Jack Nicklaus: How the record-breaking 'Golden Bear' won each of his 18 majors

By Sports Desk April 13, 2020

Monday marks the 34th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' 18th and final major championship victory.

A stunning Masters triumph on April 13, 1986 saw the Golden Bear, who was 46 at the time, add a sixth success at Augusta to his five US PGA Championship titles, four U.S. Open wins and three Open Championship crowns.

Tiger Woods - last year's memorable Masters champion - has since closed to within three of Nicklaus' benchmark, but the latter remains golf's most prolific major champion.

We take a look at how Nicklaus amassed a tally that has still yet to be surpassed.

 

1962 U.S. Open

Nicklaus finished second in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills as an amateur. When he played the tournament as a professional for the first time two years later, after nine major appearances outside the paid ranks, the then-22-year-old secured glory.

Arnold Palmer – an established superstar in the prime of his career – had edged out the youngster at Cherry Hills, but Nicklaus held his nerve at Oakmont to prevail in an 18-hole play-off after the pair had finished regulation play level on one under.

Palmer was the big crowd favourite in the play-off, but Nicklaus stormed into an early lead before seeing off a trademark charge from his rival to become the youngest U.S. Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

1963 Masters

Having seen off Palmer to earn his maiden major, Nicklaus shaded another all-time great on his way to the first of six Masters triumphs.

A month shy of his 51st birthday, Sam Snead moved into the final-day lead with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, but two late bogeys followed for the veteran and Nicklaus – who had surged into contention with a second-round 66 after opening with a 74 - took advantage.

Gains at the 13th and 16th lifted Nicklaus to a winning score of two under, two clear of Snead and Julius Boros and one ahead of Tony Lema, who birdied the last to claim sole second.

1963 US PGA Championship

Still only 23, Nicklaus prevailed in stifling heat at Dallas Athletic Club to grab his second major of 1963 and become only the third player to win the Masters and US PGA in the same year.

Three behind Bruce Crampton with 18 holes to play, the Ohio native defied temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius on the final day to shoot 68 and win by two from Dave Ragan.

1965 Masters

Nicklaus' first three major successes all came via narrow margins, but that certainly was not the case at Augusta in 1965 as he recorded a record-breaking triumph.

Tied for the lead at halfway with Palmer and Gary Player, Nicklaus surged clear with a course-record-equalling 64 and ultimately finished an astonishing nine strokes clear at 17 under, having totally overpowered the course.

His 72-hole total of 271 and winning margin both stood as records until 1997, when Tiger Woods claimed a 12-shot victory with a score of 270.

1966 Masters

Twelve months later, Nicklaus became the first man to successfully retain the Masters, a feat since accomplished by Nick Faldo and Woods. However, his success came in a week of personal heartbreak.

Shortly before beginning his opening round, Nicklaus learned that close childhood friend Bob Barton had been among four people killed in a plane crash en route to Augusta.

"This tragedy has made me much more determined in what I hope to do this week," said the Golden Bear, who duly beat Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer in an 18-hole Monday play-off after the trio had all finished on 288.

1966 Open Championship

Only five men have completed a career Grand Slam of modern-day major wins. Nicklaus was only 26 when he became the fourth, following in the footsteps of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Player.

A one-shot victory at Muirfield – at the expense of Doug Sanders and Dave Thomas – enabled Nicklaus to lift the Claret Jug for the first time. He did so despite shooting 75 in round three, with a two-under aggregate ultimately enough to earn glory on a course that featured plenty of punishing rough.

1967 U.S. Open

Another record fell to Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1967, where his winning score of 275 represented a new U.S. Open best.

Amateur Marty Fleckman was the shock 54-hole leader but he faced daunting task on the final day with Nicklaus, Palmer and Billy Casper only one shot back.

The rank outsider slumped out of contention with a closing 80 and Casper (72) also faded as Nicklaus again got the better of Palmer, shooting 65 to his playing partner's 69 for a four-shot victory.

1970 Open Championship

Nicklaus' second Open win – after a barren spell spanning three years - is remembered more for the painful experience of runner-up Sanders.

Second to Nicklaus in the same event four years earlier, Sanders needed only to par the relatively simple 18th at St Andrews to claim his first major.

However, he famously backed away from a three-footer for the win, having seemingly been distracted by something on the line of his putt, and then saw his ball slip agonisingly past the hole.

The Open's first 18-hole play-off followed and Sanders was given renewed hope when he cut Nicklaus' lead from four to one with a solitary hole to play before playing the last superbly. The American provided a clinical finish, though, draining an eight-foot birdie putt before throwing his putter into the air in jubilation.

1971 US PGA Championship

Victory in the 1971 US PGA ensured Nicklaus became the first player to win each major twice.

He went wire-to-wire at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, finishing two clear of Casper at seven under despite a one-over 73 in the final round.

1972 Masters

The following April, Nicklaus again led after every round of a major as he triumphed in the Masters for the fourth time.

He failed to break par in each of the final two rounds, but scores of 73 and 74 were more than enough for a three-shot success at two under, with no other player ending the week in red figures.

1972 U.S. Open

Legendary sportswriter and author Dan Jenkins provided the most fitting description of Nicklaus' final-round performance at Pebble Beach, which saw him defy brutal conditions to make it two wins from as many major championships in 1972.

