SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
December 22, 1975
Most of golf's touring professionals seem to do little but play the game, or talk, think, worry and complain about playing the game, except of course on those few occasions each year when their minds turn to another somewhat related sport: stalking the texturized Dacron polyester clothing ad. Jack Nicklaus has always been different. Not only in the brazenly consistent golf shots that he puts on display from one tournament to another, which tend to result in some sort of record being shattered every time he bends over and reaches toward the cup, but also in the life he lives. In 1975 Nicklaus might well have played his best golf ever, and yet it was also a year in which he widened his interests and enriched himself with other sporting and business pleasures. In fact, he was so busy winning or coming close to winning just about every tournament he entered, while at the same time so obviously enjoying a multitude of diversions, that there wound up being only two things he could not find the time for. He did not take his kids snorkeling in Rae's Creek at Augusta National to look for the bodies of Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. And he did not explore a region of the Amazon to see if he could design an 18-hole course through the rubber trees for the Tupi-Guarani tribesmen.
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December 22, 1975

Runner-up Jack Nicklaus

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Nicklaus came agonizingly close in 1975 to that Grand Slam he seeks, for between winning the Masters and the PGA, which were his 15th and 16th major championships ( Bob Jones had the record at 13, remember), he was right there in the heated dramas of Medinah and Carnoustie, needing only one more great shot to take both the U.S. and British Opens away from the leaders.

"I played well all year long because I worked harder at it," he says. "My mental preparation for the majors was especially good."

Nicklaus did more than play well. In 18 tournaments he never finished out of the top 20; he was out of the top 10 only twice; in 14 events he was among the top six; he averaged 69.8 strokes per round, his best ever; he won five times in the U.S. on some fairly demanding courses—Augusta, Firestone, Harbour Town, Pinehurst No. 2 and Doral; he took the money-winning title for the seventh time, the PGA's Player of the Year for the fourth time, and he became the first player in history to win two major championships in a single year for the fourth time, breaking out of a tie in that odd but distinguished category with that fellow named Jones and another named Ben Hogan.

Which brings up one last point. What Jack Nicklaus proved in 1975 with a devastating finality is something the golfing world has suspected all along, that he can "turn it off and turn it back on again," as the pros say, like only Jones and Hogan before him. And perhaps he can do it better than either. After all, this was the year Nicklaus particularly enjoyed the dual role of an immortal and a human being.

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