At some point after he won the 1986 Masters, Jack Nicklaus lost two major championships. He’s just not sure when.
Tiger Woods has been chasing Nicklaus and his 18 professional majors. Nicklaus was chasing Bobby Jones, only the score was kept differently in his era. Jones was credited with 13 majors – four U.S. Opens, three British Opens, five U.S. Amateurs and one British Amateur.
Along with his 18 professional majors, Nicklaus won the U.S. Amateur twice for a total of 20.
“I was probably at 17 or 18 majors, including the Amateurs, and all of a sudden I had 15 or 16,” Nicklaus said at the 2013 Masters. “What happened here? All of a sudden it became professional’ majors.”
The U.S. Amateur was considered a major when Nicklaus played because “it related back to Jones.”
“When I passed Jones’ record, it was with the amateurs,” Nicklaus said, referring to the 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury.
That still was a record-setting major in 1973, for even without the two U.S. Amateur titles, Nicklaus had 12 professional majors, which at the time was one more than Walter Hagen had won.
Nicklaus recalls Browning making a commemorate 20-gauge shotgun after he won the ’86 Masters for the last of his majors, playing off 20-gauge and 20 majors. His best guess is that the U.S. Amateur was no longer considered a major when Woods won it a record three straight times from 1994 to 1996.
“Because they didn’t really count Tiger’s as majors,” Nicklaus said. “Rather than counting Tiger’s as majors, they didn’t do that, and they sort of took mine away.”