By the most objective measure of all – the record – Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player who ever lived. There was an immensity to Nicklaus’ game. Nicklaus combined tremendous physical ability with boundless mental and psychological resources. At those times when his game was in full song, he would dominate his competition. But Nicklaus’ ultimate genius was that when it wasn’t, he often found a way to win because he would almost never beat himself.
His style was a combination of explosive shotmaking and conservative management that calculated all factors: the course, his opponents and how he was playing. As a golfer, Nicklaus was both Secretariat and Einstein. Subjective assessments, however, are secondary because Nicklaus’ record is a colossus that encapsulates the game. In sheer numbers, it is awesome.
Between 1962 and 1986, Nicklaus won 73 official events on the PGA TOUR, trailing only Sam Snead and Tiger Woods for most wins in PGA TOUR history. But it is Nicklaus’ performance in Major Championships alone that sets him above all others. He won 2 U.S. Amateurs, a record six Masters, a record-tying four U.S. Opens, three Open Championships, and a record-tying five PGA Championships. He completed three full cycles of the modern Grand Slam. If performance in Major Championships is the ultimate criterion, then no golfer has ever set themselves apart like Nicklaus.