Chasing Jack - can Woods emulate Nicklaus heroics?
Twenty-five years ago, Jack Nicklaus stormed to his 18th and final major title and sixth Masters victory at Augusta at the ripe old age of 46. Nobody thought it could be done.
Nobody had reckoned on Nicklaus's genius and the competitive fire still smouldering inside.
The feat holds mythical status to a certain generation, but what makes it far more than a trip down memory lane this year is the link with the travails of a certain Tiger Woods.
The former world number one was rocketing towards Nicklaus's record tally of major titles until his off-course scandal. Now, he is struggling for results after embarking on swing changes with new coach Sean Foley. He remains marooned on 14 majors and without a victory since Novermber 2009, when he quit the game for five months.
Now divorced, Woods has reached a crossroads in his quest to beat Nicklaus. If he can get to grips with the new swing, he can get back on track, and many are tipping him to be a contender for a fifth Green Jacket this week despite his modest form. His fourth place last year, after a spell out of the game, speaks volumes.
If, however, the tinkering takes him down a confidence-sapping cul-de-sac we may have seen his best years.
"When I first started I didn't think I would be at 14 majors by now," said Woods, who won his last major in 2008, aged 33.
"I'm very happy to be where I am but I certainly want a lot more. It took Jack a very long time - 20-plus years - to get to this point. It takes a career to be able to accomplish what he has."
Nicklaus won his 14th major at the age of 35 and admits he was not really expecting to
add to his haul after a six-year gap following his last major triumph in 1980.
"I was basically over the hill," he said. "I really didn't ever work at my golf game after that and all of a sudden I started playing better and all of a sudden I had a chance to win.
"It was neat. I guess no-one expected me to be in contention at that stage of my career. I didn't even know why I was playing golf then."
At the start of Masters week in 1986 a newspaper article had labelled Nicklaus "washed up". His wife had posted the piece on the door of the fridge, and Nicklaus admits he gave him extra motivation. He thought: Washed up, huh?
Impressively, the old boy was tied ninth going into the final day, four shots off Greg Norman's lead, and playing with Scotland's Sandy Lyle, who I spoke to on Monday at Augusta.
"We weren't really the main contenders; we were probably 30-40 minutes in front of the leaders and after nine holes not much was going on," said Lyle.
That was about to change.
Nicklaus, the committed family man who had his son Jackie as his caddie that week, was two under for the day and then birdied the 10th and 11th, bogeyed the 12th and made another birdie on the par-five 13th.
"Jackie had been around and played on Tour and turned to his dad on 13 and said, 'This is getting too much for my young heart'," recounted Lyle.
"Jack said to me, 'Hear what he just said? What about my old heart?' So there was a bit of humour around and maybe that's what helped. He felt comfortable on the course."
Continuing his charge, Nicklaus hit his second shot across the water to 25ft on the par-five 15th and made the putt for an eagle.
"That's when I began to think something was really occurring," said Lyle.
"The eagle lit a fuse and got the crowd going unbelievably and they never stopped from there to the 18th.
"I was one or two under myself but I was just enjoying the moment. The noise was quadrophonic, coming from above, from the side - I think even God was laughing.
"It makes your hair stand on end. I can almost feel it now thinking about it.
"It was wonderful to be part of it. I knew it was going to be part of history, though I still didn't know who was going to win."
Nicklaus said: "The ovation was unbelievable. I kept getting tears in my ears but I was saying, 'Hey let's hold that back, you've got some golf to play."
The man dubbed the "Golden Bear" then hit a stunning tee shot on the short 16th, almost holing a five iron to make another birdie.
He followed that with a birdie on the 17th, holing an 18ft putt which he stalked as it neared the hole and raised his left hand and putter in salute as it dropped.
Nicklaus made par on the 18th for a round of 65 and had to wait in the clubhouse to learn his fate.
The American eventually won by one from Tom Kite and Greg Norman. Seve Ballesteros was one further back but his challenge sank when he found the water on 15 after being distracted by the roars coming from Nicklaus's heroics up ahead on 16.
"We knew he'd done something special and it was a great privilege to watch it unfolding," said Lyle.
"It's been a wonderful thing to talk about. I was at Mission Hills in China a few weeks ago and they've got a lot of memorabilia there. They've got the scorecard of Nicklaus's last round and there's my signature on it, so it's quite something to be a part of."
Nicklaus said: "Every place I go, people turn to me and say they remember exactly where I was during the '86 Masters - where I watched it, either I was at a friend's house or restaurant or airport or whatever. I didn't hear that for any other golf tournament but I did at the 1986 Masters."
BBC golf commentator Ken Brown, who played in the 1988 Masters, the year Lyle won, said Nicklaus's victory was almost pre-ordained.
"As a watcher you thought he'd already done everything. He had his son caddying and you thought he was just there for a wander around," Brown told me.
"He had a decent third round to come through the field but it felt impossible because he was so far behind, even until Seve hit it in the water on 15 and he holed across the green on 17.
"You thought then that this is the greatest golfer. It was a miraculous week. Augusta loved it, the world loved it. The odds were against him but that's why he's Jack.
"It was almost like his destiny - 'This is it, Jack, it's your last go'.
So does Brown think Woods can beat Nicklaus's record?
"Five more to win, that's a lot of majors," said Brown. "His technique has put more wear and tear on his body than Nicklaus's did. And mentally, Nicklaus took it in his stride whereas Woods seems to be having more of a battle with himself.
"At one stage I would almost have guaranteed that he would do it but now the odds must be about 50-50. But these super players can find something at times from absolutely nowhere. They have tremendous armoury and self belief.
"Technically, he's not miles away but making alterations is never easy. You're bound to have a fallow spell finding the feel and confidence.
"But we are comparing him to 2000, which will never happen again. No-one will play with that amount of power and accuracy to win majors and Grand Slams and lap fields.
"That happens once in 100 years. And it gets harder as you get older.
"It will be an intriguing story to see how he handles it, but he's like Nicklaus. There are a few surprises left for Tiger Woods. He's got a big heart. Never count him out."
A Woods charge would certainly reignite that "quadrophonic" thunder at Augusta.