasm-locked back.

His 66 in Friday's second round was his lowest score in a major since he won the 1986 Masters _ his last victory in a major. It was the first time Nicklaus opened a major with two rounds in the 60s since the 1981 U.S. Open.

Saturday, he said, bum luck hit.

"I kept hitting some pretty good shots for the first 11 or 12 holes and ended up not getting anything out of them," Nicklaus said. "And when you do that on this golf course _ when it's hard and fast like it is _ you just get bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey. And that's what I kept doing."

So the oldest man to win a major will remain Julius Boros, who took the 1968 PGA at 48.