Throwback: '86 Masters rates as Jack's finest hour
Jack Nicklaus at the Masters
Take a look back at Jack Nicklaus in the Masters tournaments over the years
In honor of Jack Nicklaus' 73rd birthday on Monday, we are taking the time to relive his victory at the 1986 Masters Tournament. Here is the game story:
• • •
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Think of some of the greatest moments in sports history – Bobby Thomson's pennant winning home run for the Giants in 1951; the Jets winning the Super Bowl in 1969; the U.S. hockey team winning the golf medal in the 1980 Olympics; Gene Sarazen's double eagle which led to his 1935 Masters victory.
Last Sunday another such epic was etched into sports' greatest moments. it may go down as the greatest most memorable moment the game of golf has ever had.
If you were there, or watched the 1986 Master on television, you witnessed not just a happening, but will go down in history as "the miracle at Augusta."
It was the 50th Masters Tournament, the golden anniversary. when it was over, it truly was golden – as in Golden Bear.
Some said he was through, that he could not win again, let alone another major championship.
Over the hallowed ground of Augusta National, a site of five of his record 19 previous major championships and a place where he has become legendary, Jack Nicklaus brought out the best of the Golden Bear. He gave that familiar look of determination, shoved all those thoughts and words of being washed up and down their throats and perhaps put forth the finest hour in not only his career, but in golf itself.
And he did it the hard way.
Closing with a dramatic 7-under-par 65, including a 6-under 30 on the back side, Nicklaus finished his 28th Masters at 9-under-par 279 and donned his sixth green jacket with his 20th major championship and 71st career PGA Tour victory.
"Obviously, I'm just tickled pink," said Nicklaus, the only player to win back-to-back Masters titles (1965-66). "Some people said I was done, washed up, through. there was an article in the paper last Sunday that people 46-years-old don't win the Masters. A friend of mine cut it out and pasted it on my refrigerator. I kept looking at it and thinking about it all week. But sometimes thing like that can really spur you on."
It did just that to Nicklaus, especially down the stretch when the pressure was at its peak.
They say things get better with age. Each day older Nicklaus got an Augusta last week, the better he got, posting rounds of 74-71-69 before nailing down the title with his 65.
He trailed first round co-leaders Ken Green and Bill Kratzert by six shots. A second-round 72 put him at 145 and still six strokes out of the lead, this time Seve Ballesteros, who posted 71-68.
Ballesteros, playing like he had something to prove on the PGA Tour, which banned him for a year because he did not play in the required 15 events last season, appeared to be in total command of the tournament before bogeying the final two holes Saturday and thus opening the door to plenty of would-be challengers, Nicklaus included.
Nicklaus showed signs of days past – and a day to come – with a third-round 69 that put him at 2-under-par 214, four strokes behind leader Greg Norman, who used a third-round 68 and Ballesteros' bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 to take a one-stroke advantage.
"In this tournament its not how many strokes you're behind, but how many people are in front of you that counts," said Nicklaus after Saturday's play."
There were eight, including South African Nick Price, who vaulted into the limelight with a course-record 9-under-par 63 Saturday. In posting the best round ever during the Masters, Price, who lives in Orlando while playing on the U.S. tour and has plans to become a U.S. citizen, charged from the back of the pack into a tie for second place at 5-under-par, one shot behind Greg Norman.
Along with Nicklaus, there were plenty of familiar names among the 21 players within five shots of the lead going into the last day – among them Ballesteros, defending champion Bernhard Langer, Tom Kite and Tom Watson.
"At dinner last night (Saturday), we were talking about the players still in the tournament," said Kite, who 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole just missed its mark and left him one shot behind Nicklaus. "Some said that Jack not only wouldn't win this tournament, but he probably wouldn't win another. I said a player of his magnitude, you never could count him out."
"A reported asked me this week if I thought Jack Nicklaus was done," said Norman. "I told him no way – he's got a few more wins in him."
Although Nicklaus started slowly the final day, turning in 1-under 35 and not even one the leader board, he soon caught fire. And as soon as he did, the crowd of some 40,000 bean to sense something major was about to happen.
Ballesteros, playing two groups behind Nicklaus, eagled the par-5 eighth to go 8 under and, although he bogeyed No. 9, he still was four shots in front of Nicklaus.
But birdies on No. 10 and 11 put Nicklaus at 4 under and when his name went up on the leader board, gentle roars echoed through the Augusta pines. They were quickly quieted when he bogeyed the par-3 12th.
Then i started to happen – one of the greatest charges this famed tournament has ever seen, and it has seen its share of fantastic finishes in its fabled 50 years.
"I know it sounds silly, but I think the 12th hole is what really got me going, even though I bogeyed it," said Nicklaus, who collected $144,000 for the victory to bring his official PGA Tour career earning to $4,843,683. "Yesterday I birdied the hole and I got defensive. After the bogey today I felt it was time to get aggressive."
He birdied No. 13, missing a 30-foot eagle putt by inches, and after a par at No. 14, put himself in the think of things with a 12-foot eagle on the par-5 15th to go 7 under and two shots behind Ballesteros, who had eagled 13.
The crowd was now reacting to his every move. The eagle at No. 15 sent an ear-shattering roar blanketing over Augusta National. And when he birdied No. 16 from 3 feet and and No. 17 from 11 feet to go 9 under, it was becoming near hysteria among the masses outside the ropes.
As he walked to the 18th green, after hitting his approach shot some 30 feet short of the hole, the noise level grew. And despite being 12 to 15 deep in some places and a beehive of activity around the outskirts of the final hole, there was an eerie silence as Nicklaus prepared to putt for birdie.
The putt came up inches short and when he tapped in Augusta National became engulfed in sound of approval and appreciation.
How strong was the crowd's desire for a Nicklaus victory?
When the scoreboard on No. 18 showed Ballesteros bogeyed No. 15 to drop to 7 under, a huge roar went out.
When Tom Kite missed his 12 footer on the final hole, which would have forced a playoff, there was silence; no one groaned in despair.
When Norman, who charged into a tie with Nicklaus at 9 under after birdies on Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17, hit his approach shot at No. 18 far right and into the crowd by the green, there were plenty of smiling faces circulating. And when he missed his 16-foot par putt that dropped him into a tie for second with Kite, fans of all ages began shaking each other's hand or giving a "high-five" victory hand slap.
"By the time we got to the back nine, Nicky (Price) and I were down to about 50 people following us," said Norman with a smile. "It seemed like every five minutes. there was another roar, and Jack was making another birdie. The score he shot today is phenomenal. The back nine, my God. . ."
Although always a threat at Augusta, Nicklaus was far from being considered a favorite when the tournament started. And with good season. He had not won here in 10 years, had not won on the tour in almost two years and in his seven starts in 1986 his best showing was a tie for 39th at Hawaii.
"I'll be the first to admit I'm not the player I once was," said Nicklaus. "I just want to be as good occasionally, and obviously this week I was. I feel for short periods I can still play. Last week at the USGA banquet I said I didn't feel it was time to quit playing golf because of the way I was playing. I don't want to quit on a down note."
"Maybe I should quit playing now. Maybe that would be the smart thing to do, but I guess maybe I'm not too smart. I still enjoy playing and still want to play. I'll tell you this, I had as much fun out there today as I've had playing golf that last six years."