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Birthday Flashback

Sent on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jack Nicklaus, golf’s greatest major champion, celebrated his 76th birthday on the 21st of this month. In recognition of his special day, we’d like to look back at two very profound Tournament wins in the famed career of the founder and host of the Memorial... specifically, Nicklaus’s 1977 and 1984 Memorial Tournament victories at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

In the inaugural Memorial Tournament in 1976, Nicklaus finished tied for eighth at 4-over 292, but he made up for that the very next year when he won the 1977 edition by two strokes over Hubert Green with a rain-delayed Monday finish. The Golden Bear shot 7-under 281, including a closing 71 that required three holes on the extra day.

In the aftermath, Nicklaus called the victory "my biggest thrill in golf." So monumental was his 63rd PGA TOUR title -- one more than chief rival Arnold Palmer -- Nicklaus privately mulled announcing his retirement after receiving the trophy. His faithful wife Barbara talked him out of it. 

"This is probably as hard a tournament for me to win as any I've ever played," Nicklaus said, further illuminating the importance of the occasion. "In my own mind, it was something harder for me to do that I thought I had the ability to do."

Click here for a full recap of the 1977 Memorial Tournament.

The 1984 edition of the Memorial Tournament witnessed Nicklaus become the first two-time winner of the Memorial.

But the victory didn’t come easily, as he defeated Andy Bean in a sudden-death playoff. Both men completed 72 holes at 8-under 280 to tie the tournament record. Nicklaus won on the third extra hole when Bean missed a three-foot par putt on the par-4 17th hole.

But the real drama actually occurred near the end of regulation. With seven birdies in 11 holes, Bean caught Nicklaus at 9 under par, and he looked to be poised for the victory when the Golden Bear hit his drive on 17 out of bounds. “I couldn’t believe I made that shot,” Nicklaus said later.

No one had trouble believing what he did next, making three on his second ball for a key bogey that kept him within a shot. And when Bean powered a par putt left of the hole on 18 while Jack made a par, it set up the Tournament’s second playoff.

Nicklaus, with a closing 70, won his 70th PGA TOUR title. Bean had a final-round 67, while Payne Stewart, Chip Beck and 1976 winner Roger Maltbie were third at 283.

“The Memorial means more to me than any other tournament, including the majors – but in a different way,” Nicklaus said after pocketing a check for $100,000.

Click here for a full recap of the 1984 Memorial Tournament.

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