Jack Nicklaus conquers Firestone for his 4th PGA Championship
By: Claudia Mazzucco – On this day, August 10, 1975, Jack Nicklaus won the 57th PGA Championship at the South Course of Firestone Golf Club, in Akron, Ohio. Having captured the Masters Tournament for fifth time in April, this was his second major of the season, his fourth Wanamaker trophy and 16th major title. He shot rounds of 70, 68, 67 and 71 for a total of 276, 4 under par. Australian Bruce Crampton, who had won 15 times in 19 years on the tour but no majors, finished in second place at 276. It was the fourth time that Crampton finished second in a major, and each time Nicklaus was the winner. “I guess I will be in a familiar role next year: defending runner-up,” Crampton said. He was also runner-up to Nicklaus in the 1973 PGA at Canterbury.
“Going head-to-head against Jack Nicklaus in a major was like trying to drain the Pacific Ocean with a teacup.”
Crampton made history in the second round when he shot a course and PGA Championship record of 63 (seven under par) to take a three-shot lead on the field, a four-shot lead on Nicklaus at the halfway point. But his game collapsed in the third round, with five bogeys in the first nine holes, and the best he could do was to finish with a 75. Nicklaus caught him at the tenth (birdie to bogey). He had a four-stroke lead over Crampton when he went to the tee on the 625-yard 16th hole, considered to be the hardest hole on the Firestone’s South Course. He hit his drive into a lateral water hazard, involving a penalty stroke. He got his third into the right rough behind an elm. But his fourth, with a nine iron flew high and soft and pure, 137 yards over the tree, over the lurking disaster of the pound in front the green and stopped 30 feet behind the hole. He made the putt.
“I was figuring for 6 and looking at an 8,” Jack said. But he made par 5. “I knew I was going to make that putt.” Nicklaus said. When it dropped into the hole, he acted as if he had won the championship.
On a hot, humid, hazy Sunday, Jack drove poorly and bogeyed the first hole. He dropped a 12-foot putt for birdie on the second hole but he almost hit into the water with his trusty pitching wedge on the third, taking another bogey. Then he began to play solid golf, and it became evident that a dramatic ending was unlikely.
The Australian three-putted for bogey on the 15th, missing a second putt of about 18 inches. Moments later, Nicklaus ran in a 20-foot birdie putt on this hole. Though he got a double-bogey at the 18th, he still beat Crampton by two strokes. “We all suffer from human deficiencies,” Crampton said, “Jack just suffers from fewer of them. He would not have made a six at the last hole, if he had needed something better.”
No event in American golf history has seemed as inevitable in retrospect as Jack Nicklaus breaking his own records in the seventies. In 1975, Nicklaus missed the Grand Slam by a total of three strokes. He needed only to par the final three holes to win the United States Open, but finished two strokes back at Medinah III. He then missed a birdie putt on the 72rd hole and was one behind in The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland. At Firestone, he collected $45,000 for first prize, which pushed his season’s leading money-winning total to $248,599, a figure that has been exceeded only four times, two of them by Nicklaus himself, and set his all-time leading total at $ 2,492,222.
It was also the first major that Nicklaus won with Angelo Argea, who had been his professional caddie since 1962.
Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005