SI Vault
Golden Ruler
Rick Lipsey
July 20, 1998
With a streak of 154 majors, Jack Nicklaus set a mark that may stand forever
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 20, 1998

Golden Ruler

With a streak of 154 majors, Jack Nicklaus set a mark that may stand forever

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


Nick Faldo


Ian Woosnam


Mark Calcavecchia


Davis Love III



Tom Watson


Ben Crenshaw


Gary Player


Greg Norman


Arnold Palmer


Was it the streak to end all streaks? Fans of Byron Nelson, Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripken Jr. might disagree, but Jack's Pack would argue that their man's run of 154 consecutive major championships is the greatest streak in sports history.

When it began at the 1957 U.S. Open, Jack Nicklaus was a chubby 17-year-old senior at Scioto ( Ohio) High. When it ended last month at the U.S. Open, he was a weathered 58-year-old grandfather. During that time the U.S. had nine presidents, the Dow Jones average rose from 511.79 to 8,712.87, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, and men walked on the moon.

Tom Watson, who was seven when Nicklaus played in his first major, is the prince of streakdom, having started every Grand Slam event from the 1974 PGA through the '96 U.S. Open. But Watson's run, the second-longest ever, ended at 87 when he missed the '96 British Open with a strained shoulder. The longest current streak belongs to Nick Faldo, who has played 44 majors in a row beginning with the '87 British Open, which he won. Faldo, however, withdrew from last week's Loch Lomond invitational with a sore elbow and might not play this week at Royal Birkdale. If he doesn't, Ian Woosnam, who has played in 40 straight Grand Slam events, will take over as the marathon man of the majors.

Nicklaus's total of 154 includes only tournaments for which he had qualified. Purists might quibble about a handful of British Opens and PGAs he missed before turning pro. Even so, he has played in each of the last 146 majors, an unbeatable feat in itself, and the Golden Bear didn't merely show up at those events. He saved his best golf for them. Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen are the only players to achieve a career Grand Slam by winning the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA, but Jack won each at least three times. Including his two U.S. Amateur titles, he won 20 majors in all, seven more than Bobby Jones and one more than Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Curtis Strange and Lee Trevino combined. As the chart to the left shows, he leads virtually every statistical category in the majors.

Can Nicklaus's streak be eclipsed? Not anytime soon. Tiger Woods, for example, must play in every major through the 2033 Masters if he wants to pass Jack.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]