1986 Masters: Toughest shot on back nine? All of them

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

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

It seemed simple enough: Get five former champions who had won the first leg of golf’s Grand Slam at least twice to describe what they thought were the three toughest shots on Augusta National’s back nine on Sunday at the Masters.

So New York Times columnist Dave Anderson spent the early part of the 1986 tournament tracking down Tom Watson, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer. Each was more than happy to oblige with their thoughts, whether it was the tee shot at the par-3 12th, perhaps, or the approach to the par-5 15th.

But Anderson got a much different response from 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus, who was finishing his lunch upstairs in the Augusta clubhouse one afternoon early in the week.

Having won the Masters five times, Nicklaus no doubt had as good a perspective on that situation as anyone. But he would have none of Anderson’s story.

“I don’t want to be standing over a shot and thinking that I’ve said this was the toughest shot on the back nine,” Nicklaus told Anderson. “On the back nine at Augusta, every shot is tough.”

Anderson dutifully took down that quote and included it in a column that ran Sunday, April 13, 1986. It was the day that Nicklaus shot 65 to win his sixth title, including 6-under 30 on the back nine.

Toughest shot? There wasn’t anything too tough for Nicklaus that afternoon. And Anderson loved the answer the Golden Bear had provided.

“It was the perfect response,” Anderson recalls.

Interestingly, Ballesteros chose the second shot at No. 15 as one of the most difficult under Anderson’s criteria, and it certainly turned out to be that way for him Sunday.

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