More than anything, what made Nicklaus's victory—his 18th in a major—so stunning was that it came at a time when it appeared that his Tour career was over: His last win had been in 1984, his last major the '80 U.S. Open. At Augusta, after Nicklaus opened 74-71, even Ken Venturi said, "Jack's got to start thinking about when it's time to retire."
Nicklaus responded with a 69 on Saturday, and then on Sunday went seven under over the last 10 holes—coming home in a record-tying 30—for a 65 and a one-stroke win.
When Ian Woosnam of Wales extended the string of victories by Europeans to four in a row—and seven of 11—with a one-shot win over José María Olazábal, American fans started to get nervous. Why is it, everyone wondered, that the European players seemed to have a lock on the Masters?
Some of the answers seemed reasonable. Europeans grow up dreaming of winning the British Open, not the Masters, so they aren't intimidated by the aura of Augusta National. Also, back home they play on courses that are not as well manicured as those in the U.S. and therefore are better at the little shots around the green that are so crucial at Augusta.
Tom Watson might have had the best—and simplest—explanation. "When you're looking for favorites," he said, "you go to the leading players." And in 1991 they were mostly Europeans.