Home Artifacts The stories (and artifacts) that made Jack Nicklaus’ Ryder Cup history

The stories (and artifacts) that made Jack Nicklaus’ Ryder Cup history


One of the greatest moments in Cup history: Jack concedes Tony Jacklin’s putt in 69.

PA Images via Getty Images

Remarkably, the 1969 Ryder Cup matches at Birkdale were the first for Jack Nicklaus (then seven-time major winner) due to a PGA of America rule that required a five-year ‘apprenticeship’ before points could be earned. for the Ryder Cup. After a seven-year wait, US captain Sam Snead initially decided not to play the Golden Bear in the day one quartets (“I’m going to keep my big boys in reserve,” Snead said) – but called on Nicklaus and Dan Sikes. for an afternoon point where the United States was trailing by three after the morning games.

In the format at the time, Nicklaus faced Tony Jacklin twice in singles on the final day. Jacklin won 4 and 3 in the morning, and Nicklaus conceded what would have been a nerve-wracking three-footer to halve their afternoon game and 69 games overall. “La Concession” immediately became the stuff of legend and the gold standard for Cup sportsmanship and beyond.

Below, check out the best moments of Nicklaus’ illustriu Ryder Cup career, in his words and those of his teammates and competitors.

United States 16; FR 16

Royal Birkdale GC – Southport, England

“I thought about what Tony Jacklin meant to British golf as the new Open champion, and how if he missed that putt he would be criticized forever. It crossed my mind quickly, and I decided I wouldn’t give him a chance to miss. I picked up his marker, we shook hands and left. —Jack Nicklaus

United States 18 1/2; FR 13 1/2

Old Warson CC – St. Louis, Missouri

In his second Ryder Cup, Nicklaus went 5-1 in six games and Arnold Palmer went 4-1-1 in his five games to lead the United States to an easy victory. The bag job for Nicklaus was a high school freshman named Mike Smith, who like all the other caddies that week belonged to a local club and received his assignment based on names pulled from a hat . On the second day of Fourball Afternoon, Jack and Arnie were teamed up with the Ryder Cup for the first time, and they beat Peter Townsend (not The Who guitarist) and Harry Bannerman 1-up when Nicklaus canned a 15 to 18 footer in the growing darkness. The game was a test for the two American legends – Bannerman and Townsend birdied six of the first seven holes.

“In a 1971 Ryder Cup practice, Nicklaus hit a 3-wood for his second shot in a bunker over the green of Old Warson’s 620-yard par-5 16th hole. He dropped another bullet and shot a 1 iron hole 10 feet high. Doing some quick calculations after the round for a reporter, Jack made the first trip 360 yards. —Mike Smith, Nicklaus’ junior at the 1971 Ryder Cup.

While Nicklaus and Dave Stockton – and their pants – lost their match in ’71 (left), Jack and Arnie claimed a victory in their very first Ryder Cup combination (right).

Getty Images / Bettmann Archives

United States 19; GBI 13

Muirfield – Muirfield, Scotland

For the second Ryder Cup in a row, Nicklaus was the leading scorer of a winning American team, with 4½ points over the three days. The format was changed in 1973 so that each of the first two days had four-ball and four-ball matches, rather than foursomes on the first day and four-ball on the second. Nicklaus was paired twice with Palmer on day one. They won hands down (6 and 5) in the morning alternative shot but lost to Maurice Bembridge and the indomitable Welshman Brian Huggett in Better-ball. This match marked the end of Nicklaus / Palmer in the Ryder Cups — ’73 was Palmer’s last year on the United States team as a player. “We just got our ears pinned,” Nicklaus said after the game. “Jack [Burke, U.S. captain] wanted to get two safe points by putting Arnold and me in both games, but it just didn’t work out that way. Neither of us got any birdies in the afternoon game. The next day, Burke paired Nicklaus with Tom Weiskopf in both formats. The new team took home two points, helping the United States to level up at the end of the day. –Quotes from The constitution of Atlanta, September 21, 1973; Associated press

To the winners go, well, the trinkets.

Jack Nicklaus Museum

United States 21; GBI 11

Laurel Valley – Ligonier, Pennsylvania

In a blowout that raised serious questions about the Cup’s future viability, Nicklaus lost two singles matches to Brian Barnes. “This morning I felt so sorry for him,” said Barbara Nicklaus. “But this afternoon I was angry with him. He wouldn’t listen to me when I told him at lunch what he was doing wrong. – John Husar, Chicago Tribune Press Service, September 22, 1975

United States 12 1/2; GBI 7 1/2

Royal Lytham and St. Annes GC – Lytham St. Annes, England

After the American defeat in 1975, Palmer had suggested that the Great Britain and Ireland squad could perhaps expand to include any nation in the British Commonwealth, thus making the matches more competitive. The idea didn’t gain much traction, but the idea didn’t go away either. At the 1977 Ryder Cup, Nicklaus hosted a meeting between the Presidents of the US and UK PGAs. “I don’t know if I played such a big role,” Nicklaus told the Tour years later. “I took [PGA of America’s] Henry Poe to meet [British PGA’s] Lord Derby and said to Lord Derby: “We have a great game, but now we are The European Tour and we should include Europe.” It created an event that grew enormously, and I’m proud to be a part of it. Whatever Nicklaus’ role, this meeting helped change the Ryder Cup forever.

A few months after their “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry, Nicklaus and Tom Watson teamed up with Lytham to spank Tommy Horton and Mark James 5 and 4 in alternative fire.

Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images

nineteen eighty one
United States 18 1/2; Europe 9 1/2

Walton Heath GC – Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, England

After going 17-8-3 as a player, captain Jack (and his family) guided the 83-team to a tense one-point victory over Europe, which was won by a birdie from Lanny Wadkins in the final. final match hole. Nicklaus had been pushing for a better fight, and the Europeans, led by Jacklin as captain and Seve Ballesteros as soul, made it.

The patriotic shoes from Jack’s last Ryder Cup as a player.

Jack Nicklaus Museum

United States 14 1/2; Europe 13 1/2

PGA National GC – Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

In his swansong as a Cup player, Nicklaus won all four of his games after failing to qualify for the team in 1979. Watson and Nicklaus were paired three times by US captain Dave Marr and claimed three wins. . On the last day, in his last game as a player, the Bear beat Eamonn Darcy 5 and 3. The USA team were perhaps the most talented ever – 11 of the 12 players were or eventually became major champions. Golf history is full of forebodings, and one of the heroes of the day in 1987, when Europe first won on American soil, was Darcy himself, who beat Ben Crenshaw in the last hole of their singles match (which saw Crenshaw putt for the last 12 holes with an iron after breaking his putter in frustration). Nicklaus was captain of this American team.

Europe 15; United States 13

Muirfield Village GC – Dublin, Ohio

Nicklaus and his team watch the cup won by the Euros.

The Associated Press

“Our guys played hard,” he said, “but it was more than they could handle. They weren’t as tough as the Europeans on the home stretch. –Reid Hanley, Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1987

Golf review

Subscribe to the magazine


generic profile picture