Stadium Stories: The Golden Bear

THE PLAYERS 1978: Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus once said, “There is no fear in chasing; there is fear in being chased.”

Well, perhaps it’s why he’s the greatest champion in golf history, because Nicklaus at THE PLAYERS Championship 1978 demonstrated he could handle being chased as his one-stroke victory in demanding conditions at Sawgrass Country Club showed.

Quite the contrast to the week before when Nicklaus birdied each of his last five holes to storm from behind and win in Lauderhill, Fla.

Impressive, those fireworks, but what he did to win THE PLAYERS for a third time likely said more about his mettle. No birdies in a closing 75? Two over for his final seven holes? Trivial matters to the game’s greatest champion, who relished this detail —at 1-over 289 he edged Lou Graham by a stroke.

“When I know that all I have to do to win a tournament is shoot even par . . . I’m liable to look like anybody else you might see out there,” Nicklaus said after surviving the second straight year of demanding conditions at the oceanfront course.

He was being humble, because Nicklaus never looked “like anybody else.” He always provided a little extra and he did so again in conditions that were so demanding that only one player (Mike McCullough with a Saturday 69) broke 70.

Nicklaus broke from a 54-hole tie with Ben Crenshaw to shoot 73 and get one in front of Graham entering Sunday. That’s how it finished, too, as Nicklaus and Graham each closed with 75.

Nothing scintillating about his round, Nicklaus conceded, but his smile confirmed that there was everything to like about winning THE PLAYERS for the third time in five years.

“There is no fear in chasing; there is fear in being chased” - Jack Nicklaus