Look Back At Jack Nicklaus' Incredible Masters Victory In 1986
Where were you when Jack won in '86? It is one of those historic moments that has become indelible in the minds of those fortunate to witness it, with those who weren't around desperately wishing that they had been just for the opportunity to see the reawakening of a legend.
It had been two years since the 46-year-old won on the PGA Tour, and almost six since he clinched his 17th major championship at Oak Hill. As a new generation led by Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman took charge of the game, few gave the Golden Bear any chance of winning for a sixth time at Augusta.
"The bear is stalking."
"Is it enough, is it enough....YES! Three birdies in a row for Nicklaus."
Starting the final round four shots off the lead, Jack had defied many expectations by finding himself within relative touching distance on Sunday. Greg Norman was at the summit, one ahead of a group that included Seve Ballesteros, the defending champion Bernhard Langer and Nick Price. Two-time champion Tom Watson and the extremely capable Tom Kite were a shot further behind, but crucially two ahead of Nicklaus. He had to cut through a lot of talent.
After playing the opening eight holes in level par, the legend, with his son Jackie on the bag, made three consecutive birdies on the ninth, tenth and 11th holes to charge into contention. However, with eyes now gazing upon him, a bogey on the 12th looked to have derailed any chance of a fairytale story down Magnolia Lane.
"He never needed an eagle more."
"There is no doubt about it. The bear has come out of hibernation."
Recovering with a birdie on the spectacular 13th, Nicklaus required a sudden injection of energy in order to get back to within close proximity of Ballesteros, Norman and Kite. It would come on the 15th.
Playing his 204 yard approach to 12-feet of the hole on the par five, the five-time champion sent the gallery into raptures by holing the putt for eagle to edge to within two shots of Seve, who was attempting to win a third Green Jacket in memory of his late father who had passed away earlier in the year.
Incredibly, the tournament would be flipped on its head a few minutes later, with Nicklaus playing an imperious five-iron to within three-feet of the hole on the 16th. He would convert for birdie to move a shot closer to the lead, with Ballesteros standing on the 15th fairway. With the roars echoing around Augusta National, the Spaniard hooked his approach into the creek and would make bogey to fall into a tie for with Nicklaus and Kite.
"This is for sole-posssession of the lead..."
Nicklaus found himself with 18-feet left for birdie on the 17th. After studying the break, he famously walked it in with the ball rolling perfectly into the centre of the hole. The Bear was incredibly now in sole-possession of the lead. Could the improbable really be about to happen?
After taking the acclaim from the gallery around the iconic 18th green, Nicklaus two-putted for par and took a one-shot lead in the clubhouse at nine-under. He had shot a final round of 65, with an extraordinary back-nine of 30 producing a remarkable surge. After embracing his son, all they could do now was wait.
Ballesteros fell out of contention after a bogey on the 17th, completing what had become a bitterly disappointing afternoon for the 29-year-old. Tom Kite - seeking his first major - had a putt to tie Nicklaus on the final hole, but it missed narrowly to consign the Texan to yet another runner-up at Augusta.
Now, the only barrier between Jack and a sixth Green Jacket was the charismatic Australian Greg Norman who had hit a perfect drive on the final hole. He required a birdie to win outright, and a par to force a playoff. However, stunningly, the Queenslander pushed his approach shot into the spectators, and failed to recover.
Jack Nicklaus was, remarkably, the Masters champion once again. 23 years after his maiden triumph in Georgia, and with his elderly mother in attendance for once last time, the icon had won an 18th major championship to add the greatest of exclamation marks to the most stored of careers.
30 years on, Jack Nicklaus' legacy continues to be the benchmark for all to aspire to. Happy birthday, sir.
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