They didn't even ask Jack Nicklaus to come to the press tent today. Four times the champion of the U.S. Open, supremely confident he could make a big move even trailing by five shots going into the final round, the defending champion could do no better than 72 today, leaving him tied for sixth place at par 280.

He finished bogey, bogey. Patiently he stopped on his way to the locker room to sign the pads, programs, visors and scraps of paper thrust at him. Finally, he reached his locker, sat down and sighed unhappily.

"I'm very disappointed in the way I played," he said, sitting on a stool tapping a wood on the carpeting at his feet. "I made three birdies on the front nine but gave up two of them with bogeys I shouldn't have made. Then, on the back side, I couldn't get the ball in the hole at all.

"I was very confident today. I thought I could put a very good round together. I knew I had to go out and make something happen out there. But nothing ever happened. I never got it rolling.

Early, Nicklaus looked capable of challenging. After a bogey at No. 3, he birdied Nos. 5 and 6, snaking in a 50-foot put from the fringe at No 5. He was three under par then and the consensus was that four under might win the tournament.

Then at seven, Nicklaus landed his second shot 10 feet from the pin, but the ball was on a downhill crest. "It was like lightning from there," he said. "Making birdie at 5 and 6 had put me in good position. Seven hurt."

Nicklaus' second putt on the hole was almost as long as his first and he missed it for a bogey. He got back to three under with a birdie at the ninth, but three-putted from 30 feet at the 12th for another bogey. He saved par from the rough at 13.

"At that point, I turned to (son and caddie) Jackie and said, 'I've got to play these last five holes under par to have a chance; I've got to go after every hole.' "

His efforts were wasted. Birdie putts at 14, 15 and 16 would not drop, then came the bogeys at 17 and 18. "I was forcing the last five holes," he said. "I kept trying to make something happen and I never did."

If there was consolation for Nicklaus, it was seeing his close friend win. Nicklaus and David Graham have worked together building golf clubs and, in fact, use a similar set of clubs designed by Graham.

"David is awfully good when he gets into the position he got to today," Nicklaus said. "When he's leading, he has such excellent concentration he's not likely to make a mistake. And he's always got excellent control of his emotions. That wins golf tournaments."

Nicklaus lost this tournament on the last five holes. He played them eight over par for the four days, including two double bogeys. In contrast, Graham was even par for those holes. Nicklaus prides himself on being at his best on the toughest holes.

"I could have won if I had played those holes well," he said. "I played well enough to win the golf tournament, but I gave away too much on the last five holes. I lost it there."

At the moment that Nicklaus finished talking, Graham tapped in his final putt at 18.

"I think," Nicklaus said, "the golf tournament just ended."