Wrote a big 30th-anniversary special column on Jack Nicklaus’ epic 1986 Masters win for the Post’s Sunday edition but, as always, there’s just too much with this guy to fit it one story.
Did you know, for instance, that the $144,000 check Jack got for winning that tournament was the biggest of his PGA Tour career? Four guys tied for 10th at the Honda Classic this year and got more than that.
Who played with Nicklaus in that amazing final round?
Sandy Lyle, winner of the British Open the previous summer, completed the power twosome. He and Jack started the day four shots back of Greg Norman at 2-under-par 214. Sandy played pretty good, shooting a 71 to finish tied for 11th but nobody remembers he was even in the tournament. That’s because Nicklaus shot 65 to win his sixth green jacket in a rousing comeback, and he did it at the age of 46.
I can only find one other time when Jack won a major by charging home from somewhere other than the final group on the course. That was the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Nicklaus started the final round in the next-to-last group with Arnold Palmer, each of them one shot back of 54-hole leader Marty Fleckman.
You can probably guess how that went. Fleckman shot an 80. Jack won the tournament with a 65, just like his Sunday score at the 1986 Masters, to win the seventh of his record 18 major titles. Arnie shot 69 to finish second.
Back to Augusta National in 1986, which is what everyone will be celebrating this week.
If Jack had been forced into a playoff by Norman or Kite or both, it would have been the first time he went sudden-death for a major title. Off they would have headed to the No. 10 tee, with darkness approaching, and no telling how that would have turned out. (Yes, I know that Masters playoffs begin at No. 18 these days but that didn’t change until 2004).
Three times Jack has won a major in a playoff, but always an 18-hole tiebreaker played on the following day. He won the 1962 U.S. Open, his first major, in an 18-hole showdown with Palmer. In 1966 he beat Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer to win the Masters. In 1970 he outlasted Doug Sanders 72-73 in a playoff at the British Open.
Last, in an interview at Jack’s corporate headquarters in North Palm Beach last week, I asked him if 46 seems as old to him now as people are making it.
“Forty-six is pretty young,” he said from a vantage point 30 years farther down the road. “The thing was, in those days the golf ball, the equipment, all that stuff was so much different than it is today. I wouldn’t think winning at 46 today would be that big a deal.
“Then, yeah, I think it probably was a big deal then.”