After his majestic victory at Augusta, Jack Nicklaus the Masters champion was tending to the business of Jack Nicklaus the golf course architect again. On Friday he flew with his wife, Barbara, and oldest son, Jack II, from their home in North Palm Beach, Fla. to Baton Rouge, La., for the opening of his latest course, 18 holes in a lavish enclave called The Country Club of Louisiana. As his private jet, a Sabreliner 60, flew westward, Nicklaus discussed in detail the key elements of his final round of 65 at Augusta that had so stirred the sports world.
He began with the 9th hole. To that point he had played even-par golf. He was still two under for the tournament and five shots behind Greg Norman, the leader. Jack II, known as Jackie, a tall, blond 24-year-old who will soon turn professional himself, was his caddie. Sandy Lyle, the British Open champion, was his playing companion.
"The tournament started as I walked over the hill at 9," Nicklaus said. "I thought that if I shot 66 I'd tie, 65 I'd win, and nothing had happened so far to change my mind. Nobody had started off with a big rush. As I walked down the fairway, though, I thought, 'It's going to be difficult to shoot 30 on the back nine if I shoot 36 on the front, so I darn well better birdie 9.' "
Nicklaus's second shot landed on the green, 11 feet behind the hole. As he lined up his putt a roar rose from the eighth green. As he addressed the putt there came another roar. Playing two groups behind, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Kite had both holed wedges for eagle 3s.
"I turned to the gallery and said, 'O.K., let's see if we can get a roar up here.' They got a little laugh out of that and it relaxed me, too." Nicklaus sank the putt. He was three under.
"Now I've got 35. I need 31 on the back nine to have a chance. Thirty-one is unusual at Augusta, but it's not outside the range of possibility."
At the par-4 10th hole Nicklaus's drive flew down the right side of the fairway and into the gallery, where it hit a spectator and stopped. Neither the spectator nor Nicklaus's chance for a good second shot was damaged. His four-iron came to rest 25 feet short of the hole.
"It was short, but I was happy with the shot. For some reason, as I looked at the putt it just looked like I was going to make it. I hit the ball. It rolled. I looked at it. It kept going. Right in the hole." Birdie, and now he was four under.
At the par-4 11th, a drive and an eight-iron put Nicklaus on the green 22 feet to the right of the hole. Lyle chipped onto the green and marked his ball.
"Sandy used a marker that was off the back of his glove, one of those little things you stick in the ground. It showed up pretty well. I asked him to move it one clubhead to the side, and I ran the ball just about an inch inside it. From the time I hit it and it started rolling, I said, 'That may just go in.' And it did, dead center." Now he was five under.