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Shane Bacon

Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors, but it could have been more

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If you know anything about golf, you know of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major championships. What you may not know, however, is how many times the Golden Bear finished second. That number is an astonishing 19 (to put that in perspective, Mr. Second, Phil Mickelson, has been runner-up just six times in his career).

So which of those 19 majors could Jack have won? Seven, which means Nicklaus could have ended with 25 big ones. Here are the majors that Jack nearly stole.

1977 British Open: This one was better known as the Duel in the Sun, when Jack and Tom Watson deleted the rest of the field on the weekend. Nicklaus had a birdie putt on the par-5 17th but couldn't convert while Watson made his to go a shot up. What did Jack do? Just roll in a 40-footer for birdie on 18 after Tom hit it to 2 feet, putting the pressure on Watson to stroke his in, which he did.

1982 U.S. Open: You know Jack is confident when he says to friends in the clubhouse that the worst he could do was get in a playoff with Watson after Tom's tee shot missed the green left on 17. You know the story from there. Bruce Edwards tells him to get it close, Watson replies, "Get it close? Hell, I'm going to make it," which he did, and birdied the 18th to beat Jack by two. If that chips doesn't disappear on 17, the playoff would have been very, very likely.

1983 PGA Championship: While it is true that none of Tiger Woods' majors have come from behind, Jack was famous for putting on a show in the final round. This PGA Championship was no different, with Nicklaus charging on Sunday at Riviera to post a 66. It was one shot low to take down Hal Sutton, who claimed his first major.

1972 British Open: Nicklaus closed the '72 British with an improbable 66 after trailing Lee Trevino by six shots heading into Sunday, but Trevino chipped in for par on 17 and then made a great par on 18 to beat Jack by one shot after Nicklaus had already claimed the Masters and U.S. Open earlier in the season. It was the only time in his career that Jack would win the first two majors in a row.

1960 U.S. Open: He wasn't even a pro, but Nicklaus nearly stole his first major from Arnold Palmer at Cherry Hills. Playing with Ben Hogan, Nicklaus shot a final-round 71, but it wasn't good enough as Arnie scorched the course on his way to a 65. Who gave the best commentary on Jack's week? None other than Hogan, who said, "I played with the young man who should have won the U.S. Open."

1971 U.S. Open: If the '77 British is the Duel in the Sun, this one was the Showdown with the Serpent. On the first tee of the 18-hole playoff, Trevino tossed a rubber snake in Jack's direction, which landed a laugh from Nicklaus and an opening birdie. That wouldn't be enough to close out Trevino, who shot 68 to Jack's 71.

1977 Masters: If you've ever heard the words "green" and "jacket" together in the same sentence, you know of Jack's closing 65 in the 1986 Masters. That was incredible, but his final round 66 in '77 was nearly as impressive, if not for a man named Tom. Nicklaus and Watson were tied for the lead at Augusta National, with Jack in the fairway on 18. Tom rolled in a birdie putt on 17 to go up a shot, and it forced Nicklaus to back off his approach shot. Now standing over it knowing he needed a birdie, the Golden Bear tried a more aggressive line, only to dump it in the bunker, make a bogey and give Watson a two-shot victory.

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