The Making of a Captain

By George WhiteNovember 5, 2003, 5:00 pm
Arnold Palmer is the most successful team coach ever in pro golf annals, owning a record of 5-0. Tony Jacklin is idolized in Europe for taking that team to the top in Ryder Cup play. His record during the 80s was a very impressive two victories, one loss by a point, and a tie.
 
The two golf legends will oppose each other as captains in the UBS Cup (TGC, Nov. 21-23 at 8PM ET). Palmer has captained the U.S. in both previous UBS matches. This is Jacklins first opportunity to lead the Rest of the World team.
 
Palmers first experience as captain of a U.S. squad came in 1963, when he was the last playing captain in Ryder Cup history. He wasted no time sending himself out to play, but he and the inexperienced Johnny Pott were stunned with a loss. The Americans must have gotten the hint that they were in for a fight - with Palmer changing his lineups liberally, they rampaged to a 23-9 win, the second most-lopsided score in Ryder Cup history.
 
Playing for the Great Britain-Ireland side in the Ryder Cup of 1973 ' the next team that Palmer coached - was a 31-rear-old Englishman who had won the U.S. Open in 1970 - Tony Jacklin. Jacklin managed to win one match and tie two others, though Palmer once again led the Yanks to a 21-11 drubbing.
 
Arnie next led an American team in the 1996 Presidents Cup, during a week when he turned 67. Im not going to tell you my wish, he said at his birthday celebration. But if you cant guess it
 
Somebody must have guessed correctly, because Palmer and company rode a 30-foot putt by Fred Couples and Mark OMearas perfect 5-0 record to a narrow one-point victory.
 
Palmers win over rival captain Gary Player keyed the one-point American win in the 2001 UBS Warburg Cup. I think that we saw a competition here that was as tough as you could get, said Arnie. And we saw camaraderie on both teams. And thats just what we wanted to see.
 
Palmer again was the consummate gentleman ' and sportsman ' when his team won last years UBS Warburg Cup. He switched his pairings liberally, playing many different teams in winning by five points.
 
'Im trying to give the guys an opportunity to play with different people in the matches, he explained. I think thats part of the fun. But thats my thing. Ive been captain of a couple of Ryder Cup teams, and there wasnt nearly as much warmth as it now. That pleases me very much.
 
Jacklin, on the other hand, didnt have that luxury during his four terms as European Ryder Cup captain. When he agreed to take on the European squad in 1983, he inherited a team that had not won the Cup in 26 years. He took a hard-nosed approach, saying he would assume the captaincy only on one condition ' that the European team would be treated by European officials as had the Americans for years.
 
Too many times in the past, the Ryder Cup has been run, it seems, more for the officials than for the players, Jacklin said. Priorities had been in the wrong places.
 
With Jacklins side recently opened to players from throughout the continent, rather than just Great Britain and Ireland, he very nearly succeeded in 1983 pulling a huge upset in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The Americans narrowly escaped, 14 1/2 '13 . Only Lanny Wadkins sand wedge to 18 inches late in the matches and Tom Watsons gutsy final victory saved the day for the U.S.
 
In 1985, Jacklin provoked the wrath of Nick Faldo, Ken Brown, Jose Rivero and Sandy Lyle by sitting all four during the morning matches. But in the end, going with a brilliant strategy of packing his lineup with strength in the middle of the singles, his team defeated the Americans, 16 - 11 . For the first time in 28 years, Europe had won.
 
There was another lightning bolt waiting for the U.S. in 1987. Jack Nicklaus was the American captain, leading the team at his home course of Muirfield outside Columbus, Ohio.
 
Jacklin again warned three of his players ' Jose Rivero, Gordon Brand, Jr., and Eamonn Darcy ' that they might not play until the singles. And when television wanted an extra day of singles ' the format in which the Euros had been historically weak ' Jacklin refused. The result? Europe won in the U.S. for the first time ever, 15-13.
 
In 1989, back home now, Jacklin captained Europe for the final time. The two teams tied at 14 points each, but Europe kept the trophy since it had won the previous matches.
 
There is only one first time for anything, and captaining the first European Ryder Cup to win in America, especially after winning in 1985 for the first time in so long, was probably the greatest satisfaction Ive had in golf, he said.
 
Now, these two heroic captains ' Palmer and Jacklin ' meet for the first time, preparing their charges for the UBS Cup at Sea Island Golf Course.
 
When I was approached for this job, I have to admit that I leaped at the chance, Jacklin said. The first two UBS cups have been fantastic successes, apart from the results. With two U.S. wins so far, I am certainly hoping I can reverse the trend.
 
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • UBS Cup - TV Airtimes
  • UBS Cup - Full Coverage
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.