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Jack Nicklaus

A Golfing Mind

Nicklaus' concentration—his ability to focus on the task at hand—is legendary. Indeed, many critics point to his phenomenal mental acuity and ability to focus as a major part of his success. Palmer, who in his young days was famous for his comeback victories, was now getting the comebacks pulled on him by a man who methodically sucked the leaders back in before propelling himself on to victory.

In 1967, in one of their last famous duels, Nicklaus drew close to Palmer as the final round of the U.S. Open waned. Then Nicklaus began to pull away. He was soon four strokes ahead of the field, his final margin of victory. Palmer faded into the background of the PGA Tour (although, it must be noted, he never faded from his celebrity), and Nicklaus, three years into his professional life, had many records to shatter.

Golf—in spite of the jokes to the contrary—is a physically demanding game for tour professionals. Professionals appear on the links for four days straight on weeks of tournaments, playing 18 holes each of those days, as well as practicing before and after each round. And they do this week in and week out, throughout the season, while at the same time dealing with the media and with the other pressures that arise from traveling the country and the globe. So if a player gets just a bit out of rhythm in his swing, it can throw off the entire game.


1940 Born Jack William Nicklaus on January 21
1950 Plays golf for the first time, winning his first tournament later in the year
1953 Wins Ohio State Junior Championship
1953 Breaks 70 for 18 holes and holds a three handicap
1954 Repeats as Ohio State Junior Champion
1955 Wins Ohio State Junior Championship yet again; loses his first United States Amateur Championshiop in first round
1956 Wins Ohio State Open Championship
1957 Enters Ohio State University
1959 Wins the U.S. Amateur (repeats in 1960 and 1961); member of Walker Cup Team
1960 Marries Barbara Bash on July 23
1961 Has first child with wife Barbara—Jack II—on September 23
1961 Wins NCAA Championship
1961 Turns professional in November
1961 Member of Walker Cup Team
1962 Graduates from Ohio State
1962 Earns first pro victory, defeating Arnold Palmer in an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open (first of a career-record 18 major championship victories)
1962 Wins the U.S. Open
1962-78 Records the most consecutive years with a victory (17), winning at least once per year
1963 Wins his first Masters. Youngest winner at the time; wins the PGA Championship (23)
1963 Second son, Steve, born on April 11
1965 Daughter Nancy born on May 5
1965 Wins Masters Tournament
1966 Wins Masters and British Open
1967 Wins U.S. Open
1969 Son Gary born on January 15
1969 Plays in first Ryder Cup and concedes a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin—results in the first tie in the Ryder Cup history
1970 Wins British Open
1971 Wins PGA Championship
1972 Wins Masters and U.S. Open
1973 Wins PGA Championship
1973 Becomes the first player to reach $2 million in tournament earnings
1973 Fourth son Michael born on July 24
1975 Wins Masters and PGA Championship
1977 Becomes the first player to reach $3 million in tournament earnings
1978 Wins British Open
1980 Wins U.S. Open and PGA Championship
1983 Becomes the first player to reach $4 million in tournament earnings
1986 Wins the Masters when he's 46 years old. Oldest winner in event's history
1987 Captains the U.S. Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village
1988 Becomes the first player to reach $5 million in tournament earnings
1989 Leaves the PGA Tour with an incredible 71 tournament victories
1990 Joins Senior Tour, winning in his debut at The Tradition
1991 Wins U.S. Seniors Open
1993 Wins U.S. Seniors Open
1996 Plays his 10,000 hole at the U.S. Open
1997 Breaks Sam Snead's record for most rounds played in the Masters (147)
1998 Suffers increasing pain in left hip and has difficulty playing much of the year
1999 Undergoes hip replacement surgery
2000 Named co-chair with Juli Inkster of The First Tee's Capital Campaign, More Than A Game, in November
2001 Records two top-ten finishes
2002 Jack Nicklaus Musuem opens on campus of Ohio State in Maysidebar text

Nicklaus was unwavering in his focus. He was a powerhouse of a player who drove the ball farther than almost anyone he encountered; he mastered the putter, sinking long putts as if he were tapping the ball in from three feet; and his iron play and his shots from tough situations were as good than any other professionals he encountered. With his razor-sharp focus, he became very difficult to beat.

Yet he also became an ambassador for the game of golf. During the 1969 Ryder Cup play at Royal Birkdale, Nicklaus performed one of the true gestures of good faith in the game, conceding a short putt to Britain's Tony Jacklin, giving him the match, which in turn gave America the victory but allowed England to keep the Ryder Cup trophy one more year. Many consider it one of the best gestures in the history of sport, and though it was controversial at the time (teammate Sam Snead was upset that Nicklaus had conceded), the heart with which Nicklaus made the gesture showed his true colors.

Determined to change the way the public perceived him, Nicklaus emerged the next year as a leaner and more fit player. As the 1970s began, Nicklaus had changed his drab wardrobe for brighter colors and sought to make himself into an all-around player, one worthy of admiration for more than just his stellar play. He soon released books on how to play better golf, collaborating with his mentor Jack Grout as well as with his longtime writing ally Ken Bowden. Nicklaus' body of work itself is a veritable library of golf knowledge.

During the seventies, Nicklaus continued to accumulate tournament victories. He left the 60s with thirty victories, and added 36 more during the seventies, winning his fifth Masters in 1975 in thrilling fashion by sinking a forty-foot putt to pull one stroke ahead of Tom Weiskopf.

In 1979, however, Nicklaus stumbled. He went winless for the first time, finishing 71st on the money list. Some felt this was the beginning of his decline. After all, he had been dominating for at least fifteen seasons, and it was time for newcomers like Tom Watson to step up. (Palmer's dominance lasted a mere seven seasons, although some argues that it was not even that long.)

But Nicklaus, like the phoenix from the ashes, came back in the 1980s and helped usher in a new decade, proving that it was his decade as much as any other golfer's. With new major victories in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship early on, many thought that he

Jack Nicklaus

was finally slowing down when he went several seasons without a major. Nicklaus had been the youngest winner of the Masters when he first won the tournament in 1963, but he needed to endcap his record. In 1986 he became the oldest player, at 46, to win a Masters green jacket.

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