Synopsis: What happens when a Golden Bear comes
out of hibernation? A win for the ages (and the aged)
yields lessons on winning and losing on and off the golf course.
He always struggled with the pollen this time of year in northeastern Georgia. Everything was blossoming in hues of orange, red and white. And, as usual, a spring breeze was carrying all of it, swirling on the wind. But as he dabbed at his eyes approaching the 12th hole, he knew it wasn’t dogwood blossoms or the azaleas affecting his eyesight. The fans around number twelve, a raised tee overlooking a narrow green fronted by Rae’s Creek, began to applaud, then cheer and then roar for him. And his eyes welled with tears of appreciation.
These people, he thought, the patrons here at Augusta, they are always so fantastic. I am truly a lucky man. Then he recalled what his sometime rival Arnold Palmer had said about luck: that the more he practiced the luckier he seemed to get. And Jack Nicklaus had practiced a lot over the last three plus decades. Okay, get your emotions under control and put this ball in play. He stood for a moment, hands on his hips taking it all in and composing himself. He put his tee in the ground and went through his pre shot routine.
Then he addressed the ball, took the club back with power, paused for a split second longer than usual at the top and let it go, characteristically unloading through the ball. It didn’t feel quite right and the ball sailed left on him, catching a sliver of green and running off the back. He chipped it to eight feet but missed the putt. And that was that, a nice story and a decent finish for a once great Jack Nicklaus, who hadn’t won a tournament of any kind in two years. Or was it?
He put the bogey behind him and banged a 3 wood around the corner at the next hole, a par 5. He two putted for birdie and was back within two of the lead, held by Seve Ballesteros. He parred the 14th and then came to another par 5 at the 15th. His drive set him up in the middle of the fairway with 212 yards left to the hole.
“What do you think of a three here?” he asked his caddy and his son, carrying his bag for the first time. He wasn’t talking about the club; he was referring to the score he wanted to card.
“Let’s see it.”
Nicklaus promptly sent a four iron to within twelve feet, giving a double fist pump and making the putt. Television coverage began showing Nicklaus again as he made his charge. He was no longer written off.
At the sixteenth hole, he decided to play aggressive. Hit it high 175 yards, and land it soft, he thought. Swing mechanics never entered his mind. He saw the ball leave the club and eyed the trajectory.
“Be good,” his son said behind him.
Nicklaus bent over and picked up his tee. “It is,” was all he said. The ball hit, spun and trickled past the hole to three or four feet. Another birdie and the crowd was delirious everywhere at Augusta National except back on 15 where Ballesteros had found the water and dropped out of the lead. Nicklaus heard the moan and felt a surge of adrenaline stepping to 17 tee, and it caused him to tug his drive left. But luck was with him and he ended up in between two trees with a clear shot to the green. His wedge landed twelve feet from the hole and he walked the putt in with thrust of the putter.
Though he parred 18, Nicklaus’ shoots seven under par on Sunday, six under on the back nine. There werefive different leaders of the tournament on Sunday, but the “foreign invasion” of Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price and Norman fall apart under the relentless pressure of the Golden Bear. Jack Nicklaus earned his sixth green jacket and record eighteenth major championship, becoming the oldest Masters champion in history at the age of forty-six.
Here are “fore!” lessons from Jack that investors can use to hit their own targets more often than not:
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Don't wait for history to happen...