won 73 times on the PGA tour, but there are wins and then there are wins
. Of all those victories, which are the greatest of Nicklaus' career? We've narrowed it down to the Top 5 (well, sort of: we fudge a little on the number near the bottom). Here are our picks for Jack Nicklaus' greatest wins:
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This win wasn't as important to Nicklaus' career as the 1962 U.S. Open (below), but nobody who watched the 1986 Masters will ever forget it. For emotional power, this might be the greatest win any golfer has ever had. At age 46, Nicklaus hadn't won a major in nearly six years when he put together a stunning back-nine 30 for a final-round of 65 and his sixth Green Jacket. It was the final win of Nicklaus' PGA Tour career.
It wasn't just his first major, it was Nicklaus' first professional victory of any kind. And it wasn't just that he did it, but how he did it: beating the King, Arnold Palmer, in an 18-hole playoff on Palmer's home turf (Oakmont in Pennsylvania). Said Palmer: "Now that the big guy's out of the cage, everybody better run for cover." Nicklaus also had to beat Arnie's Army, some of whose members taunted Jack with catcalls of "fatso" throughout the tournament.
Golf's Big 3 - Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player
- finished 1-t2-t2 this year, but it wasn't even close: Nicklaus won by a then-record 9 strokes with a then-record 271 total. Nicklaus overpowered Augusta National, leading Bobby Jones to utter his famous remark about Jack's power: "He plays a game with which I am not familiar."
Many people consider the 1975 Masters the greatest in that tournament's history. It featured three great players at the top of the leaderboard and at the top of their games: Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Miller and Weiskopf were in the final group, Nicklaus one group ahead. And when Nicklaus snaked in a seemingly impossible 40-foot birdie putt on No. 16 - as Miller and Weiskopf watched from the tee - it carried Nicklaus to his fifth Green Jacket.
5. (tie) 1967 and 1980 U.S. Opens
At the 1967 U.S. Open
, Nicklaus shot 65 in the final round to post a record-breaking 275 total. He beat Arnold Palmer by four shots, with Billy Casper and Lee Trevino also left in his wake. At the 1980 U.S. Open
, Nicklaus - who hadn't won in nearly two years - roared out of the gate with a 63 and set a new record (which still stands, since tied by two others) with a 272 total. "Jack is Back" went up on the scoreboard.
6. Honorable Mention: 1978 Jackie Gleason Inverarry ClassicTake your pick from among Nicklaus' 12 other major championships. But we'll throw out just one of Nicklaus' non-major victories: the 1978 Jackie Gleason Inverarry Classic. Why? Because Jack came from behind to win by birdying the final five holes in a row.