Monday, August 18, 2008

THE GOLDEN BEAR

For over four decades Jack Nicklaus has been one of the greatest players to ever pick up a club. The man known as the Golden Bear is one of only five golfers to ever win all four major tournaments. But more than that, Nicklaus remained dominant in the sport for nearly three decades, with twenty-five years separating his first and last Masters win. He consistently returned to top form and won an incredible 20 major victories in his career. By the time he left the professional tour, Nicklaus amassed an amazing 71 PGA tour wins, with 58 second place and 36 third place finishes. He has ... been voted PGA Tour Player of the year five times (1967, 1972-73, 1975-76). Jack William Nicklaus began playing golf at the age of 10 and before becoming a professional in late 1961 was considered by many the greatest amateur golfer since Bobby Jones. In his first year as a professional in 1962 he defeated Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Open and won the first World Series of Golf.
Born Jan. 21, 1940, Columbus, Ohio, U.S. he is one of the greatest in the game's history. He won the U.S. Amateur Championship twice (1959, 1961) while attending Ohio State University. After turning professional in 1962, he won the U.S. Open four times (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980), the Masters Tournament six times (1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986), the PGA Championship five times (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980), and the British Open three times (1966, 1970, 1978). He was a member of the winning U.S. World Cup team six times and was a record three-time individual World Cup winner (1963, 1964, 1971). By 1986 “the Golden Bear” had played in 100 major championships, finishing in the top three 45 times. He combined skill and power with remarkable concentration and composure under pressure.

Nineteen-year old Jack Nicklaus won his first major championship
– the 1959 U.S. Amateur at Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs Colorado
– and received the admiration and congratulations
from his opponent and defending champion Charlie Coe.
(Photo signed by Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Coe and the artist Greg Rudd)

As he walked up the 18th green with a two-shot lead,tears began to fill his eyes,
the emotions of another British Open winat the Old Course swirling in his head.
That's when his caddie, Jimmy Dickinson,jabbed Nicklaus in the ribs
and said simply, "There's still some golf left"
Text: Mike McAllister/SI.comPhoto: John Iacono/SI

Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying: "I never went into a tournament or round of golf thinking I had to beat a certain player. I had to beat the golf course. If I prepared myself for a major, went in focused, and then beat the golf course, the rest took care of itself. Jones is the greatest golfer who ever lived and probably ever will live. That's my goal. Bobby Jones. It's the only goal. I guess it could be said my legacy might be that I changed an era. I came along during an era where the game of golf was more of a stylish game, and I added power to the game. I was probably the first player that played with real power and was successful. And I was able to play with finesse as well. If you look at today's player, they all play with power. So I think I took the game in a different direction. I'm a firm believer that in the theory that people only do their best at things they truly enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don't enjoy. The Masters and Augusta National are and always have been very special to me. From the first time I drove up Magnolia Lane at age 19, I had a special feeling about Augusta. Even today, I get chills driving up Magnolia Lane. Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last. My ability to concentrate and work toward that goal has been my greatest asset. The older you get the stronger the wind gets - and it's always in your face."
Great players were quoted as saying about Jack Nicklaus: Arnold Palmer, in 1962, after losing the U.S. Open to 22-year-old Nicklaus in a playoff: "Now that the big guy's out of the cage, everybody better run for cover." Bobby Jones after watching Nicklaus win the 1965 Masters: "Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar." Author Rick Reilly: "He was not homespun like Sam Snead, funny like Lee Trevino. His pants didn't need hitching like Palmer's. Instead, he won over America with pure, unbleached excellence." Chi Chi Rodriguez: "Jack Nicklaus is a legend in his spare time." Gene Sarazen: "I never thought anyone would ever put Hogan in the shadows, but he did." Tom Weiskopf: "Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew Jack was going to beat you. And Jack knew that you knew that he was going to beat you.
Jack Nicklaus won 73 times on the PGA tour, but there are wins and then there are wins. Of all those victories, which are the greatest of Nicklaus' career? It's narrowed it down to the Top 5. Greatest Jack Nicklaus Top 6 Victories are:

1. 1986 Masters
This win wasn't as important to Nicklaus' career as the 1962 U.S. Open (below), but nobody who watched the 1986 Masters will ever forget it. For emotional power, this might be the greatest win any golfer has ever had. At age 46, Nicklaus hadn't won a major in nearly six years when he put together a stunning back-nine 30 for a final-round of 65 and his sixth Green Jacket. It was the final win of Nicklaus' PGA Tour career.

If you watched this historic moment in 1986 on TV or in person, you will never forget the roar of the crowdas Jack Nicklaus made this putt to winat the ''old'' age of 46. Bring this memory home,immortalized in this awe inspiring photographby Frank Christian.


The Associated Press photo (above) captures Nicklaus on the lip of his definingmoment,his tongue jutting out in Air Jordan form his gloved hand prematurelylifting his sword,and his ball about to make like a field mousedisappearing into a void.The man was 46 that day,and he made everyone watching feel half their age ( Ian O'Connor)


At 46, Nicklaus was well past his prime,having given way to Watson, Ballesteros and the rest.At least that's the way it seemed. But at the 1986 Masters, the magic returned.Nicklaus put on a show for the ages,winning his 18th and final professional major.Text: Mike McAllister/SI.comPhoto: John Iacono/SI

Bernhard Langer presents Jack Nicklauswith his 6th Green Jacket for his win in the 1986 Masters.

