In this April 13, 1986, file photo, Jack Nicklaus watches his shot go for a birdie, giving him the lead and the title, on the 17th at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. The Masters will be played for the 75th time this week, a major filled with special moments. Few of them resonate like one 25 years ago, when Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine to defeatGreg Norman, Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price, all of whom are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Joe Benton, File)
Historic anniversaries easily evoke memories.
Jack Nicklaus, at 46 years old, became the oldest winner in Masters history 25 years ago this month when he began the final round four shots off the lead, then shot a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine to beat four players currently in the World Golf Hall of Fame — Greg Norman, Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price.
“There’s been a lot of conversation this year about the 25th anniversary,” Nicklaus said in a news conference Tuesday. “But it was a long time ago, and it was an exciting week for me. It was fun having [son] Jackie on the bag. It was fun having my mother and sister here who had not been here since 1959.
“Even more fun was I holed a few putts on the back nine which made it possible that we could sit here [today] and talk about it.”
The most iconic of those putts could be the 12-footer on No. 17 which gave him sole possession of the lead.
After striking the ball, he eyed its roll, and with a foot left, he took a step to the hole and raised his flat putter in the air with his left hand, prompting Verne Lunquist to extol, “Yes, sir!” on the CBS broadcast.
“I hit the putt, played it a couple inches on the left, the ball broke right and sort of turned and straightened out,” Nicklaus said, “which meant it was turning back to Rae’s Creek, and I obviously made the putt.”
“When I made the putt, I realized that I was probably in the lead.”
He was, and for the first time in 11 years. Nicklaus put himself in position for a sixth green jacket with five birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a par to cap his final nine holes.
Nicklaus headed inside to watch the last groups finish. Norman missed a par putt on the final hole resulting in Nicklaus’ one-stroke win over Norman and Kite.
“I won the Masters at 42 [in 1978], and I thought, ‘Well, nobody is going to beat that,’” said Gary Player, who became the first international Masters champion 50 years ago in 1961.
“He comes out at 46 [years old] and wins the tournament,” Player said, “which was so remarkable and touching, because what greater dream could you have than to win with your son caddying at 46.”
Current players and golf fans around the world remember that tournament, and Nicklaus’ putt which lives on as one of the Masters’ most-memorable highlights.
“I was at home watching it on TV just like everybody else, going nuts, and it was an incredible thing to watch,” Phil Mickelson said. “When he bogeyed 12, I didn’t think he was going to be able to pull it off. Yet even after he birdied 13 and eagled 15, I still thought it was in control of maybe Seve or even Tom Kite. Norman, you didn’t even see really as he went on a four-birdie stretch.
“It was one the most exciting tournaments I’ve ever seen — if not the most exciting.”
It was the last time Nicklaus won a major championship. He concluded his career with 14 of those championships. Tiger Woods, who is gunning for his 15th major this week, is second on the all-time major winners list and aims to eclipse Nicklaus’ magic number.
“I absolutely want to do it,” Woods said Tuesday. “That’s the benchmark and gold standard in this sport.”
Nicklaus said he doesn’t spend time thinking about Woods possibly eclipsing his standard. He’s a little busy.
“He’s got a great work ethic and he’s a very talented young man, and equipment will help extend his career beyond what it extended mine,” Nicklaus said. “I assume he’ll get his focus back on what’s he’s doing and he will probably pass my record.
“But he’s still got to do it.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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