04 December 2021: Tony Jacklin is an Englishman with a fond following on American soil. At 77, he is now an occasional golfer, but remains as sharp as ever with his insights on golf. Ironies and the British are bedmates, and it isn’t surprising that Jacklin had his fair share of irony. Even though he was the Open Champion in 1969 and the US Open Champion in 1970, Jacklin is more famous for splitting a point with Jack Nicklaus, with the Ryder Cup hanging by the thread in 1969. Jacklin recently released a book titled My Ryder Cup Journey.
An eagle on the 17th helped Jacklin even his match with Nicklaus. On the final hole, the Brit left himself a two footer to keep the contest even. Nicklaus conceded the putt to ensure the Ryder Cup was tied at Royal Birkdale. ‘The Concession’ has remained one of the most enduring memories in golf, underlining the gentlemanly nature of sport and the true spirit of the event.
“Very little, I have played, perhaps, fifteen times this year. It is so hot in the summer, I do not bother,” said Jacklin with a hearty chuckle when one caught up with him at his home in Florida.
A reflection on the Ryder Cup is in order, in a conversation with Jacklin.
“It was a very convincing victory for America,” he said, of the one sided contest in September. “It will be interesting to see how the Europeans respond in Rome. But all our players in their forties, so we need an injection of youth in there and the young guns to step up and deliver.”
“Tommy (Fleetwood) has been making some good progress over the past three years. But Matt Fitzpatrick hasn’t made a contribution in the last two Ryder Cups. These guys need to raise their game and deliver points for Europe to stand a chance. But it isn’t getting any easier – Fleetwood has lost his PGA TOUR card, so that makes it harder for him.
“I do not know who the next captain might be. It could be Lee Westwood or whoever it is has a problem on hand, with the current form of some of our players.”
Jacklin believes that the best is only possible, when you are pushed to the limits. With respect to golf that means playing week in week out on the PGA TOUR, in the eyes of the legendary golfer.
“When you are young and able, as Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick are, you have a window of opportunity. You need to be where the best players are, so that you can be pushed to produce your best,” said Jacklin as he rued some of the choices he made during his life. Jacklin was a star attraction during the infantile stages of the European Tour in the early 70s. Jacklin kept traveling back and forth during those times and he insists that all that travel took a toll on his game and his prospects.
Unlike regular stroke play golf, Jacklin believes that matchplay is a totally different kettle of fish to deal with.
“Matchplay is very different from the game we watch on a weekly basis. It is easier for the galleries to get involved. Unfortunately, the recent addition was a disappointment as it was one sided, as Europeans could not travel to the event. Needless to say, the visitors took a lot of abuse. But you need to learn to be thick skinned and get on with it.”
“There is promise. I have been watching some golf and find promise in Robert McIntyre, he is on the threshold. He needs to up his game a couple of notches to take it to the next level. I am also excited to see the two Dutch twins – Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard – who won back to back events on the European Tour.”
The Ryder Cup can take a back seat for a while though, as golf is facing some head winds. Jacklin can see that the new enterprises in golf could remain in the news for a while.
“It will be interesting to see how the main tours respond to the new developments – such as the propositions being made by Greg Norman and the like. I am waiting to see how the PGA TOUR react to these developments. I reckon this will stay in the news for a while. These are issues that are interesting. As it is the PGA TOUR has a monopoly, but it remains to be seen if that continues to be the order very long.”
“There are going to be lawyers all over this like a rash. It is going to be fascinating. If the new order precludes the top pros from playing the majors, then we could be witnessing the beginning of a new era. The only thing that is certain is a lot of court room drama.”
His parting thoughts were concerning the rules and conveniences of golf. “The technology in the game was meant to help the amateurs. It is unfortunate that the game has runaway from the R&A and the USGA. The pros are taking full advantage of technology, which diminishes our sport,” said a concerned Jacklin.
“If two sets of eyes – player and caddie – cannot read the green, they do not belong in the game. I am happy that they are deciding to do away with some of these guides, but there are grey areas. I am not really sure if they can implement some of the changes.”