These are the words Jack Nicklaus privately left to history: "Book the hunt." Put them in there with all those giant steps for mankind and praise the Lord and pass the song charts and the Gettysburg recital and all that stuff. All those memorable sayings that squirm their way into we the people of the country clubs, in order to form a more perfect player. Jack got old No. 14 last week at Canterbury and officially became the greatest golfer who ever lived or died, and now we have to deal with it in terms of history.
It was the night before the final round of the 1973 PGA Championship in Cleveland, the last of golfs big four titles. The emotional end of the season. The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open had come and gone, and Jack Nicklaus had not won any of them. And he only needed one more big one to make it 14 major championships in a glittering career.
One more, the 14th, would move him ahead of Bobby Jones on the alltime list. As has so often been said, they can play all the Pensacolas and Tucsons and Piccadilly World Match Plays they want to, but in golf the major championships are the ones that really matter. To history, ego, prestige, endorsements—whatever. And the PGA at Canterbury was Nicklaus' last chance until another Augusta to overcome a barrier, perhaps mental, he had been confronting for months. The ghost of Jones.
Now he was with his Columbus pals and business associates on Saturday night, as he usually is, discussing the day's play and tomorrow's prospects. After starting slowly, he had blazed into a one-stroke lead through 54 holes in search of his third PGA Championship and old No. 14. There were 18 more holes to play on Sunday and there were a lot of players at Canterbury who could beat him.
Somebody mentioned what an odd year it had been, with Tommy Aaron and Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf all winning their first major titles in Augusta and Oakmont and Troon, with Jack coming close but not quite. It could happen again, couldn't it? Mason Rudolph and Don Iverson and Bruce Crampton and Denny Lyons were all lurking, and despite the fact that Jack was playing superbly, Canterbury was not really his kind of course.
There was talk among the group of Nicklaus friends about an elk hunt in New Mexico for November. This is what Jack really wanted to do with his schedule, go on an elk hunt, not compete so much. But wouldn't it be better, said Putnam Pierman, his business partner, to put off the decision and see what happened tomorrow?
"If you don't win," said Pierman, "you may feel you need to play a few more tournaments in the fall."
Nicklaus thought that over. Maybe so. Then he thought about how well he had been hitting the ball all week, how strongly he was concentrating on the PGA, how much he wanted to get that 14th title behind him.
"Book the hunt," Jack said.
This was the man the world had to beat on Sunday—an unbeatable man. A man who took on a golf course not at all suited to his game but who, with dedication, hard work and patience, was able to conquer it with astonishing ease.