On This Date in Sports April 13, 1986: Jack's Last Hurrah
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Jack Nicklaus wins his sixth Green Jacket, shooting a seven-under-par 65 in the final round to finish at -9, winning the Masters by one stroke over Tom Kite and Greg Norman. It is the 18th overall major championship for Nicklaus, who began the day tied for ninth and trailing leader Greg Norman by four strokes. Jack Nicklaus' charges saw him get a birdie or better on 10 of the final 11 holes. It would be the final major won by the 46-year-old Nicklaus.
Jack Nicklaus was in the sunset of his career in 1986. It had been six years since he won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, taking his record number of major titles to 17. He had lost the 1982 U.S. Open when Tom Watson closed his final round with two straight birdies. It was one of seven top-ten finishes in majors between 1981-1985. However, as with every other golfer, father time had begun to win the round. Heading into 1946, no golfer had won a major after turning 46 in the 20th century. Nicklaus crossed the 46th parallel three months earlier.
Jack Nicklaus was born on January 21, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio. Nicklaus, the son of a pharmacist, grew up in nearby Upper Arlington. Jack Nicklaus began playing golf with his father at Scioto County Club. He showed great ability early as he won his first Ohio State Junior title at the age of 12. A year later, he set the club record at Scioto. In 1957, Nicklaus won the International Jaycee Junior Golf Tournament earning an invite to the 1958 US Open. As he began competing in the US Opens, Jack Nicklaus started attending The Ohio State University. He was studying to be a pharmacist like his father. While at Ohio State, Nicklaus became the top college golfer, helping the Buckeyes compete for National Championships.
After turning professional in 1961, it did not take long for Jack Nicklaus to become one of the biggest stars in the PGA. He won the first of four U.S. Open titles in 1962. In 1963, Nicklaus won the Masters and PGA Championship for the first time. He completed the career Grand Slam in 1966 with a win in the Open Championship at Murfield. Nicklaus would win the Claret Jug three times and the Wanamaker Trophy five times and had five Green Jackets hanging in his closet as he arrived in Augusta in 1986. In total, Nicklaus had won 17 major titles, six more than Walter Hagen's previous record of 11.
It had been 11 years since Jack Nicklaus last won the Masters, and he was no longer among the favorites as a new group of stars were expected to compete at Augusta National. After the first round, it appeared that Nicklaus would not be a factor as he shot a 74 and was two-over-par. Ken Green and Billy Kratzert were the first-round leaders, shooting a 68. Seve Ballesteros of Spain, who had won the Green Jacket in 1980 and 1983, surged in front on Friday with a 68 and had a one-stroke lead at five-under. Nicklaus, meanwhile, was off the leaderboard with a 71 and went into the weekend +1. Jack Nicklaus had a great Saturday, shooting a 69, but at -2, was an afterthought as Greg Norman from Australia took the lead with 68. Meanwhile, Ballesteros was among four golfers who were one stroke off the lead, including Bernhard Lager, the defending champion, Nick Price and Donnie Hammond.
The fourth round at the Masters in 1986 is considered to be among the most dramatic in the history of the prestigious tournament held yearly at Augusta National Golf Club. The drama was high from the start as five golfers held a share of the lead on one hole. Seve Ballesteros was the first to climb and take the lead as Greg Norman scuffled with a bogey on nine. Tom Kite briefly grabbed the lead with an eagle on 11.
While the top contenders, after three rounds, were jockeying back and forth, it was Jack Nicklaus who began to create a buzz at the turn. Through eight holes, Nicklaus was at even par with a birdie on two and a bogey on four. However, with three straight birdies, Nicklaus was suddenly in contention at five-under. Jack took a step back with a bogey on 12 but rebounded with a birdie on 13. After a par on 14, Jack Nicklaus began his charge to the top, with an unbelievable eagle on the 15th hole. Suddenly he was just two shots off the lead and heading for home with the rest of the field having more holes to battle. Ballesteros began to falter as Nicklaus charged up the board, landing a shot in the water. With a birdie on 16, suddenly Nicklaus had a share of the lead. Jack Nicklaus would also get a birdie o 17, after a long look at his putt taking the lead at -9. Jack Nicklaus finished with a par on 18, shooting a 65 that was among the best final rounds in Masters history.
Sitting in the clubhouse at nine-under, Jack Nicklaus had to wait while the rest of the golfers finished their rounds. Seve Ballesteros, who held the lead for most of the day, faded, with a bogey on 17, finishing two strokes back at -7. Tom Kite was one stroke back at -8, after a birdie on 15, but could not get any closer. Greg Norman had the best chance to win or force a playoff, as he shook off a double-bogey on the tenth hole and charged into a tie, with four straight birdies on 14, 15, 16, and 17. Seeking his first major title, Norman controlled his own destiny on 18, needing a par for a playoff and a birdie to win. After a strong shot off the tee, Greg Norman hit his approach into the gallery. He would subsequently miss a par putt, dropping to -8 to give Nicklaus the Green Jacket. At 46, Jack Nicklaus was the oldest golfer to win a major; only Tom Morris Sr, who won the Open Championship in 1867, was older by 17 days. No other 46-year-old has won a major since.