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Arnold Palmer & Jack Nicklaus:
The Rivals

Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in Philadelphia.

Arnold Palmer on Jack Nicklaus:

I first saw and played with Jack in Athens, Ohio [in 1958] at an event honoring Dow Finsterwald. [Jack] was 18. I could see that he was a good player. He appeared to be very strong and very competent. I was impressed. I remember we had a driving contest and I beat him by a hair. I hit the ball farther in those day... I made a mental note to keep my eye out for the kid.

I knew he was perfectly capable of taking the [1962] Open at Oakmont... because young Mr. Nicklaus simply had the look of a champion. He didn't seem bothered by the electricity of my charge [in the playoff at Oakmont]. You just couldn't crack his concentration. It was like he was in a cocoon. Losing at Oakmont, that hurt.

We're friends. But Jack and I are similar in that we both have two arms and two legs.

We were competitive on the course, and we are in business, too. We want to beat each other. We compete for the same course designs. He's my friend, but I still want to beat him just as bad as ever.

Jack likes golf, but I don't think he actually loves and needs the game the way I still do. I try to play every day, and when I don't play — if you'll pardon the expression — I feel like a bear with a sore tail.

Jack navigates more by brain. I go by heart. Intellect versus instinct. Jack versus Arnie.

Sources: Staff reporting, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, A Golfer's Life by Arnold Palmer with James Dodson

Jack Nicklaus on Arnold Palmer:

I first met Arnold in 1958. I was 18. I went to Athens, Ohio, for Dow Finsterwald Day, and the three of us played in an exhibition. We had a driving contest on the first hole, and it was the first time Arnold had ever seen me and maybe the first time he'd been outdriven in a while. I think he shot 64 that day. I shot around 67. I don't know if he was looking over his shoulder after that, wondering when I might come along. [Laughs.]

I played the final round of the Phoenix Open with Arnold in 1962. He was ahead by a bunch. I think he won by a dozen shots. He put his arm around my shoulders as we walked to the 18th tee. He said, "You can birdie this hole and finish second. Just play it smart." Later that year we played together at Oakmont for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open and then again in the Sunday playoff. You've probably seen that picture of Arnold coming to me on the practice tee before the playoff. Arnold said, "Would you like to split the purse?" Because in those days you could split the purse and the playoff gate. [First prize was $17,500, and the runner-up got $10,500.] I thought about it for a second and said, "No thanks. We'll just play for it." But it was a nice gesture on his part. [Nicklaus won the playoff for his first tour victory and first of 18 majors.]

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