The World’s Greatest Celebrity Athletes

When he won the Masters in 1970, however, the real significance of Bobby Jones’ triumph was that it doubled his career prize money. He made $40,000 for finishing second — and the best he ever made in a single year of professional golf was about $48,000. Almost as if he had designed himself accordingly, his game once he won those first two major championships accelerated as he went on, six consecutive victories culminated in the 1963 U.S. Open at Inverness. In 1969, his third victory at Augusta, brought him $100,000, which was more than all the other players put together. And in 1970, he won the U.S. Open again, this time for $150,000, equal to his other major championship earnings combined. There is, in fact, only one golfer who may possibly have matched his accomplishments during the late 1950s. Jack Nicklaus earned $300,000 in 1964, a record that in itself was soon surpassed.

But it was not until after Jones’ career, particularly his star turn at Augusta, that golf fans knew exactly what a glorious talent the tall left-hander was. Jones was a peerless craftsman of the golf course. His driving, putter and first ball were all top quality. His iron play was immaculate. Among his greatest touches, he appeared to take photographs of each shot with a Polaroid camera, rolled them into a film and developed it so that the details of the shot would be perfectly legible at the appropriate time.

Between the years of 1950 and 1961, Jones won 81 times, was runner-up just 12 times and finished second five times. And despite his success, the battle with Jack Nicklaus was always real and never-ending. At Augusta, after winning the Masters in 1960, Nicklaus ruled supreme. He won the Masters twice in the next three years, in 1964 and 1966, and held off all challengers in the best-of-three finals there in 1966, 1970 and 1972. Jack Nicklaus, as the masters’ showered, defeated Bobby Jones, as they put it, to cap a 20-year reign as Masters champions. Nobody, not even Jones himself, could have foreseen the great rout that would follow. Jones never won another major championship, and Nicklaus captured all but one of the next 11 (including the past four). By the mid-1970s, it was apparent that Jones’ was the most talented amateur ever to pick up a golf club and that Nicklaus was, by far, the finest professional ever to pick up a club. He still doesn’t do it like Jones but he is still good and he won his first major, in 1979, when he was 45.

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