Nicklaus was still only an after-thought as Sunday began. The week had begun with an Atlanta writer, the late Tom McCollister, writing that Nicklaus didn't have a chance because of his advancing age. Nicklaus saw the column and affixed it to the refrigerator of the home he was renting. It became his rallying cry when times became difficult - which they were as the fourth round started.
Nicklaus was still five behind Greg Norman as he reached the ninth hole. He figured he would have to shoot a 66 to tie, a 65 to win. If he parred at 9, he would have to shoot 36 on the back to reach the 66 figure.
As he settled in over an 11-foot putt at No. 9, back-to-back roars interrupted him. Tom Kite and Seve Ballesteros just holed for matching eagles at the par-5 8th. 'Okay, let's see if we can get a roar up here,' he said - then proceeded to stroke the putt into the back of the cup. He got his roar.
Now he had 35 on the front, needing 31 on the back to achieve his 66. 'Thirty-one is unusual at Augusta,' he said in a Sports Illustrated interview, 'but it's not outside the range of possibility.'
Nicklaus began at 10 with a drive which went into the gallery, but hit a spectator and stopped. The spectator was fine, and so was Nicklaus moments later after he sunk a 25-foot putt for another birdie.
By now he was 4-under and 22 feet from the pin at 11. Playing partner Sandy Lyle was just inside, and Nicklaus used his mark to drop another birdie to go 5-under. Things were getting very interesting for Jack, who now had made three birdies in a row as he came to par-3 12.
There he made a bogey, set up by a drive to the left back fringe, a chip which didn't come out like he had planned, and a putt which missed its target because of a spike mark. 'I think that may have been the hole that won the tournament for me,' he said in something of a surprise. 'It gave me a totally different perspective going into 13. It forced me to approach 13 aggressively.'
Nicklaus hit a solid 3-wood off the tee of the par-5 hole, then a 3-iron onto the green 30 feet short. Two putts gave him a birdie and boosted him back to 5-under. By now Norman had fallen back. Only Kite and Ballesteros led him, with several tied.
His second shot at 14 missed the green, leaving him an awkward chip of 12 feet. Calling upon a lesson that Chi Chi Rodriguez and taught his son Jackie - caddying for him, by the way - Nicklaus popped the ball to within a foot on the hole and got his par.
Fifteen is another par 5, and Nicklaus' second shot - a 4-iron - never left the flag. It slammed into the green 18 inches short of the cup and went on 12 feet by. When he made the putt for eagle, he was 7-under and he had the gallery roaring for sure.
Nicklaus nearly holed out at the par-3 16th with a 5-iron, the ball coming to rest only 3 feet. Nicklaus, crouched over the putt, was suddenly conscious of moving his head. 'I took the putter back only four or five inches, but I really popped that ball. I hadn't been doing that in recent years,' he said. Birdie, naturally. Now he was 8-under.
Nicklaus was on his way to the 17th tee when another roar interrupted him. Seve, in the lead at the time, had dunked his ball at 15, effectively knocking him out of competition. And again Nicklaus hit into the gallery with his drive, but he knocked his second to 10 feet. When he knocked his putt dead-center, reading the two-breaker perfectly, he finally had the lead at 9-under.
Nicklaus had one thought in mind when he reached 18 - don't leave it short. But that is exactly what he did when a little breeze came up just as he hit his approach. No problem, though. He cozied the putt up to within four inches of the cup and tapped in. He had his backside 30. And he had a final-day 65. When Kite missed a 12-footer and Norman put his 4-iron into the gallery, Nicklaus also had his sixth green jacket.