by Brendan Cole
For many, the 1986 Masters is the greatest victory in the history golf, and Jack Nicklaus’ tee shot on the par-three 16th hole the greatest shot.
The 46-year-old ‘Golden Bear’ was chasing his 18th but when the final round began with Nicklaus in tied-9th, victory looked improbable. It still looked that way when he played his opening eight holes in even par.
From there, Nicklaus began the greatest charge in golf history, carding birdies at 9, 10 and 11. A bogey at 12 was offset by an eagle at the 15th but as he stepped onto the 16th tee, Nicklaus was still four behind Ballesteros. The Spaniard had an eagle chance of his own coming up on 15.
Nicklaus, then 46, knew he needed to make a birdie. The commentary from Tom Weiskopf and Jim Nantz added to the drama.
Nantz: ‘What’s going through Jack’s mind right now? He has not experienced this kind of a streak in a long time….’
Weiskopf: ‘If I knew that, I probably would have won this tournament.’
Weiskopf set up the shot with, 'your destiny is right here'. With the scene perfectly set, Nicklaus duly stepped up and flushed a 5-iron. As the shot flew through the air, Jackie, his son and caddie, said: ‘Be right’. Nicklaus, bending over to retrieve his tee and not looking at the ball, said: ‘It is’.
The ball pitched a few yards right of the flag before curling around toward the pin and finishing just below it.
Minutes later, Ballesteros hit his second on the par-five 15th into the water just before an energised Nicklaus sank a 15-footer for birdie on 17.
He parred 18 to set a clubhouse total of nine-under which Tom Kite, Greg Norman and Ballesteros were unable to match.
Having not won a Major for six years, Nicklaus took just 30 shots on the back nine, and played his last 10 holes in seven-under-par for an astonishing victory that remains arguably the greatest, and certainly one of the most improbable, in the history of golf.