THE PLAYERS 1974: JACK NICKLAUS
Thirteen years into his illustrious career, here is how high the game’s greatest champion had raised the bar for himself: “Nicklaus Ends 6-Month Famine” screamed the Sept. 3, 1974 headline in the Des Moines Register.
Famine? Good gracious, it had only been 13 tournaments since Jack Nicklaus had won and he had been top 10 in nine of them. Yet the then 34-year-old Nicklaus sounded like he bought into this “drought” business after winning THE PLAYERS Championship in its inaugural year at Atlanta Country Club. Closing with a 5-under 67 to wipe out J.C. Snead’s three-stroke lead and prevail by two, Nicklaus said, “I didn’t want to let this one get away from me once I got in position to win.”
Clearly frustrated by not following up on a five-win season in 1971 and seven each in 1972 and 1973, Nicklaus made sure the debut of this PGA TOUR flagship event was dynamic and that he salvaged his season.
Hampered by rain at Atlanta Country Club, the final round spilled into Labor Day Monday, but no matter, Nicklaus was at the top of his game.
Nicklaus’ timing was perfect on several fronts. Just nine days later, he was part of the first class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees and at 16-under 272 the victory seemed to springboard Nicklaus into a 1975 campaign that saw him pile up a TOUR-leading five wins.
Most of all, though, THE PLAYERS was launched fittingly: The best player won the TOUR’s best tournament against the strongest field.