Pain forced Hale Irwin to withdraw from the U.S. Open while Jack Nicklaus played on. A week later, their roles are reversed.

Irwin took command of the Senior Players Championship with a crafty 8-under-par 64, while an aching hip forced Nicklaus to withdraw after nine holes yesterday in Dearborn, Mich.

"That did not surprise me," said Irwin, still being treated for a sore left shoulder. "I'm surprised he made it this far. We were in the fitness trailer together."

Irwin, who credits two therapists who travel with the Senior PGA Tour for making his shoulder feel better, played a bogey-free round highlighted by a 236-yard 4-wood to seven feet for eagle on the par-5 13th.

Still, Irwin's play was almost overshadowed by the withdrawal of Nicklaus, who designed the course.

"It's sad that he had to drop out," said Graham Marsh, in second place four shots back of Irwin. "I hope it's not because he tried to come back too quickly."

Yet that's exactly what did happen.

Nicklaus, complaining of pain around the left hip he had surgically replaced in January, said he apparently tried to play too much too soon after the operation.

"Hopefully, I'll be all right for the U.S. Senior Open" July 8-11, said Nicklaus, who withdrew from a tournament for the third time in his career. "I'll play it by ear."

PGA: Jim Carter, still a little squeamish in the spotlight of the PGA Tour, says he will be seeking to call as much attention to himself as possible in the final round of the Buick Classic in Harrison, N.Y.

"My main focus is just going to be on me," he said after a 5-under 66 left him tied with Duffy Waldorf for the third-round lead at 8-under 205. "I am going to be real selfish tomorrow. Me. Me. Me."

Thinking of himself first never has come easy for Carter. Thursday, he said he didn't even remember it was his 38th birthday until a PGA official, his old college coach, reminded him.

And Carter said his comfort zone has not extended to the two other times he led after three rounds -- the 1989 Hawaiian Open and the 1995 Anheuser-Busch Classic. He didn't win either tournament.

"Basically, I've been kind of a quiet guy," he said. "But I am feeling more comfortable and learning to have a little more fun with the gallery."