By Tim Wharnsby
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Jack Nicklaus called the embrace with his oldest son Jackie, after his magical ride through the pines at Augusta National 30 years ago, perhaps the most memorable moment of his legendary career.
Jackie was 24 and was on Nicklaus’ bag for that unexpected 1986 Masters win that crowned the Golden Bear's career.
As the two walked off the 18th green in the Georgia twilight, they didn’t know Greg Norman would bogey his closing hole to finish a shot behind and make the 46-year-old Nicklaus the oldest ever Masters winner.
Recalling what led up to the emotional embrace – an incredible final round 65, in which Nicklaus played the final 10 holes in seven-under-par – never gets old for the six-time Masters winner.
“Time passes so fast,” Nicklaus said on Tuesday, before attending the Champions Dinner. “Seems like it was just yesterday we walked off the 18th green and Jackie and I gave each other a hug, which to me is probably my most memorable moment in golf, having your son on the bag and being able to share that with him.
“That was a great time and great fun.” Nicklaus relied on his son to read putts that week. He likes to tell the story about how Jackie helped him with the 12-foot birdie putt on his 71st hole. Jackie saw a break to the right.
Nicklaus saw the putt going left. They compromised and he made his final birdie to send a mighty roar around Augusta National.
Nicklaus hasn’t competed at the Masters since 2005, but he will be there alongside three-time winner Gary Player early Thursday morning in their roles as Honorary Starters. Arnold Palmer, 86, is expected to be at the first tee, too. But it was announced last month, he won’t hit a ceremonial tee shot for the first time since 2007.
“We'll miss Arnold as far as hitting the golf ball,” Nicklaus said. “I guess Arnold is coming out to the first tee. We'll see.
"I have a sneaking suspicion, if Arnold wants to, he will be welcome to hit a ball if he'd like.
"But whether he will or not, I don't know. We'll miss him on the first tee, but Gary and I will try to do the best we can without him."
(Editing by Steve Keating.)