2. 1962 U.S. Open
It wasn't just his first major, it was Nicklaus' first professional victory of any kind. And it wasn't just that he did it, but how he did it: beating the King, Arnold Palmer, in an 18-hole playoff on Palmer's home turf (Oakmont in Pennsylvania). Said Palmer: "Now that the big guy's out of the cage, everybody better run for cover." Nicklaus also had to beat Arnie's Army, some of whose members taunted Jack with catcalls of "fatso" throughout the tournament.

3. 1965 Masters
Golf's Big 3 - Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player - finished 1-t2-t2 this year, but it wasn't even close: Nicklaus won by a then-record 9 strokes with a then-record 271 total. Nicklaus overpowered Augusta National, leading Bobby Jones to utter his famous remark about Jack's power: "He plays a game with which I am not familiar."

Taken in their heyday –golf’s “Big Three” harkens back to the rivalrythat define golf in the 1960s and 70s.

Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player at Firestone Country Club in September 6, 1962.

Arnold Palmer is shown giving Jack Nicklaus his second Masters jacket on April 11, 1965 .Nicklaus established a new tournament scoring record.

Jack Nicklaus (in his Green Jacket) gets congratulations from Arnold Palmer,Gary Player (tied for 2nd), Downing Gray, Clifford Roberts, and Bobby Jonesfor his win at the 1965 Masters.

Jack Nicklaus is the first to present the Green Jacket to himself,as consecutive winner for 1965 and 1966 Masters tournaments.

4. 1975 Masters
Many people consider the 1975 Masters the greatest in that tournament's history. It featured three great players at the top of the leaderboard and at the top of their games: Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Miller and Weiskopf were in the final group, Nicklaus one group ahead. And when Nicklaus snaked in a seemingly impossible 40-foot birdie putt on No. 16 - as Miller and Weiskopf watched from the tee - it carried Nicklaus to his fifth Green Jacket.

Jack Nicklaus egging on a putt during the Masters - 1975.

Jack Nicklaus celebrating at the 1975 Masters.

Jack Nicklaus poses during the U. S. Open at the Riviera - 1975.

5. (tie) 1967 and 1980 U.S. Opens
At the 1967 U.S. Open, Nicklaus shot 65 in the final round to post a record-breaking 275 total. He beat Arnold Palmer by four shots, with Billy Casper and Lee Trevino also left in his wake. In 1980, Nicklaus - who hadn't won in nearly two years - roared out of the gate with a 63 and set a new record (which still stands, since tied by two others) with a 272 total. "Jack is Back" went up on the scoreboard.

6. Honorable Mention: 1978 Jackie Gleason Inverarry Classic
Take your pick from among Nicklaus' 11 other major championships. But we'll throw out just one of Nicklaus' non-major victories: the 1978 Jackie Gleason Inverarry Classic. Why? Because Jack came from behind to win by birdying the final five holes in.

Jack Nicklaus had many great years on the PGA Tour. He was a 5-time Player of the Year, 8-time money leader and 8-time scoring leader. He won 73 times, including 18 majors. There are a lot of great seasons from which to choose. (Note: While Nicklaus led the Tour in scoring average eight times, he never won the Vardon Trophy because of eligibility requirements in place at the time. Later in his career, this was due to too few rounds played.)Jack Nicklaus Top 5 Seasons on the PGA Tour are:

1. 1972
Nicklaus' single-season best for PGA Tour wins was seven, and this one of those years. He finished second three times and in the Top 10 in 14 out of 19 tournaments played. Nicklaus won The Masters and the U.S. Open in 1972, but his Grand Slam quest was stopped by Lee Trevino at the British Open, where Jack finished one stroke back in second place. He was named Player of the Year and led in scoring and money. He tied Bobby Jones this year with his 13th major (including amateur majors).

In 1972, Jack Nicklaus won at Augusta, then captured the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach,proudly displaying the hardware here. That gave him 13 career majors(including U.S. Amateurs), tying him with Bobby Jones at the top of the list.Text: Mike McAllister/SI.comPhoto: John Iacono/SI


A close-up of Jack Nicklausholding his trophy for his 1972 U. S. Open win at Pebble Beach.

2. 1973
It was obvious in 1962 that Jack Nicklaus would be a superstar. This year, 1963, was when he became a supersNicklaus finished in the Top 10 in 16 of the 18 PGA Tour events he played. That included all majors: he won the PGA, was third at The Masters, and fourth at the U.S. and British opens. He won seven times total on Tour, plus one second and one third. Nicklaus led in scoring and money and was named Player of the Year. The PGA Championship was his 14th major (counting amateurs), breaking Bobby Jones' record. He also had a great Ryder Cup, going 4-1-1, and won the World Cup with Johnny Miller.

