Augusta - Four-time major champion Raymond Floyd announced Tuesday he would not compete in this year's Masters, ending the 67-year-old American's run of appearances in the year's first major at 44.
Floyd won the 1976 Masters, firing an opening-round 65 that remains the best start for any Masters champion, as well as the 1986 US Open and the 1969 and 1982 PGA Chamnpionships.
"I don't feel like this is the end of an era," Floyd said. I've always enjoyed it. It has the fondest of memories. It has been a real special 44 years."
Floyd was listed among this year's competitors but follows into retirement such Masters legends as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who will serve as ceremonial starters of Thursday's first round at Augusta National Golf Club.
"I toyed with (playing) but I have a good feeling that I have made the right decision," Floyd said. "I promise you there will not be a point this week when I wish I were out there."
Floyd has 22 US PGA titles and 14 on the 50-and-over Champions Tour. He settled for second place twice at the Masters, losing a 1990 playoff to Nick Faldo and finishing two shots behind Fred Couples in 1992.
Also in 1992, Floyd became the first man to win on the regular and senior tours in the same year.
Floyd withstood the stretching and toughening of Augusta National over the past decade, measures largely aimed at long-ball hitters such as Tiger Woods.
"I didn't feel like I embarassed myself out there on a big golf course, but it's getting to that stage," Floyd said.
"I'm 67 years old. I wanted to leave with really fond memories of the golf course and the way I played through all of these years.
"I'm not competitive now. I didn't want to go out and embarass myself or play the best and make a whole lot of putts so I could shoot in the 70s."
Floyd, who began his career at age 20, had already given up playing on a regular basis even in the senior circuit, although he expects to make special appearances from time to time.
"I'm probably retired from tournament golf," Floyd said. "This is 47 years since I started so I played a lot of golf. I'm very comfortable with the decision.
"I'm not saying this is an end. I plan to come back and be part of the tournament, and play during the season."