1986 Masters: Ernie Els' late-night treat

Jack Nicklaus on the 18th green during the final round of the 1986 Masters. He would win his sixth Masters title.

As a teen growing up in South Africa, Ernie Els had strict rules for bedtime: It was lights out by 10 p.m., with few exceptions.

“I remember, on Tuesdays, I could watch ‘Dallas,’ ” Els said of the old American television series, “because it ended about 10 (minutes) ’til 10. I could watch that and go to bed.

“The Masters? That was a special treat.”

So as early Monday morning crept in, given the time difference between South Africa and Augusta, Els and his father, Neels, stayed up to watch the final round of the ’86 Masters.

“Nicklaus was definitely my guy,” said Els. “There was a group of players (I followed), but Nicklaus, he was the best in the game at that time. Him and obviously Gary Player, and

Seve Ballesteros, I love the way he played, he was in the mix. Greg Norman is another guy I loved watching, and he was in the mix, too.

“I mean, if you look at that leaderboard, everybody that was anybody was on the leaderboard.”

Els felt a little sympathetic for his hero as Nicklaus made his way into the hunt. Like many, the 16-year-old Els was convinced Nicklaus was too old to win at 46.

“It kind of was like watching an old boxer like Muhammad Ali fighting Larry Holmes, and you hope he’s going to beat the guy, but you think he’s going to get the crap beat out of him,” Els said, smiling.

“That was kind of the same thing watching Nicklaus play the Masters going into the final nine. You’re thinking, I hope he wins, but I don’t think he’s going to do it.”

But Nicklaus, of course, came through with some of that old Jack magic, leaving Els with a memory for a lifetime.

“My dad and I, sitting there, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” he said. “That was exciting stuff. They can show that on The Golf Channel every day instead of all that other stuff they show.”

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