Of all people, Jack Nicklaus would know which of golf's four majors meant the most to win. Nicklaus won 18 of them and all four at least three times. He told Golf Digest recently that the U.S. Open, not the Masters, was always his pride and joy.
"The U.S. Open was always No. 1 for me," Nicklaus told Golf Digest. "I'm an American, and it's the championship of my country. Of the majors, the British Open was No. 2 because it entailed the rest of the world. The PGA was No. 3 because I'm a professional, and to be the best of what I do for a living, that stands for a lot."
What about Augusta?
"That leaves the Masters in an interesting position," added Nicklaus. "It always was my favorite tournament to play. Bob Jones was my hero, and I've had too many great experiences there to count. But it isn't a championship exactly, so on that count it doesn't surpass the other three. I'll say this: If you conducted a poll among players now on tour, they'd rate the Masters the No. 1 tournament in golf."
That's pretty fascinating. I would not have thought Nicklaus would have the U.S. Open at the top of his list. I do see what he's saying about the Masters though. It's like you shouldn't even count it among the other three because it's so different. It's a major, but it's also more than a major, which I think was his point.
Nicklaus won his first U.S. Open in 1962 against Arnold Palmer in a playoff and went on to win three more over the next 18 years. He called Oakmont maybe the most difficult course in the United States so of course his first national championship came there.