With it, the torch was passed from a player most consider the greatest in history to one who has begun to claim that title as his.
Woods, 24, joined Nicklaus as the youngest player to win three major championships. His astounding 15-stroke victory was the largest at the Open or at any of golf's three other Grand Slam events.
His 4-under-par final round gave Woods a four-round total of 12-under-272, breaking the Open record of 8 under shared by five players, including Nicklaus and the legendary Ben Hogan, and tying the best overall score in an Open, a record also shared by Nicklaus.
It was the 20th victory of Woods' career on the PGA Tour, which began in the fall of 1996.
It was also his fifth win of the season and the 12th in his past 21 events.
It was played out before an adoring crowd, some of whom bowed to Woods as he made his victory march up the 18th fairway.
"The other two majors were great wins," said Woods, alluding to his 12-shot victory at the Masters in 1997 and his one-shot win at last year's PGA Championship. "To win an Open and be our nation's champion, it's hard to describe."
Woods has been ranked No. 1 in the world for most of the past two years.
He finished as the only player under par, giving him great impetus, and incentive, going into next month's British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Woods will be trying to complete his first career Grand Slam.
Breaks previous U.S. Open mark for strokes under par
Ties record for lowest four-round total in U.S. Open
Sets record for victory margin in a major championship