Jack Nicklaus, also known as "The Golden Bear", is widely regarded as the greatest professional golfer of all time. Last month we focused on his Early Life & Career, his Professional Breakthrough and his Off-Course Activities (Nicklaus Golf Trail), this months article focuses on his Career Records and Achievements.
Nicklaus accumulated a record 18 professional majors in a PGA Tour career lasting 25 years, from 1962 to 1986. Later, on the Champions Tour, the senior version of the PGA Tour, he won 8 of that tour's majors between 1990 and 1996. Both records still stand today.
In the Murcia region Jack Nicklaus is creating a unique golf experience. The legend began 3 years ago when the greatest golfer of all time recognised a golden opportunity in the warm and sunny Region of Murcia. He saw this was the ideal place for his most ambitious project yet, The Nicklaus Golf Trail, a circuit which will boast 9 courses within a radius of 25 km and the best golf experience in Europe and the only one of its kind in the world.
With 3 courses already up and running, a fourth opening in the first trimester of 2008 (Hacienda Riquelme), 2 with work in progress and 3 in the planning stages, what was originally just a dream has been converted into a golf trail which is unique in the world and exclusive to Polaris World Golf Resorts. The courses each have different characteristics and levels of play and the facilities adhere to the highest standards of quality and design.
Jack Nicklaus - the Record Setter
With a win at the 1971 PGA Championship in February, Nicklaus became the first golfer to win all four majors twice in a career. By the end of the year he had won four additional tournaments including the Tournament of Champions and the National Team Championship with Arnold Palmer.
Nicklaus won the first two majors of 1972, the Masters and the U.S. Open, creating talk of a Grand Slam. In the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Nicklaus struck a one-iron on the par-three 17th hole into a stiff, gusty ocean breeze which landed, hit the flagstick and ended up six inches from the cup. The U.S. Open was Nicklaus's 13th career major, and tied him with Bobby Jones for career majors (although a different group of tournaments had been considered majors in Jones's time). He won a total of seven tournaments during the year, and was runner-up in a further three. Nicklaus did not win the Grand Slam in 1972, however, as Lee Trevino repeated as the British Open champion (Nicklaus finished second, one shot behind), and Gary Player prevailed in the PGA Championship.
Jones's record of majors was soon broken when Nicklaus won the PGA Championship in August 1973 for his 14th professional major. In that year he won another six tournaments. The PGA Player of the Year was awarded to Nicklaus for the third time, and the second year in a row. Nicklaus's failure to win a major in 1974 was offset somewhat by his being named one of the 13 original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Nicklaus says this honor was a "nice memento" after a "disappointing season".
Nicklaus started off well in 1975: he won the Doral-Eastern Open, the Heritage Classic, and the Masters in consecutive starts. His Masters win was his fifth, a record he was to break eleven years later. In this tournament, Nicklaus made a 40-foot putt on the 16th hole to all but secure his victory. He also won the PGA Championship for the fourth time in August. His performance in 1975 resulted in his being named PGA Player of the Year for the fourth time, tying Ben Hogan, and he was also named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.
He placed first on the tour money list again in 1976, despite competing in only 16 events, winning only two — neither of them majors — and playing what he called "hang-back-and-hope golf". He also won the PGA Player of the Year award for a record fifth time. Between 1972 and 1976 the only time he failed to win this award was 1974.
The following year, 1977, was also majorless for Nicklaus, but his second-place finish behind Tom Watson at the British Open at Turnberry created headlines around the world. In a one-on-one battle dubbed the "Duel in the Sun," Nicklaus shot 65-66 in the final two rounds, only to be beaten by Watson, who scored 65-65. Nicklaus would later say:
"There are those in golf who would argue into next month that the final two rounds of the 1977 British Open were the greatest head-to-head golf match ever played. Not having been around for the first five hundred or so years of the game, I'm not qualified to speak on such matters. What's for sure, however, is that it was the most thrilling one-on-one battle of my career."
During 1977, Nicklaus won his 63rd tour event, passing Ben Hogan to take second place on the career wins list, behind only Sam Snead.
Nicklaus won the 1978 British Open to become the only player to have won each major championship not twice but three times. Nicklaus won three other tournaments on the PGA Tour including the Tournament Players Championship, and was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. After this year he suffered a lapse of form, not winning another tournament until June 1980. The year of 1979 was the first in which he failed to win a tournament; he had only one runner-up finish.