3. 1963
Nicklaus won five Tour events - including The Masters and PGA Championship - and finished in the Top 10 in 17 of 25 events played. He had two runner-up finishes and three thirds (including at the British Open). The Tournament of Champions was another of his big wins, plus he won the World Series of Golf (a non-Tour event).

4.1971
Nicklaus was in the Top 10 in 15 of the 18 Tour events he played. That included a win at the PGA Championship, runner-up finishes at The Masters and U.S. Open, and 5th at the British Open. He won 5 Tour events, with 3 seconds and 3 thirds. He won the money title and led in scoring, and became the first player in history with the Double Career Grand Slam (winning each major at least twice). He had his best Ryder Cup (5-1-0) and paired with Arnold Palmer to win the National Team Championship.

Jack Nicklaus kneels as partner Arnold Palmer looks over his shoulderwhile they study a putt on 18th green on Saturday at Laurel Valley Golf Clubat the PGA National Team Championship in Ligonier, Pa.The defending champions finished the second round16-under-par for the lead -July 31, 1972.

5. 1975
This was another of Nicklaus' 2-major seasons. He won The Masters and the PGA Championship, and also finished 7th at the U.S. Open and third at the British Open. He won five Tour events total (including Doral and the World Open), and finished in the Top 10 in 14 of the 16 tournaments he played. He led in money and scoring average, and also won the Australian Open. The Masters win was his fifth (setting a record) and the Top Near-Misses by Jack Nicklaus in Majors.

Jack Nicklaus won a record 18 professional major championships. But he also finished second in 19 more majors! Yes, that's a record, too. That's a lot of runner-up finishes for the Golden Bear, and some of those second-places came in tournaments that are now legendary. Nicklaus himself wouldn't consider these "great" accomplishments, but he would appreciate the greatness of the moments in golf history. Here are the Top 5 Near-Misses in Majors by Jack Nicklaus:

1. 1977
British Open Nicklaus and Tom Watson square off in "The Duel in the Sun" at Turnberry, perhaps the greatest one-on-one battle in golf history. Playing together the final two rounds, they play flawlessly. Nicklaus shoots 66-66, but Watson goes 66-65 to win by one. At the final hole, Nicklaus has a very long and difficult birdie putt while Watson is in close. "I think we've got him now," Watson's caddie said. "No, he's going to make this," Watson replied. Jack did, but Watson sank his short one for the win.

2. 1982 U.S. Open
"That S.O.B. did it to me again," Nicklaus said of Tom Watson (in admiration, not anger) after the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Nicklaus was on the verge of a record-setting fifth U.S. Open, in the clubhouse with the lead. Watson, the only player who could beat Nicklaus, was in deep rough off the 17th green, a near-impossible chip. And Watson holed it. Nicklaus has called this his toughest loss.

3. 1960 U.S. Open
Still an amateur (as he would be for another two years), Nicklaus finished alone in second with a score of 282, still the lowest score ever shot in a U.S. Open by an amateur. His 71 was OK, but Arnold Palmer scorched Cherry Hills with a 65, coming from 7 shots off the pace to nip Nicklaus by two. Nicklaus played the final round with Ben Hogan, who said after the round, "Today, I played with the young man who should have won the U.S. Open."


Jack Nicklaus, 1959 National Amateur Championsitting on bench with one leg up during the Masters - 1960.

4. 1972 British Open
Nicklaus began 1972, his greatest year on the PGA Tour, by winning the first two majors, The Masters and U.S. Open. His dream of the Grand Slam was alive heading to the British Open. Nicklaus trailed Lee Trevino by six shots entering the fourth round at treacherous Carnoustie, then posted a 66 to take the clubhouse lead. Trevino was in trouble on the 17th, but improbably chipped in for par. Another par on 18 and Trevino had stopped Nicklaus' Grand Slam quest by one stroke.

5. 1971 U.S. Open
Lee Trevino was as much a nemesis to Nicklaus in the early '70s as Watson was in the late '70s and early '80s. Trevino and Nicklaus tangled in an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open in 1971, which Trevino won 68 to 71. This tournament is famous for the snake incise. Nicklaus retired from tournament play in 2005 with 73 PGA wins—a number exceeded only by Sam Snead with 82—and a record 18 major professional championship titles.He is currently a golf course architect, in partnership with his sons and son-in-law through Nicklaus Design, and is personally responsible for over 200 golf course designs. These include Muirfield Village, Shoal Creek, Castle Pines and the PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Hotel. Nicklaus partnered with Pete Dye to create Harbor Town, on Hilton Head Island.As successful as Nicklaus was on the course, his life off it left him equally fulfilled. He and wife Barbara had five children: Jackie, Steve, Nancy, Gary and Michael. Twice, the Nicklaus clan received Golf Family of the Year honors. When Jack lost a 17-month-old grandson in a tragic accident in early 2005, he helped bring some normalcy back to his family by playing in the Masters one last time.

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR- JACK NICKLAUS


Acknowledgment:

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2008

1994-2008 Encyclopedia Britannica

Inc.2008 About .com, a part of The New York Times

CompanySportsillustrated.comGolflegends.org

Other Image Copyright held by The Ron Watts Collection, HISTORIC GOLF PHOTOS

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