The Making of a Captain

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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:
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  • UBS Cup - TV Airtimes
  • UBS Cup - Full Coverage