Nicklaus’ Legacy Helps Make Tiger What He Is

With so much talk about Tiger Woods – whether we love him or hate him, whether or not swearing on the fairways is okay because athletes in other sports do it, whether or not he will win the Grand Slam in 2008 – it’s good to sometimes sit back, collect our thoughts and consider why Woods is being talked about.

Woods’ pursuit of records would never be of any interest if there were no records to pursue in the first place. And for this, we thank Jack Nicklaus, for whom the contrast “or hate him” never applies nor the controversy “swearing on the fairways”.

Nicklaus was the epitome of role models, someone who never went out of his way to be a role model but become one anyway through his temperament, attitude and achievements.

So, it was fitting that in the month of the Masters, it was announced that Nicklaus, who still owns the record for major wins at 18, would be receivng a PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award.

He will receive the award during The Players Championship at Ponte Vendra Beach, Florida, which he won three times in the 70s.

Jack will be the eighth recipient of the award, which has been handed out since 1996 and created to recognise outstanding contribution to the PGA Tour over an extended period of time, both on and off the golf course.

Other winners are Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Jack Burke Jnr, Pete Dye and Deane Beman. Nicklaus said on the PGA Tour website:

“Since first picking up a club at age 10, I have loved the game of golf. And whether it is being fortunate to serve as captain of The Presidents Cup, or being active in golf course design in emerging markets all over the world, or lending a hand to the growth of The First Tee and other junior golf programs, I enjoy staying connected to the game. More importantly, I enjoy finding ways to give back to the game that has given my family and me so much.”

Nicklaus has 73 PGA Tour victories under his belt, which is among 118 he has won around the world. He is second behind Sam Snead’s record of 82. He has won a record six Masters titles, four US Opens, three Open titles and five PGA Championships.

While picking up major titles, he completed the Grand Slam cycle three times. One statistic that is rarely mentioned is that Jack finished second in majors 19 times.

That means, throughout his career, he was in contention to win 37 majors, 18 of which he won. That is simply mind-boggling. How many pros would like to be in with a chance of winning just one major?

He didn’t stop winning as a senior either, completing the Grand Slam of major titles on the Seniors Tour as well.

Now 68, Nicklaus is also known for his humility and sportsmanship, with many sporting historians counting his act of goodwill at the 1969 Ryder Cup as one of the great examples of sports sportsmanship.

With the contest neck and neck, Nicklaus conceded a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin on the 18th. That meant the match finished as a tie, the first in history, though the US retained the Cup as defending champion.

It is reported that the US captain, Snead, and some of Nicklaus’ teammates were not happy. But when someone queried Jack as to what Snead thought of his act, dubbed “The Concession”, he replied: “I don’t know. I never asked him.”

Tiger Woods may go on to break Nicklaus’ record and will deservedly take his place in golfing folklore, if he hasn’t already.

But the fact that Tiger has a record to chase is thanks to Jack, the Golden Bear of golf.

One Response to “Nicklaus’ Legacy Helps Make Tiger What He Is”

  1. Tom says:

    Great article Nazvi,

    Jack’s stats are mind blowing – added to the wins and second places are 48 top 3’s, 56 top 5’s and 73 top 10’s.

    And, coincidentally, Tiger won all four majors in the years that Jack chose to play them last. Truly a case of the torch being passed!

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