Golf-Nicklaus says he was ill with COVID-19 earlier this year


July 19 (Reuters) - Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time golf major winner, said on Sunday that he was ill with COVID-19 earlier this year and his wife Barbara had also tested positive for the coronavirus.

At 80 years old, Nicklaus is in the higher risk category for being seriously ill with the disease, which has killed more than 140,000 people in the United States. He said he counted himself lucky to have come through with a relatively mild case.

Speaking during a weather delay in final round play of the Memorial Tournament that he hosts, Nicklaus said that while he had symptoms of the illness, his wife was asymptomatic. The couple self-isolated at their home in south Florida from March 13 to April 20.

"Barbara was asymptomatic, I had a sore throat and a cough, it didn't last very long," said Nicklaus in an interview with CBS. "We were very, very fortunate, we were lucky.

"Barbara and I are both of the age, both of us 80-years-old, that it's an at risk age," he said. "Our hearts do go out to the people who did lose their lives and their families, we were just a couple of the lucky ones."

Nicklaus said that he had tested positive four times and his wife Barbara three. Both have since tested positive for the coronavirus antibody.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised people not to shake hands with others during the pandemic, Nicklaus said last week that he hoped to continue the tradition of shaking the winner's hand on the 18th green.

He said on Sunday that he was still willing to shake hands but would leave it up to the winner to decide.

"So we'll have to see what he wants to do," said Nicklaus.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto Editing by Frances Kerry)

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