The best male golfer ever (so far)


“Jack Nicklaus was the first to bring in course management. He could go to a course and tell you within one stroke what was going to win. He used to set his sights on that because he could shoot it. He was the only player I know who, if he decided he wanted to win a tournament, could go out and do it. No one will ever be as popular as Arnold Palmer and no one will ever come close to Jack as a player.”Lee Trevino

By Ian Hardie

You may recall from reading the very popular posts Keeping the head still while playing golf and Why wear a golf glove?

That my early years of playing the game – like a lot of other golfers would have been I expect – were influenced in various ways by a golfer called Jack Nicklaus

At the time I started playing golf, Jack was entering what could possibly be described as the ‘twilight’ of his career but as he was (at that point in time) still one of the best golfer’s in the world and fairly prolific in the amount of instruction books and articles that he produced – which in those days was the main way that golf was learned and improvement found

He was the golfer that was responsible for shaping an entire generation of golfers

In actual fact, he even helps me to teach golfers these days – as the image at the top of this post is one that I have on my phone – to help demonstrate what I’m talking about

When I’m helping golfers to solve this quite common golfing problem

Turns out, that not only was he a great player at that point – if we take a look at the history of the game

Jack Nicklaus is clearly ‘the best male golfer ever (so far)’

Now, you might be wondering why that’s something that I would be writing about on Golf Habits and the answer is quite simple

Firstly, if you happen to be someone who is relatively new to the game and at any point during a round of golf or in the clubhouse afterwards – one of the other golfers starts talking about things like “whether golfer X will ever become the best in the game or will golfer Y break the record for the most Major titles”

Then you will at the very least be able to look somewhat intelligent and be able to participate in the conversation by knowing who the golfer is that currently holds that position

Something that I’m sure you would prefer to do – as opposed to not knowing who or what they are talking about!

Secondly, it makes sense that a person who has reached the pinnacle of the game that you are involved in playing – will probably have some good advice and information that you could use to improve your own game or at the very least – may inspire you in some way

So let’s get on with taking a look at Jack Nicklaus – the best male golfer ever (so far)

Jack William Nicklaus is an American professional golfer who is commonly known as ‘The Golden Bear’ – born in 1940, he is regarded as the most accomplished professional golfer of all time (so far) winning a total of 18 career Major Championships, as well as having 19 second place and 9 third place finishes in those Championships over a span of 25 years

Even though fairly early on in his career he made the conscious decision to focus his whole year around playing in those four Major Championships (The Masters Tournament, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship) which limited his participation in regular PGA Tour events, he still finished his career with 73 victories in total which (at this point) has him sitting at third on the all-time PGA Tour win list behind Tiger Woods with 79 (at this point) and Sam Snead with 82

Jack Nicklaus turned professional toward the end of 1961 after winning two U.S. Amateur Championships (1959 and 1961) initially struggling to ‘find his feet’ in his first year or so of playing professionally until eventually stunning the golfing world by winning the 1962 U.S. Open in a play-off against the home town favourite, golfing great – Arnold Palmer

The victory was both Nicklaus’ first major championship victory and his first professional win

Something that very few other golfers have ever achieved

He went on to set many golfing records over the years – winning a further 14 Major Championships – which he then capped of in 1980 with what most people considered were going to be his last Major Championship wins, The U.S. Open and The PGA Championship

At age 40 he was considered to ‘be finished’ with a total of 17 Major Championship wins, he kept competing on the PGA Tour though and between 1981 to 1985 Jack Nicklaus managed 7 more top ten finishes in the Major Championships, including 3 second place finishes as well as winning twice on the PGA Tour

It was clear to almost everyone that Jack Nicklaus probably had won his last Major some years earlier, so much so that before the 1986 Masters Tournament

A journalist wrote that Jack Nicklaus was “done, washed up and through”

Not one to take much notice of what was written about him over the years, for whatever reason Jack Nicklaus had happened to read that article before the tournament started

“I kept thinking all week – ‘Through, washed up, huh?’ I sizzled for a while but then I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to quit now, playing the way I’m playing. I’ve played too well, too long to let a shorter period of bad golf be my last.”

What happened in The Masters Tournament that week – was almost miraculous

As at the age of 46 Jack Nicklaus claimed his 18th and final Major Championship title winning the 1986 Masters Tournament and in the process becoming the championship’s oldest winner

I recall watching his final 9 holes on a little TV with a grainy picture in the back of the Pro Shop I was working in as a young Apprentice Golf Professional

It was the most inspiring play I think I have ever seen in a golf tournament

As Jack Nicklaus shot a six-under par score of 30 on the back nine at Augusta National to finish with a final round seven under par score of 65 to win by a shot from Tom Kite and Greg Norman with Seve Ballesteros a further shot behind and Tom Watson also nearby

Luckily I have found a great highlight video of that last nine holes that you can take a look at if you have never seen it or if you just want to see it again for some inspiration

It’s well worth taking a look at – so click here to do that

Look out for The best male golfer ever (so far) – part two where I will let you know what I think are the main reasons that made Jack Nicklaus ‘the best male golfer ever (so far)’

Until then

Play well


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