Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

Jack Nicklaus: What I Learned Winning My First U.S. Open

By Jack Nicklaus Illustrations by Chris O'Riley
June 07, 2016

In an important round, I always tried to get off to a solid—but never heroic—start. After a couple of holes the nerves leave and then you can just go play golf. Not until the 14th or 15th hole do the shots really become pressurized and you might feel those butterflies come back.

Some players want to blow away the competition. They hit the gas early. Tiger was like that when he first got on tour, and today you might occassionally see Rory and others play that way. The all-out style never fit my mind. Being overconfident is when you're most prone to mistakes.

Trying to close out a match? You might do well to remember how I went up the par-4 18th at Oakmont Country Club (illustrated) in a playoff against Arnold Palmer for the 1962 U.S. Open. I was 22 and had never won a pro event. I'm still proud today that I was able to think clearly.


Illustration by Chris O'Riley

I always looked at leader boards. For the average golfer, this is comparable to looking at your scorecard. I think it helps to know where you stand. If I saw some major champions charging, I needed to make birdies. If I saw players with less experience, I needed to make sure I didn't beat myself. History told me those players were probably going to stumble coming in.


2008 ANGC