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May 07, 2012
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May 07, 2012

Taking The 5th

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Nineteen aught four. That's when the Australian and Canadian Opens were first played—12 years before the first PGA Championship and 30 before the Masters. Jack Nicklaus routinely called the Aussie Open the fifth major on his many trips Down Under. But he said in his 1969 autobiography, The Greatest Game of All: My Life in Golf, with Herbert Warren Wind: "In conversations with friends I referred to the Australian Open as a major championship, but they knew and I knew I was kidding myself. Being the national championship of a golf-minded country, the Australian Open was a most estimable tournament to be won but simply wasn't a major championship except in the eyes of Australians. Of course, the men who won it prized it highly."

• As for the Canadian Open, Lee Trevino, who sandwiched his win in 1971 between U.S. and British Open victories, a feat christened the Triple Crown: "The Canadian Open is one of the world's oldest championships, and I rate it among the top four in the world."

• Nicklaus played in the Canadian every year from 1974 through '89, 27 times overall, although he never won. After he built Glen Abbey outside Toronto, the club became the tournament's permanent home in '77, yet the championship morphed into just another PGA Tour stop. When the FedEx Cup was launched in 2007, the Canadian Open suffered the indignity of being scheduled the week after the British Open. Dave Perkins in the Toronto Star: "Now, virtually every reference to [title sponsor] RBC rebuilding the tournament carries a line like 'attempting to restore the Open to its former glory when it was widely considered the fifth major.' I think it's one of those self-fulfilling media prophecies. We keep repeating it as if it were true, therefore it must have been true."


In 1976, when Nicklaus founded the Memorial Tournament near his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, everyone assumed the Memorial would be his version of the Masters, although Jack never said he intended his tournament to someday become a major. Others said it for him.

The Columbus Dispatch in '81: "When he was asked the oft-asked question, What do you think about the Memorial's chances of one day being a major, Mark Hayes flatly predicted, 'One day I think it will be bigger than Augusta.'"

• Three years later the Dispatch quoted '80 Memorial champ David Graham: "Nicklaus is a legend who has surpassed Bobby Jones and probably everyone else. One of these years he's going to retire. The only place players and fans will be able to see Jack will be Muirfield Village during the Memorial. Shades of Augusta National. You think that won't make the Memorial a major?"


The Memorial might have made it if it hadn't been run over by the Players, which debuted in 1974. The event didn't really take off until 1982, when it was first played on the Stadium course. The instant Jerry Pate won the inaugural, pushed Tour commissioner Deane Beman and course designer Pete Dye into the water next to the 18th green and dived in after them, the Memorial fell to second in the fifth major standings.

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