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Nicklaus cautions from experience against Masters letdown

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Jack Nicklaus hit an honorary first tee shot before the first round at the Masters golf tournament on April 5 in Augusta, Ga.

Tiger Woods built his comeback around the Masters, as was the case even in healthier years. He took a step back at Augusta National, not breaking par until the final round and finishing 16 shots behind Patrick Reed, the most he has trailed the Masters winner.

Woods wasn’t alone in his disappointment.

Jordan Spieth geared his early part of the year toward being ready for the Masters, the major he says he most wants to win. He had a two-shot lead after the first round, and rounds of 74-71 meant even that closing 64 wasn’t enough.

Phil Mickelson took himself out of the hunt with a 79 in the second round.

Jack Nicklaus can understand how they feel, and his message for anyone who puts so much emphasis on a green jacket is that the show goes on.

“I had to learn that there were other tournaments in the country after Augusta,” Nicklaus said at the Masters after hitting the ceremonial first tee shot. “I played Augusta a lot of times and lost. I won in ‘63, ‘65 and ‘66, and I just expected to win every year. I thought I would just continue to do that.”

Nicklaus missed the cut in 1967. He says that started a three-year trend in which it took him longer than it should have to get over not winning the Masters.

“That was a humbling experience to miss the cut after you’ve won it twice in a row,” he said. “But then the next couple of years, I think that it probably destroyed the rest of my year. Because I was so disappointed at not winning at Augusta that I had a downer most of the year.”

There’s some truth to that.

He didn’t go more than two tournaments before winning again after the 1963, 1964 and 1965 Masters. After he repeated at Augusta in 1966, he ran off five consecutive top fives before winning the British Open at Muirfield to complete the career Grand Slam.

But after missing the cut in 1967, he went five tournaments without winning and had one stretch of 10 straight rounds in which he failed to break 70. The following year when he tied for fifth at the Masters, Nicklaus didn’t win again until the Western Open the first weekend in Augusta.

And after a tie for 23rd in the 1969 Masters, he didn’t win again until the Sahara Invitational in October.

“I put such a buildup to this tournament and the importance of winning that first major that it was to my detriment more times than a positive,” he said.

Nicklaus figured it out. Over the next four years, he never went more than three events after the Masters before winning again. Twice, in 1971 and 1973, he won in his next start after failing to win the Masters.

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