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My First Open

Jack Nicklaus


Royal Troon 1962

Jack Nicklaus

With three Claret Jugs to his name, Jack Nicklaus will be remembered as one of the greatest to take to the green in The Open’s long history.

All that glory and more lay ahead of Nicklaus in 1962 as he embarked on his first ever outing at the Championship.

However, the longest journeys start with a single step, and it’s fair to say it was an inauspicious start for a man who spent much of the following two decades competing in the top three at The Open.

A 34th place finish at Royal Troon was little to write home about but, given what followed, there’s no harm in looking back on Nicklaus’ first taste of The Open.

Ahead of his 80th birthday, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to uncover the awkward first meeting between Nicklaus and a tournament he would grow to love.

Arnold Palmer (right) pictured with fellow golfing greats Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus at Troon in 1962.

First round shocker

Arriving at the tournament on the back of winning his maiden US Open a month earlier, a fresh-faced 22-year-old Nicklaus looked well set to prosper.

Any optimism surrounding the future 18-time major winner soon dissipated, though, as he carded a horror first round to be left chasing from the off.

A 10 at the 11th provided the lowlight of a round of 80 and left Nicklaus facing a stern task if he was to make the cut.

It speaks volumes of his ability that he continued into the business end of the contest and, of all the players who advanced to Friday, Nicklaus was the only one to hit a round in the 80s first up.

Bouncing back  

Nicklaus’ eventual finish of tied 34th, some 29 shots adrift of winner Arnold Palmer, may not represent his finest moment, but there was still a sprinkle of stardust in his display.

Requiring a low score to stand any chance of making the cut, Nicklaus duly delivered in round two on Thursday, as he made it round in 72 to clamber up the leaderboard.

The score was his most impressive of the competition and gave The Open crowd a first true taste of what he had to offer.

The score would have been enough to have him competing with the pace-setters had it not been for his dire showing first up.

Regardless, victory on debut would likely always have been out of his reach due to the superb golf being played by Palmer at the top of the tree.

The eventual champion followed up an opening round of 71 by carding 69, 67 and 79 and would end the week with a six-shot advantage over second-placed Kel Nagle to his name.

More signs of quality after the cut

Having salvaged his week with a classy second round showing, Nicklaus maintained a solid level of performance.

Only 12 men bettered his score of 74 in the third round and it looked as though the American had found some semblance of rhythm as he headed towards the close of his Open bow.

The true pace-setters remained some distance over the horizon though as Palmer tightened his hold with a superb 67 and Nagle struggled to keep pace with a 70.

First round flaws return

Nicklaus’ efforts to rise from the 80 which would ultimately undermine his debut looked to be well on track as he headed into his final round.

But the tournament was to be book-ended by another off-colour offering and Nicklaus would end his trip to Troon with a round of 79.

While the final offering of his first time out at The Open was worlds away from the standards he would set down the line, it wouldn’t be long before Nicklaus was on top in golf’s oldest major.

Just four years later Nicklaus found himself with his hands on the Claret Jug as he came out on top at Muirfield.