Greatest Showdown: 1962 US Open
Nicklaus' greatest on-the-course rival was Lee Trevino. And the runner-up would probably be Tom Watson, not Arnold Palmer.
But factoring in image, popularity and importance to the game as well, Nicklaus' only peer was Arnie.
Palmer won less than half (seven) as many majors as Nicklaus, had far fewer trophies and was really only “great” for a span of about 10 years.
Still, Palmer is the most beloved and important figure in the game’s history—his charm, personality and dramatic style of play won over fans that Nicklaus would never take back, no matter how many tournaments he won.
Nicklaus may have been the greatest player of the 20th century, but golf became a mainstream sport because of Palmer, so their rivalry will continue on long after their retirement.
Don’t forget, however, that the two men had a handful of epic showdowns in final round of major championships.
The 1962 Father's Day US Open playoff at Oakmont is the most memorable. But Palmer’s win at Cherry Hills in 1960 came with Nicklaus nipping at his heels.
Seven years later in the US Open at Baltusrol, both men were tied at the top heading into the final Sunday and were paired together in the final round.
Only an incredible 65 that day allowed Nicklaus to best King Arnie for his second US Open in five years.