Nicklaus focused on the Major championships (Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship), and played a selective schedule of regular PGA Tour events, yet still finished with 73 victories, third on the all-time list behind Sam Snead (82) and Tiger Woods (79).
After winning the U.S. Amateur in 1959 and 1961, and challenging for the 1960 U.S. Open as an amateur (he finished in second place, two shots behind winner Arnold Palmer), Nicklaus turned professional at age 21, toward the end of 1961. Nicklaus’ first professional win came in a Major championship, the 1962 U.S. Open, when he defeated Palmer by three shots in an 18-hole playoff. This win over Palmer began a fierce on-course rivalry between the two golf superstars.
In 1966, Nicklaus won the Masters Tournament for the second year in a row, becoming the first golfer to achieve this distinction, and also won The Open Championship, completing his career slam of Major championships. At age 26, he became the youngest to do so. In 1968 and 1969, Nicklaus did not win a Major tournament. He then won another Open Championship in 1970.
Between 1971 and 1980, he won an additional nine Major championships, overtook Bobby Jones’ record of 13 Majors, and became the first player to complete double and triple career slams of golf’s four professional Major championships. At the age of 46, Nicklaus claimed his 18th and final Major championship, in the 1986 Masters Tournament, becoming that championship’s oldest winner.
Nicklaus joined the Senior PGA Tour in January 1990, when he became eligible, and by April 1996 had won 10 of the tour’s tournaments, including eight of that tour’s Major championships, despite playing a very limited schedule. He continued to play at least some of the four regular tour majors until 2005, when he made his final appearances at the Masters Tournament and The Open Championship.
Nicklaus has also taken part in various other activities, including golf course design, charity work, and book writing. Nicklaus is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and has helped design courses such as Harbour Town Golf Links. Nicklaus also runs his own tournament on the PGA Tour, the Memorial Tournament. His golf course design company is one of the largest in the world. Nicklaus’ books vary from instructional to autobiographical, with his Golf My Way considered one of the best instructional golf books of all time; the video of the same name is the best-selling golf instructional video to date.