After Nicklaus had prevailed by three strokes with a two-over aggregate, Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated: "On the last day, Sunday, when a ripping wind produced the ultimate horrors, only Nicklaus could summon the patience and the game to cope with the place. It seemed he had saved his best golf for the final round, when the course and the elements almost eliminated golfing skills in more normal men. And while that closing 74 of his for the funny old total of 290 will not look so dazzling in the record books one day, it should be stated here and now that under the circumstances it was as brilliant as any man ever shot."

Jack's hopes of winning all four majors in the calendar year were duly dashed in The Open at Muirfield, where he was the runner-up to Lee Trevino.

1973 US PGA Championship

History was made at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio as Nicklaus - playing in his home state - surpassed Walter Hagen's record of 11 professional major victories with his 12th title.

A second successive 68 on Saturday lifted him to the top of the leaderboard and he finished four clear of Crampton, who had also been a runner-up to Nicklaus in the 1972 Masters and U.S. Open.

As the game's dominant player chalked up yet another victory, another golfing great, Snead, produced a remarkable performance at the age of 61, shooting even-par 71s in every round to tie for ninth. Incredibly, he had finished fourth the previous year and would go on to share third in 1974. 

1975 Masters

Nicklaus was five ahead after 36 holes at Augusta in 1975, but entered the final round trailing Tom Weiskopf by one after shooting 73 on Saturday.

A thrilling finale ensued on Sunday, with Nicklaus just about holding off Weiskopf and a charging Johnny Miller to secure his fifth green jacket. A closing 68 was just enough to seal victory on 12 under, with Weiskopf and Miller, who shot 66, both missing makeable putts on the 18th to force a play-off.

1975 US PGA Championship

Poor old Crampton had to settle for a fourth second-placed finish in a major behind Nicklaus as the latter claimed another US PGA crown in Ohio.

At Firestone Country Club in Akron, Nicklaus opened up a four-shot lead through the third round and a closing 71 kept him two clear of Crampton at four under. Weiskopf, one under for 72 holes, was the only other player to break par.

1978 Open Championship

Nicklaus' consistency in The Open was truly astonishing. From 1966 to 1980, he reeled off 15 top-six finishes in a row at golf's oldest major, with six of his seven runner-up placings achieved during this period.

His final victory came at the same place as his previous triumph, St Andrews, as he completed a third career Grand Slam.

A year on from the magical 'Duel in the Sun', where he was edged out by Tom Watson at Turnberry following a captivating battle, Nicklaus entered the final round of the 1978 Open one adrift of the defending champion.

However, Watson swiftly slumped out of contention and Nicklaus was able to taste victory once more, a 69 taking him to seven under and a two-shot triumph.

1980 U.S. Open

Nicklaus was viewed by some as a spent force by the time the 1980 U.S. Open rolled round, having gone almost two years without a PGA Tour win - comfortably the longest barren streak of his career at that point.

Aged 40, he showed there was still plenty left in the tank at Baltusrol.

Both Nicklaus and Weiskopf began the tournament with record-equalling rounds of 63. Weiskopf soon fell away, but Nicklaus prevailed with a tournament scoring record of 272.

The rejuvenated champion had been joined at the top of the leaderboard by Japan's Isao Aoki in round three, but he was not to be denied a 16th major crown.

1980 PGA Championship

Two months later, Nicklaus extended his record with a 17th title and fifth US PGA win. What is more, he did so in dominant fashion.

No other player could break par at Oak Hill, but Nicklaus was on another level as he carded scores of 70, 69, 66 and 69 to end the week seven clear at six under.

His margin of victory remained a record at the PGA until Rory McIlroy triumphed by eight shots in 2012.

1986 Masters

The most famous and unlikely triumph of the set came 34 years ago when Nicklaus thrilled Augusta with a sensational Sunday charge.

Four behind overnight leader Greg Norman heading into the final round, the 46-year-old surged to victory in barely believable style, playing the final 10 holes in seven under to shoot 65.

Nicklaus' memorable birdie at the last triggered an unforgettable putter-raising celebration and ensured he finished one ahead of Norman and Tom Kite at nine under. Seve Ballesteros, who had looked a clear favourite little more than an hour earlier, was a shot further back in fourth.

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    WHAT'S THEIR MMA RECORD (W-L-D)?

    Adesanya: 19-0-0

    Costa: 13-0-0


    TALE OF THE TAPE

    Adesanya:

    Age: 31
    Height: 6'4" (193cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 80"
    Leg reach: 44.5"

    Costa:

    Age: 29
    Height: 6'1" (185cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 72"
    Leg reach: 39.5"


    WHAT THEY'VE SAID

    Adesanya referred to Costa as an "inflated balloon animal" back in June and during his media activities ahead of UFC 253 made a figure out of balloons to impersonate Costa, saying: "Hey guys, my name is Paulo Costa. I'm the Eraser and I'm going to be the champion. Israel, I will erase you." Adesanya then twisted the balloons until they popped…

    In controversial comments to Submission Radio in August, Costa said: "I have just one question. Adesanya, why are you freezing when you face Romero? You're not a real champion, man. You don't deserve. I will kill you."


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