Each got British win after his father died
Courtesy of Seth Soffian
The early careers of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have long mirrored each other for victories, but when Woods tearfully won the British Open on Sunday, he and Nicklaus sadly had something new to share: loss.
Following the death of his own father, Charlie, on Feb. 19, 1970, of cancer, Nicklaus, like Woods, won his first major championship after the loss of his father in that year’s British Open.
“I understood when he got done how he was, too,” Nicklaus said of Woods, who uncharacteristically wept openly for long periods in the arms of his caddie, wife and other supporters after winning in Hoylake, England.
Nicklaus was speaking Tuesday during a visit to Southwest Florida for a course he is designing in Estero, Old Corkscrew Golf Club.
“It was a pretty emotional week for both of them,” Nicklaus said of Woods and Open runner-up Chris DiMarco, whose mother died of a heart attack July 4. “It’s kind of a shame that both of them couldn’t have won.”
Earl Woods, whose boundless pride and mentoring of Tiger was not unlike that of Charlie Nicklaus for his son, died May 3 after a long battle with cancer.
Tiger Woods missed the cut in his first event after his father’s death, June’s U.S. Open, but won Sunday to tie Walter Hagen for second place all time with 11 career major championship victories.
Nicklaus, who holds the record with 18 major titles, finished eighth in the Masters Tournament and tied for 51st in the U.S. Open in 1970 after his father’s death. He won the British Open at St. Andrews, though, for his eighth career major championship victory and first in three years.
Like Woods now, Nicklaus was 30 at the time and almost desperate to win for his late father.
Charlie Nicklaus was 56 when he died of pancreas and liver cancer.
“I got into a period there, from 1967-70, I was doing a lot of other things,” said Nicklaus, who’d seen four of his five children born by 1970 and also took time away from golf for hunting and fishing.
“I was playing good golf, but it really wasn’t that big a deal to me one way or the other. And then my father passed away and I sort of realized that he had certainly lived his life through my golf game. I really hadn’t probably given him the best of that. So I sort of got myself back to work. So ’70 was an emotional one for me from that standpoint. … It was a big boost.”
Nicklaus won four majors in the next three years and a total of six over five years. He finished his career with 18, a number he has said he might have tried to set higher if he’d known that Woods would come along someday.
“I didn’t really have a goal because I never thought about it,” Nicklaus said of catching Bobby Jones’ then-record 13 major titles in amateur and professional events. “I never even thought about setting records. I was just playing golf. Tiger, from day one, has had a record in mind. I never had a record in mind.”
With his 18 professional majors now the last remaining pillar for Woods to catch, though, Nicklaus on Tuesday said he isn’t any more concerned about ceding his record to Tiger than he has been in the past.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t been there (already),” Nicklaus said of how quickly Woods has won 11 majors. “He’s a very, very talented young man, and I think it’s probably good for the game of golf to have records to be broken.
“Whether he’ll break it or not, who knows? But if he does break it, I hope I’m allowed to be the first to shake his hand.”
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