Jack Nicklaus is arguably the greatest golfer the world has ever seen. His record 18 major titles and 19 runner-up spots have set an almost impossible target for the rest.
Nicklaus was born in Ohio in January 1940 and took up golf at the age of 10. He won the US Amateur title in 1959 and 1961 and finished second behind Arnold Palmer in the 1960 US Open while still an amateur.
He turned pro at the age of 21 in 1961 and won his first title in the paid ranks at the 1962 US Open, beating Palmer in an 18-hole play-off. So began one of golf’s greatest rivalries as as this young upstart threatened to usurp the hero of Arnie’s Army.
In 1966 Nicklaus won his third Masters and then added a sixth major title at the British Open at Muirfield in Scotland. All by the age of 26.
Another British Open title came at St Andrews in 1970 at the age of 30 for Nicklaus’ eighth major, taking him ahead of Palmer.
By the summer of 1977 Nicklaus was on 14 majors but hadn’t won one for two years. At the British Open at Turnberry he and reigning Masters champion Tom Watson were forced to take shelter from a storm on the third day before both shooting 65s to rocket clear of the field.
In what became known as the Duel in the Sun, Nicklaus and Watson went head-to-head on a scintillating final day, but the younger Watson prevailed for his second Open and third major title.
Nicklaus re-ignited his major charge with victory at the 1978 British Open back at St Andrews at the age of 38.
Nicklaus and Watson fought plenty of battles against each other but they also came together as team-mates in the 1981 Ryder Cup at Walton Heath in England, winning all three of their matches together as the US won 18.5 – 9.5.
Nicklaus was named captain for the 1983 Ryder Cup and led his side to a narrow victory against Europe at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. It would be the final chapter in the US winning streak that had stretched back to 1959.
Nicklaus bagged two more majors at the age of 40, but by 1986, aged 46, he hadn’t won one for six years. A newspaper article ahead of the Masters said he was “done, washed up, through.” Trailing leader Greg Norman by four going into the final day, Nicklaus summoned some old magic. A famous birdie putt on the 17th gave him the lead for the first time.
Nicklaus’ back-nine charge sparked roars the like of which Augusta hasn’t heard since and his homeward 30 gave him a sixth Green Jacket and 18th major title.
Nicklaus was again captain for the US Ryder Cup side at his Muirfield Village course in Ohio in 1987, but the Americans crashed to their first ever defeat on home soil.
Since Tiger Woods burst onto the scene with his first major title at the Masters in 1997 he has chased Nicklaus’ major mark. But Woods has been stranded on 14 victories since 2008.
Nicklaus was awarded the Congressional Gold medal in 2015 for his services to his sport and philanthropy.
Nicklaus’ early career was characterized by his rivalry with Arnold Palmer (left) and Gary Player (right). Known as the “Big Three”, the trio became honorary starters at the Masters.
Palmer died on September 25, 2016 at the age of 87 and Nicklaus delivered a eulogy to his friend. “He was the king of our sport,” Nicklaus said. “And he always will be.”