The week before the 1986 Masters, Tom McCollister of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article declaring Jack Nicklaus’s career dead and that he was too old to win the Masters. The golf world was focused primarily on Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman the top two ranked players in the world and the two leaders going into the final round. As the field made the turn for home that Sunday nobody could have imagined what was about to take place.
1986 (Jack Nicklaus)
Jack Nicklaus began the final round of the 1986 Masters four shots behind the lead of Greg Norman, three behind Seve Ballesteros. That morning while finishing breakfast his son Gary back home in Columbus Ohio called his father to ask him what he thought needed to happen, Nicklaus replied “I think 65 will win it, I think 66 puts me in a playoff” Gary’s response to his father was “that’s exactly what I think to go shoot it” It appeared early on that the magic wasn’t there for Nicklaus that day as he was just even par for the day through eight holes. The nation watching on TV got their first glimpse of Nicklaus that day as he putted for birdie on nine, a putt that he made and he was up to three under par and was four back of Norman who was one under for the day three holes behind. At the next hole, Nicklaus hit another solid approach to 25 feet and made another birdie and was within three. Could he continue his momentum at 11? You bet he could another good approach shot to 20 feet, and he made yet another birdie and was within two. As Nicklaus walked from the 11th green to the 12th tee he and his son Jackie realized they were in contention, and both looked at each other and saw that each other were starting to tear up knowing they had a shot at winning.
Behind them, Ballesteros birdied 7 and eagled 8 and took the lead from Norman who would go onto Double Bogey the 10th. Back at 12, Nicklaus pulled his tee shot into the Par Three and chipped down to about 8 feet. While reading the putt Nicklaus and his son noticed a spike mark made by a previous golfer in between his ball and the hole, right on the line of the cup. Nicklaus struck the putt and hit the mark in a way that it set the ball offline and he made bogey and was three behind Ballesteros. Nicklaus got the stroke back at the next hole, but Ballesteros the group behind him made Eagle and was four ahead of Nicklaus and three ahead of Norman. The fun was about to begin as Nicklaus came to the Par Five 15th hole.
After a great drive, Nicklaus walking down the fairway turned to his son and asked “How far do you think three would go here? And I don’t mean club” he hit a perfect 4-iron to 18 feet up the hill a very makeable putt. He looked over the putt with his son they decided on a line and he struck the putt right into the center and he was within two of Ballesteros. Nicklaus walked to the 16th tee a hole he made so many memories at, he pulled a 5 iron and struck the ball Jackie said “be right” Jack said “it is” it landed right by the hole and rolled right past it to 3 feet he made yet another birdie and was within one. A hole behind Ballesteros shanked his 2nd shot into 15 right into the water and made bogey and Nicklaus was now tied with the Ballesteros for the lead. On 17, Nicklaus hit a poor tee shot but got lucky as his ball landed with a wide open gap to the green he played his 2nd shot to 18 feet. He read the putt with Jackie who thought it was going left to right, Nicklaus said “it will but it will turn back towards Rae’s Creek at the end and be a little straighter” He struck the putt as it rolled towards the hole he raised the putter and the crowd roared, CBS’s Verne Lundquist famously called “maybe YES SIR” Nicklaus was in the lead by one.
He parred 18, Ballesteros bogeyed 17 and was out of it. Tom Kite parred 18 and was out of it it was down to Norman who had birdied 14, 15 and 16, and when another dropped at 17 the Great White Shark was tied with the Golden Bear. Norman found the fairway on 18 needed a birdie to win, and par to force a playoff. He pushed the 2nd shot into the crowd and it found an indented footprint by a fan and pitched the ball down to 18 feet, but he missed the putt and Nicklaus in dramatic fashion won his 6th and final Green Jacket.