It's tough to imagine now, but there was a time when Jack Nicklaus -- big, blond, cuddly Golden Bear Jack -- was the villain in the golf world. Most golf fans were card-carrying members of Arnie's Army, backing Arnold Palmer as he ravaged the world of golf in the late '50s and early '60s. When Nicklaus, 10 years Palmer's junior, began making a bit of noise, Arnie's Army derided him as "fat boy" and jeered his every shot.
Problem is, Jack's shots slowly but surely started getting better than Arnie's. Nicklaus began picking off Palmer and his marks, one by one. The charge culminated once and for all at the U.S. Open at Baltusrol in 1967, when Palmer and Nicklaus had one of their last great duels. And once again, Nicklaus got the best of Palmer.
Nicklaus and Palmer battled on the final day of the tournament, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Palmer was all over the course, while Nicklaus was relentless, running down not just Palmer but had his eyes on the U.S. Open record of 276 held by Ben Hogan.
He stepped to the 18th tee needing a birdie 4 to beat Hogan. He drew out a one-iron, much to the surprise of some who thought he should unleash the driver. Even so, he ended up on the green in three, needing to hole a 22-foot putt to beat Hogan's record. Did he do it? Take another look at that cover there. (Nicklaus never had the most enthusiastic celebrations on the course, and you can see why.)
Arnold Palmer would never again be a threat to Nicklaus, who would go on to dominate golf in the '70s and win, as you've probably heard, 18 majors. Ironically, it was Baltusrol again where Nicklaus created another of golf's great stories, this time 13 years later in 1980.
Nicklaus hadn't won a single tournament in 1979, leading the golf media to speculate that he was finished. (See, folks? The media's always been wrong. It's not a new development.) Nicklaus proceeded to open the Open with a 63, tying the single-round record.
It seemed Nicklaus was on his way to another victory, but Isao Aoki wouldn't let him go that easily. Nicklaus and Aoki traded punches over the Open's final two days, finally ending with Nicklaus taking the victory by two on the final hole of the tournament. Amazingly, both players broke Nicklaus' own record, Jack by shooting 272, Aoki by shooting 274. (Side note: After Jack's putt went in and the crowd was celebrating, Nicklaus had to quiet them to let Aoki putt. He knew Aoki stood to make $50,000 for breaking the tournament record.)
So while Augusta and Pebble Beach remain the venues most closely connected with Jack, it's Baltusrol that has provided some of his most significant wins. Both Nicklaus' single-round and tournament records still stand, though several players have matched them since then.
Below, some classic video of his Baltusrol battle with Palmer.
Here are a couple holes of the classic duel with Palmer in '67. Listen to Jim McKay delight in this brand-new television innovation called "color":