Jack Nicklaus is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of golf. Popularly known as the Golden Bear, his remarkable record of 18 major championship wins in his professional career is unmatched in golfing history. Only two players have won any of the major championships six times - Harry Vardon in the Open Championship and Nicklaus himself in the US Masters. His consistent exploits as a prize-winner on the US Tour are also unparalleled and he was the Tour's leading money-winner on eight occasions.
Nicklaus was named ‘Golfer of the Century’ by Golf Magazine in 1988 and also by Golf Monthly in 1996. Sports Illustrated magazine made him their ‘Athlete of the Decade’ for the 1970s and, at the end of 1999, he was voted as the ‘Individual Sportsman of the 20th Century’ by Sports Illustrated.
Nicklaus began his professional career as a player who could simply overwhelm golf courses with his power game and he remains one of the greatest putters of all time. From his professional debut in 1962 until 1980, he started as a favourite in nearly every event he entered. Only two golfers during the 20th century have been as dominant, fellow Americans Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, but in each case they performed over a shorter time span. If he continues to win major championships at his current rate, Tiger Woods may one day be seen as the equal of Nicklaus.
Nicklaus’s first breakthrough came when he won the prestigious US Amateur Championship, which was then considered the equal of a major championship in 1959 and in 1961. He then made an immediate impact as a professional when he defeated crowd favourite Arnold Palmer in a play-off to win the US Open at Oakmont - his first professional victory.
He went on to win three more US Opens; the US Masters in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986; five US PGA championships and three Open Championships. He holds the record for the most US Masters titles, the most US Open victories, the most US PGA championship victories (tied with Walter Hagen), the most Tournament of Champions victories, the most Tournament Players Championship titles and the most Memorial Tournament victories.
When Nicklaus said farewell to major championship golf at the 2005 Open Championship at St Andrews, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Nicklaus has also won 10 times on the US Seniors Tour, including the US Senior Open in 1991 and 1993. However, one of his prime focuses during the 1990s has been golf course architecture and, through his own company Golden Bear International, he has been designing award-winning courses all over the world.