DUBLIN, Ohio – In 1966, when he became the first player to repeat as Masters champion and completed the career grand slam for the first time with his British Open victory at Muirfield, Jack Nicklaus was widely considered the best player in the game.
He was the odds maker’s favorite at every event, and headlines referred to him as “Golf’s Mr. Everything” among other complimentary monikers.
But he was not officially the No. 1 player in the world. The Official World Golf Ranking was not introduced until 1986.
And the Golden Bear is grateful that he didn’t have the world ranking as a distraction during his prime.
“I’m glad there weren’t [a ranking system],” Nicklaus said Tuesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where he is hosting the 41st edition of his PGA Tour event, the Memorial Tournament. “I never thought about being No. 1. I just kept trying to be No. 1.”
That’s not to say that Nicklaus didn’t want to be the game’s best player. But he didn’t want or need a system to point that out. It kept him striving to improve, he said, as well as proving himself. Maybe that helped him acquire those 18 major titles.
“I never wanted anybody to tell me I was [No. 1],” he said. “I wanted to earn it, and I wanted to earn it every week. That's the way I felt about it.”