Jack is back.

Jack Nicklaus on Tuesday accepted a special exemption to play in the U.S. Open, meaning his streak of consecutive major championships played will grow to at least 146."I am very flattered that the USGA thinks I can make a contribution to the Open through the year 2000," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "So I . . . accepted their invitation to participate. I'm very much looking forward to playing the Open this year at the Olympic Club."

Nicklaus did not say if would also accept invitations to play in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst or in 2000 at Pebble Beach. Also left hanging was whether he would play in the British Open and the PGA Championship this year.

Nicklaus did not decide until the Sunday before the British Open last year that his game was up to the challenge.

In the past, Nicklaus has said he would play in the majors as long as he felt he was competitive.

When Nicklaus was not among those given exemptions by the USGA in January it appeared his streak of consecutive major championship would end at 145 after this year's Masters.

Now Nicklaus can extend that streak through the 2001 Masters, if he chooses, pushing it to 157 consecutive major championships. He has lifetime invitations to the Masters and the PGA Championship and can play the British Open until he is 65.