Jack Nicklaus made history with 6th win in 1986
He was too old (46), too rusty (he hadn’t won in two years) and too distracted (he was focused more on his business) coming into the 1986 Masters Tournament. At least, those were the prevailing sentiments about Jack Nicklaus, who had won more professional majors (17) and more Masters (five) than anyone.
The Golden Bear started slowly, with rounds of 74 and 71 to make the Masters cut, and he moved into the top 10 with a third-round 69. But he was tied for ninth and four shots behind leader Greg Norman. Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer and Nick Price also were in contention.
Nicklaus, though, was determined to prove his critics wrong.
“The deficit wasn’t all that big, and (with) eight players I felt like if you shot a good round you’re going to have a chance to win,” Nicklaus said. “That’s when Steve (his son) called Sunday morning.”
Nicklaus recounted the conversation.
“He said, ‘Whaddaya think, Pops?’ I said, ‘I think 66 will tie and 65 will win.’ He says, ‘Exact number I had in mind. Go shoot it.’ ”
Nicklaus got off to a slow start and was even par through eight holes. He was lining up a birdie putt at the ninth hole when a pair of cheers interrupted him.
“We had that rigmarole with Ballesteros and Kite making eagles at 8,” Nicklaus said. “And I turn to the crowd. I’ve backed off the ball twice because of the shots, so I ask the gallery, ‘OK, you’ve heard all of that noise; let’s see if we can make some noise here ourselves.’ And I knocked it in, and I was off.
“I don’t remember much about that (walk to 10). I wasn’t much electric myself at that point. I was a long ways back. But I did make a nice birdie at 9.”
Then he made a sweeping putt on the 10th. When he rolled in another birdie from long range on the 11th, his gallery started to swell.
“I drained that putt and went, ‘Whoops, that’s pretty good. I’ve made three in a row here now.’ ”
Then Nicklaus missed the green at the dangerous 12th and made bogey. With Ballesteros playing solid golf behind him, it looked as though his charge would go for naught.
But he fought back with a two-putt birdie at No. 13, then made par at the 14th. Standing in the fairway at the 15th, he asked out loud whether an eagle 3 would do any good. His caddie, son Jackie, said “Let’s see it.”
Nicklaus’ iron shot came to rest 12 feet from the pin, and he sank the eagle putt to get into position to win. His iron shot on No. 16 never left the flag, producing a brash statement from the normally reserved Nicklaus.
“I hit the shot, and I didn’t even look at it,” Nicklaus said. “I just reached down and picked up my tee, and Jackie said, ‘Be right.’ I said, ‘It is.’ And the ball – of course I saw it land – you couldn’t see the base of (the pin), but it had a chance to go in the hole.”
Nicklaus knocked in the short birdie putt, and then when he got to the 17th tee he heard a funny noise come from the gallery on 15. Ballesteros had knocked his second shot into the water and would make a bogey.
Nicklaus hit his approach to 12 feet at No. 17, and that set up a tricky birdie putt to take the outright lead. The elder Nicklaus and his caddie son didn’t agree on the break.
“I say, ‘Rae’s Creek, I think it will straighten up and try to turn back to the left.’ He said, ‘You sure?’ I said, ‘It always has.’ So I hit the putt and that putt will not straighten up. … The ball went in, and I guess that was the first time I was leading.”
Nicklaus made par on the 18th to complete a back nine of 30 and a round of 65. He was the clubhouse leader.
Ballesteros had fallen back, and only Norman and Kite could catch Nicklaus now. Kite missed a short birdie putt on the 18th, and Norman came to the home hole needing only par to force a sudden-death playoff. His 4-iron sailed wide right into the gallery, though, and he could not save his par.
Suddenly, at age 46, Nicklaus had pulled off his greatest Masters triumph. It was sweet vindication for the king of golf, who had been the focus of so many articles that pondered when he was going to retire.
“I’m not going to quit, guys,” Nicklaus told reporters after his historic win. “Maybe I should. Maybe I should say goodbye. Maybe that’d be the smart thing to do. But I’m not that smart.”
A LOOK BACK AT THE CHAMPIONS
Horton Smith played second fiddle to Bobby Jones when he won the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934. Two years later, when he won for the second time, Smith validated it on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Smith’s second win wasn’t as easy. The tournament was postponed a day because of rain, and he opened with 74 to trail leader Harry Cooper by four. A 71 left him six back, but more bad weather postponed Sunday’s action.
