As Tiger Woods made the turn during the final round of last month’s Masters, Jack Nicklaus was busy looking for bonefish in the Bahamas. The changing tides in the Atlantic Ocean took priority over the conclusion of the year’s first major and Tiger’s Masters Win.
But once things took a turn along Amen Corner, the 18-time major champ stopped to take notice.
Tiger’s Masters Win
“I have to say that once I sat down and saw his shot at [No.] 12, I didn’t move again,” Nicklaus said Tuesday ahead of the Memorial Tournament. “What he did was pretty special to watch.”
The par-3 12th turned out to be the pivotal juncture of the tournament, as Woods grabbed a share of a lead he would not relinquish the rest of the way. His one-shot victory marked his fifth green jacket, one shy of Nicklaus’ all-time mark, and it was his first major win since the 2008 U.S. Open.
While Woods took a prudent line and found the middle of the green on No. 12, his playing competitors Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau both came up short in the water, as did Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter in the penultimate group.
It was all enough to make Nicklaus shake his head given the grave risk historically associated with drifting toward a Sunday pin on the short but treacherous par 3.
Nicklaus’ Masters Analysis
“When the guys started filling up Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole, I’m watching them one after another hit the ball right of the bunker and I said, ‘Really? You just can’t hit the ball right of the bunker,’” Nicklaus said. “How many times have you seen the tournament lost because they hit it right of the bunker. Tiger hit the ball … over the left side of the bunker into the middle of the green, and the tournament is over.”
Woods’ win at age 43 immediately drew comparisons to Nicklaus’ sixth and final Masters title in 1986 at age 46. But Nicklaus eschewed the notion that the two victories are on equal footing, elevating Woods’ latest accomplishment given his competitive standing in the modern game.
1986 Masters Tournament
“In ’86 I won because I found lightning in a bottle. I really wasn’t into the game of golf at that time. I was into it, but it wasn’t my main priority,” Nicklaus said. “Tiger, on the other hand, he came back from injury. He came back, he worked hard to get himself back in shape to be able to play. He had to figure out what he had between the five inches between his ears. … And he did a very nice job of that. I was just very proud of him, very happy for him. And he just played the way a champion should play.”
Note: Watch Tiger Woods’ opening round at the Memorial Tournament on PGA Tour Live, beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday.