sport news RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Don't talk to me about purity! The beauty of the Ryder Cup ... trends now
A Ryder Cup legend was chatting the other evening about myths. Captivating guy, Tony Jacklin. You could listen to him for hours and it’s quite possible he would oblige. He is also one of the greats from these parts - he won a couple of majors in his day, claimed 27 other titles from Columbia to New Zealand, and yet a sizeable chunk of his fame is derived from a shot he never even took.
Jack Nicklaus’s concession of a short putt in 1969 might just be the most iconic cup moment of all, and because the cup is the cup, it is a defining feature of Jacklin’s legacy, too. But it’s an episode that has leant itself to one of the myths we are discussing. ‘There’s a thing that gets me mad about it,’ he told me on Wednesday.
‘Every year when the Ryder Cup comes around it gets brought up, which is absolutely fine, because it was fantastic sportsmanship from Jack and critical, as it allowed us to tie the match. But everyone says the putt I had was a three-footer. I hear that all the time. You can go to YouTube and look at it – it was 20 inches long. It was a tap-in and I was at the top of my game!’
He likes to laugh about it, just as he likes to laugh in his telling of a tale that runs counter to another myth: that the Ryder Cup stands above such squalid concepts as greed and power grabs and questionable behaviours. That’s a topical subject in golf, of course. But Jacklin has a vivid memory of an earlier hoo-ha, which is to say the match of 1987, the third of four in his long period as European captain. It would involve an extraordinary row.
‘People were seeing dollar signs everywhere,’ he says. ‘We had won for the first time in 26 years in 1985 so people knew the cup was about to grow into this bigger earner now that it was competitive. The president of the (British) PGA was Lord Darby, the Queen’s cousin, and he had a position of strength because the cup had historically been deeded to them. He was suddenly asking for a 50-50 split of future proceeds (with the European Tour). Ridiculous.
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Tony Jacklin captained Europe to their first Ryder Cup victory in 26 years back in 1985
David Duval, right, vocalised the threat of US players boycotting the Ryder Cup back in 1999
‘I had carte blanch during that time as captain, so I told him he must be kidding. I was on the side of the players (and therefore the European Tour) because they are the gladiators out on the course, so I offered 60-40, which I thought was generous. It obviously got resolved in the end but it got to a point where the PGA were considering sending a team of unknown club pros to represent Europe instead of people like Nick Faldo, Seve (Ballesteros) and Bernhard Langer.
‘I think that whole thing cost me a knighthood, you know.’
It’s a cracking story, and one he detailed further in his Ryder Cup memoirs a couple of years back. He loves the cup, like they all do, but as with any sport there are layers that get hidden under the syrupy branding. Same would be said of 1999, when David Duval vocalised the threat of US players to boycott the cup over a dispute about the destination of profits.
They are footnotes in the grand scheme of a great event, but they also push back a little against what we will hear in the coming week about the cup.
Purity already seems to be a pre-Rome buzz word and, fair enough, it’s a catchy one. It points to those individuals coming together and playing for a mountain of pride, not cash, when so much of this cup cycle was dominated by separation and loathing and greed and LIV. Luke Donald spoke about that purity in an interview with Mail Sport last year, when he described an institution that sits above the recent chaos. It’s a nice thought from a good