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Major Match Play Championship: 1986 Masters wins

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MUIRFIELD - SEPTEMBER: Arnold Palmer of the USA lines up a putt during the Ryder Cup between Europe and the USA at Murifield in Scotland in September, 1973. (photo by Don Morley/Getty Images)  - 

The 1986 Masters followed script.

Down early in to the 2008 U.S. Open in online voting, the ’86 Masters rallied on the back nine. Jack Nicklaus and his triumphant charge to win his 18th and final major championship prevailed as the winner in our quest to determine the greatest major championship ever played.

The’86 Masters pulled 53.8 percent of the vote from our online readers in the finals of the Major Match Play Championship with the ’08 U.S. Open getting 46.2 percent. (Click here for week-to-week results)

The ’86 Masters was our No. 1 seed going into the competition, but the final felt like an upset against Tiger Woods and his ’08 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines. That’s because Woods drives so much web traffic today in a media world that has changed so dramatically since Nicklaus won the last and most unexpected major of his career.

The Major Match Play Championship was launched a month ago with 16 of the greatest majors as identified by Golf Channel editors, reporters and on-air talent seeded into match-play brackets. We left it up to our readers to determine the winners.

In prevailing, the ’86 Masters knocked off Ben Hogan’s ’53 British Open victory at Carnoustie in the first round, Arnold Palmer’s 1960 U.S. Open title at Cherry Hills in the quarterfinals and then Tom Watson’s ’77 British Open victory at Turnberry in what was known as the “Duel in the Sun” in the semifinals.

Major Match Play

The ’86 Masters is remembered for its star power and its dramatic scripting. Nicklaus, at 46, was written off as a serious contender going to Augusta National that year. He arrived without a major championship victory in the previous five years. He arrived without having won any PGA Tour event in almost two years. He arrived having missed three cuts in ’86, and yet he turned from the Olden Bear back into the Golden Bear on the back nine, charging with a 30 to gain the early clubhouse advantage on a day that saw five different players have at least a share of the lead. Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite and Greg Norman couldn’t take advantage of opportunities in the end. Ballesteros hit a ball in the water at the 15th and three-putted the 17th to fall away. Kite missed a birdie chance at the 18th to tie Nicklaus. Norman ended his round in the middle of the 18th fairway needing a birdie to win and a par to force a playoff. He pushed his approach into the gallery and made bogey.

The ’08 U.S. Open advanced to the final in what must have been some gut-wrenching choices for Tiger fans. The ’08 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines might not have been Woods’ best work in a major, but it was Woods at his most gritty and determined, winning that championship on a fractured tibia and torn knee ligament in his left leg. He won over 91 holes, beating Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole Monday playoff that went one extra hole.

The ’08 U.S. Open defeated Tiger’s 2000 PGA Championship victory in the first round, his 2000 U.S. Open title in the quarterfinals and his ’97 Masters victory in the semifinals.

A special thanks from to all the voters who helped crown Major Match Play Championship winner.