In the off season, Nicklaus addressed two problems which had hurt his performance. His longtime coach Jack Grout noticed that he had become much too upright with his full swing; this was corrected. Then Nicklaus' short game, never a career strength, was further developed with the help of Phil Rodgers, a 20-year friend and tour rival, who had become a fine coach. Rodgers lived for a time at the Nicklaus home while this work was going on.
In 1980, Nicklaus recorded only three top-ten finishes, but two of these were victories in majors (the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship); the other was a runner-up finish in the Doral-Eastern Open. During the next five years Nicklaus won only twice on the tour, including his own tournament (Memorial Tournament) in 1984.
In 1986, Nicklaus capped his career by recording his sixth Masters victory under incredible circumstances, posting a six-under 30 on the back nine at Augusta for a final round of seven-under 65. At the 17th hole, Nicklaus hit it to within 18 feet and rolled it in for birdie, raising his putter in celebration and completing an eagle-birdie-birdie run. Nicklaus made a victory-sealing par-4 at the 72nd hole, and waited for the succeeding players to falter. At age 46, Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner in history, a record which still stands. This victory was his 18th major title as a professional.
Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters using the Response ZT putter. Its manufacturer, MacGregor Golf, received 5,000 orders the next day; it had planned to sell only 6,000 copies of this model for the entire year. Before the tournament a journalist wrote that he was "done, washed up, through", and this spurred him on, as he says:
"I kept thinking all week, 'Through, washed up, huh?' I sizzled for a while. But then I said to myself, 'I'm not going to quit now, playing the way I'm playing. I've played too well, too long to let a shorter period of bad golf be my last."
This victory was to be his last in his long career on the PGA Tour. At the age of 58, Nicklaus made another valiant run at the 1998 Masters, where he tied for sixth.
Champions Tour career
Nicklaus became eligible to join the Champions Tour when he turned 50 in early 1990, at which point he declared, "I'm never satisfied. Trouble is, I want to play like me - and I can't play like me anymore." He then quickly won in his first start on the tour, the Tradition, which was also a Champions Tour major championship. Nicklaus would go on to win another three Traditions, while the most anyone else has won is two. Later in the year, Nicklaus won the Senior Players Championship for his second win of the year, and also his second major of the year. The next year, in 1991, Nicklaus won three of the five events he started in, those being the U.S. Senior Open, the PGA Seniors Championship and the Tradition for the second year straight. These, again, were all majors on the Champions Tour.
After a winless year in 1992, Nicklaus came back to win the U.S. Senior Open for the second time in 1993. Also in that year he teamed up with Chi Chi Rodriguez and Raymond Floyd to win the Wendy's Three Tour Challenge for the Champions Tour team. In 1994 he won the Champions Tour's version of the Mercedes Championship for his only win of the year. The Tradition was his again in 1995, in a year where he made the top 10 in all of the seven tournaments he entered in. His 100th career win came the next year, when he won the Tradition for the fourth time, and second time in succession. This was to be his last win on the Champions Tour, and the last official win of his career.
Close of Playing Career
Nicklaus finished his professional career at the The Open Championship at St. Andrews on July 15, 2005. Nicklaus turned 65 in January that year, which was the last year he could enter The Open Championship as an exempt player. He played with Luke Donald and Tom Watson in his final round. After hitting his tee shot off the 18th tee in the second round, Nicklaus received a ten-minute standing ovation from the crowd. Soon afterwards, Nicklaus ended his career with a fitting birdie, holing a fifteen-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Nicklaus missed the 36-hole cut with a score of +3 (147).
In 2000, Nicklaus played in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship for the last time, with Woods winning both; Woods also won The Open Championship in that year, which Nicklaus originally intended as his last appearance in that event. In 2005, Nicklaus made his last Masters appearance, and played The Open one last time. Woods won both events as well.
In 1999, Nicklaus was selected as the top male individual athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated magazine.
In 2000, Nicklaus was ranked the greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine, ahead of Ben Hogan (2nd), Sam Snead (3rd), Bobby Jones (4th), Byron Nelson (5th), and Arnold Palmer (6th).
During his career on the PGA Tour, Nicklaus accumulated 18 major championships which is a record, and 73 PGA Tour victories, second only to Sam Snead. He also holds the record for the most wins at The Masters, with 6. He played on 6 Ryder Cup teams, as well as captaining the team twice, and topped the PGA Tour money list 8 times.
PGA Tour wins (73)
Other wins (21)
Senior Tour wins (10)
Other senior wins (9)
Summary of major championship performances
Starts - 163
Wins - 18
2nd place finishes - 19
Top 3 finishes - 46
Top 5 finishes - 57
Top 10 finishes - 73
Longest streak of top-10s in majors - 13
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