Jack Nicklaus earned multiple collegiate awards, won major championships, and competed against stiffer competition, which one may justify naming him as the best golfer of all time. Nicklaus started out dominating golf at the age of 19 by winning the United States Golf Amateur title, and repeated the feat at age 21. Nicklaus’ winning style won him over with his competitors; and importantly, in defeat, he was gracious giving credit to the victor versus pointing out what may have played against him from earning a win. During the first 13 years of his career, Nicklaus took home 12 major championships; yet equally important, nine times he was the running up, and six times placing third.
His best results in majors are lauded to this day. For instance, 17 under par at the Masters, 8 under par at the United States Open, 11 under par at the British Open, and 8 under par at the United States PGA. One should remember that Nicklaus competed against foes that had multiple majors, such as Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino (six majors), Bobby Nichols, Isao Aoki, Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Gary Player (nine majors), Arnold Palmer (seven majors), Seve Ballesteros (five majors) and Greg Norman. No one in today’s game can match this listing of golfers as competitors for a major championship. In addition, one can argue that the equipment used in today’s game brings more competitors into the field as a potential major winner. The advancement in technology lengthens drives, and thereby bringing lighter hitting golfers into the competition. Persimmon woods and smaller grooves for iron play require one to have a lot more skill than today’s golfer has to experience.
One trait that many admire about Nicklaus is his never say die attitude. For example, Nicklaus is credited with six final round come from behind victories in majors alone. Equally impressive, is the 37 top three finishes in major championships, along with 136 top three finishes in PGA Tour events. Nicklaus did very well on Sunday’s, where he won eight of his major championships by having to catch the third round leader.
One trophy Nicklaus did not win in his career was the Vardon, which is presented to the player with the lowest scoring average. Of course, one can understand why since Nicklaus did not play 80 rounds of golf in a given year, which is a requirement to qualify for said award. Interestingly, today that qualifier has been reduced to 60 rounds. Nicklaus has always designed Golden Bear golf courses for multiple years, and was an ambassador for golf all over the world. So one can understand why he did not year in and year out play the minimum number of rounds.
Jack Nicklaus dominated golf and will forever be a golf icon. Nicklaus had more than golf on his plate. He was a dedicated family man, and ran his own business while playing golf tournaments. Ultimately, eras are next to impossible to compare on any subject matter. The drive Nicklaus exhibited when he played, while running his business can be summed up with one of his many quotes: “So my fear was controlling myself, and making sure that I did what I had to do to the best of my ability. If they played better, they played better. As long as I do the best that I could, that was all I could ask for.”