Here Is Every Time the 'Big 3' (Nicklaus, Palmer, Player) Finished 1-2-3

Golf's "Big 3." There have been other big threes in golf history (even famous ones, such as the Great Triumvirate), but none is more famous or more accomplished than the Big 3: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.

Between them, they won 159 PGA Tour titles and 34 major championship titles. But how often did they finish first, second and third in the same golf tournament? That's the question we're going to answer here: How often did the Big 3 finish 1-2-3?

The List: The Big 3's 1-2-3 Finishes

It happened a grand total of ... three times. Surprising, isn't it, that it didn't happen more often? Nicklaus, Palmer and Player finished in the top three positions of a PGA Tour event only three times — once in 1963, once in 1964, and once in 1965. One of those tournaments was, however, a major championship.

Here's the rundown:

1963 Phoenix Open

The first time it happened was in the Phoenix Open, played at Arizona Country Club in Phoenix, with play wrapping up on Feb. 12, 1963. Arnold Palmer was the winner. They finished in this order:
  • Arnold Palmer, 68-67-68-70—273
  • Gary Player, 67-69-68-70—274
  • Jack Nicklaus, 67-70-67-71—275
Arnie finished his third round with an eagle on the 18th hole, which gave him a one-stroke lead going into the final round. Nicklaus wasn't really a major threat in the final round after shooting 38 on the front nine. But Palmer and Player battled throughout. Palmer parred the final hole, leaving Player needing to make a four-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. But — after enduring another golfer's 7-minute wait to see if his ball would fall into the cup — Player missed.

For the win, Palmer earned $5,300. Player took $3,400 for finishing second, and Nicklaus $2,200 for third place.

1964 Whitemarsh Open Invitational

The second time the Big 3 finished 1-2-3 on the PGA Tour was in this event, which today is probably bettered remembered under a later name as the IVB Philadelphia Golf Classic. It was played at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, and finished on July 5, 1964. This time Nicklaus got the win:
  • Jack Nicklaus, 69-70-70-67—276
  • Gary Player, 69-70-69-69—277
  • Arnold Palmer, 68-70-67-73—278
Palmer was the defending champion and led Nicklaus by four going into the final round, with Player three behind Palmer. But Nicklaus carded a 67 to Player's 69, while Palmer struggled to a 73 and fell to third. Arnie's chances took a turn when, leading at the time, he hit a ball out of bounds on the 12th hole.

This was one of the highest-paying tournaments in golf at the time, and Nicklaus' first-place check of $24,042 was his highest payday to date (as had been Palmer's $26,000 check the year before). Player earned $16,042 for finishing second and Palmer $10,042 for third.

1965 Masters Tournament

The third and final time the Big 3 took the first three spots in any PGA Tour event was also the biggest, the 1965 Masters, which concluded on April 4. And Nicklaus ran away with this tournament, finishing nine strokes ahead of the joint runners-up:
  • Jack Nicklaus, 67-71-64-69—271
  • Gary Player, 65-73-69-73—280
  • Arnold Palmer, 70-68-72-70—280
Player was the first-round leader with a 65, then Player, Palmer and Nicklaus were tied for the lead after 36 holes. It was all Jack from that point, however, starting with Nicklaus' third-round 64 (which tied the tournament's then-scoring record). That opened a five-stroke lead for Nicklaus, and he extended that lead with a final-round 69. His 271 lowered The Masters' 72-hole scoring record by three strokes.

Following the tournament, in which the 25-year-old Nicklaus appeared to overpower Augusta National (which led to "Jack-proofing" changes to the course in coming years), Bobby Jones famously said of the Bear, "He plays a game with which I am not familiar."

For the win, Nicklaus got $20,000. Player and Palmer each received $10,200.

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