Spread over three decades from the 1960s to the 1980s, Nicklaus won 18 major championships, starting with the US Open at the age of 22 in 1962 and finishing with his sixth Masters title in 1986 when he was 46 years old. Before he joined the pro ranks he was twice a winner of the US Amateur. The remarkable consistency and longevity of his game is illustrated by his record in The Open. In a 15-year spell from 1966 to 1980 he won the title three times, seven times finished second and was never out of the top six. From the outset he was among the longest and straightest hitters in the game, recording the biggest drive at the 1963 PGA Championship at just over 341 yards, a mark that stood for 20 years. His Achilles heel was a sometimes fragile short game, but he hit so many greens in regulation and had such a devastating putting stroke that he was a master of damage limitation.
As an amateur he finished second and fourth in the US Open in 1960 and 1961, turned pro at the end of that year and snatched the US Open title away from golf’s popular hero Arnold Palmer by three shots in a play-off at Oakmont the following summer. From that moment on he and Palmer were to be locked in constant battles through the 1960s, joined by Gary Player, who continued to oppose Nicklaus into the late ‘70s. Johnny Miller joined in the fray with two devastating years in 1974-75 before Tom Watson took up the challenge. But despite the high quality of the opposition, Nicklaus continued to amass major titles. His first Open victory was achieved at a tight and unforgiving Muirfield in 1966 where he used the driver sparingly and drilled long-irons into the narrow fairways. In the final round he set up his victory by hitting the green at the 528-yards 17th with a three-iron from the tee and a five-iron second shot for a birdie to pull ahead of Dave Thomas and Doug Sanders. At St Andrews in 1970 Sanders was again the victim, missing a short winning putt on the final hole and losing by a shot in the 18-hole play-off. Nicklaus was the winner when the Championship returned to the Old Course in 1978 and in so doing completed his third career grand slam of all four majors. In addition to his three Open Championship titles, he was six times a winner of the Masters, four times US Open champion and five times victorious in the USPGA.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1940, Nicklaus was a keen student of the game’s history and needed no prompting to follow Arnold Palmer’s lead to play regularly in The Open, something he did for 36 years without a break. He hit the ball high with a slight fade to stop the ball more quickly, happy to give up the extra yards he would have gained from a draw. His meticulous course planning and deep concentration over each shot were factors that kept him at the highest level for so many years.
Date of Birth:
Sunday, January 21, 1940
1978, 1970, 1966