Playing the third and fourth rounds on Monday, Smith made his move with 68 in the morning. In the afternoon, he nipped Cooper by one shot, thanks to holing a 50-foot chip for birdie at the 14th hole.
Herman Keiser gave the tournament its first major upset when he nipped Ben Hogan by a shot to win the 1946 Masters.
Keiser had led from the outset and held a five-shot lead after 36 holes. Keiser held his position after 71 in the third round, but Hogan made up ground in the final round.
Keiser 3-putted the final hole for a closing 74. Hogan came to the final hole with a chance to win outright, but he missed his birdie putt from 12 feet.
The ball slipped past about three feet and, when Hogan missed the comeback, Keiser had won the first Masters held after World War II.
All eyes were on amateur Ken Venturi as he put himself in position for one of the greatest wins in golf history, but poor weather and solid play by Jack Burke Jr. kept Venturi from slipping into a green jacket.
Venturi soared to 80 in the final round, and that enabled Burke to mount the largest comeback in Masters history. His 71 was one of only two sub-par rounds that day.
Burke holed a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th with an assist from a gust of wind, then saved par from the greenside bunker at the 18th. Venturi could not birdie the final hole, and Burke was the winner.
Burke’s winning total of 289 is the highest (along with Sam Snead in 1954 and Zach Johnson in 2007) in tournament history.
By the mid-1960s, Jack Nicklaus had become accustomed to setting Masters records. The only thing left to do, it seemed, was to become the first back-to-back winner.
The defending champion opened with 68 and appeared well on his way, but he eventually wound up in a three-way playoff with Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer.
In the Monday playoff, Nicklaus came up with the clutch putts that were quickly becoming his signature – on Nos. 11 and 15 – and Jacobs could not keep up. Nicklaus wound up with 70, two ahead of Jacobs. Brewer shot 78.
At the closing ceremony that night, Nicklaus faced an interesting dilemma: How would he get his green coat?
Tradition held that the defending champion help the new winner into the garment.
But the issue was put to rest when Bobby Jones spoke.
“Cliff (Roberts) and I have discussed the problem, and have decided you will just have to put the coat on yourself,” Jones said.
Raymond Floyd used a hot putter and a new weapon – a 5-wood – to set several records in his only Masters win.
Floyd shot 65, 66 and 70 in the first three rounds, and he established marks for best start by a winner along with 36- and 54-hole scoring totals. When he closed with 70, he tied Jack Nicklaus for lowest 72-hole total at 271 and cruised to an 8-shot win.
Those marks have since been broken, but Floyd’s dominance that week put him in select company.
Using a 5-wood to attack the par-5 holes, he played them in 14-under-par with just one eagle.
“I came in, and with that golf club, I had great confidence,” Floyd said in 2010. “I never used it in a tournament previous. I practiced with it from the fall right up through the tournament, but I never used it in another tour event.”
Greg Norman was the top-ranked golfer in the world, and he opened the Masters with a record-tying 63. The Great White Shark looked to be in good shape to make up for past failures in Augusta.
A second-round 69 did nothing to diminish his lead, and a third-round 71 left him six ahead of Nick Faldo going into the final round.
Faldo cut the gap to just two shots after nine holes Sunday, and the pressure was now squarely on Norman. He promptly made bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 to erase the rest of his lead.
Norman hit into the water on the par-3 12th and 16th holes, and what was supposed to be a day of celebration turned sour. His 78 to Faldo’s 67 left him five behind, and it set a record for futility as the biggest blown lead in major championship history.
Overshadowed in the historic collapse was Faldo’s brilliant play. His third Masters title let him join select company; only Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have had more success at Augusta National.
A longer Augusta National and weather woes couldn’t stop Phil Mickelson from earning his second green jacket.
Mickelson trailed 36-hole leader Chad Campbell by four shots and was trying to make up ground when the third round was delayed by thunderstorms.
Mickelson didn’t have any problems with Sunday’s marathon. Counting the 13 holes he played Sunday morning to complete the rain-delayed third round, Mickelson played 31 holes in 4-under fashion.
To counter the 155 extra yards added to Augusta National, Mickelson used two drivers – one for a draw and the other for a fade. He ended up leading the field in average driving distance.
“I’d like to say one thing about the changes: I like them,” Mickelson said with a grin.
Mickelson closed with 69 to beat runner-up Tim Clark by two shots.
Jack Nicklaus' Masters victory celebrations