#tbt: The Concession at the 1969 Ryder Cup
As the 2014 Ryder Cup approaches this weekend, we're going back in time 45 years to look at one of the most (in)famous Ryder Cups in history, which ended in a tie between Great Britain and the United States after an unusual move from Jack Nicklaus.
The entire tournament had been marred by instances of unsportsmanlike behavior and cantankerous attitudes on the part of both teams. On the second day, it looked like players were going to start throwing punches, so captains Eric Brown and Sam Snead had to intervene. You know things are bad when the guy who breaks up your fight has been described as "a crude, sullen, cantankerous old buzzard [who is] as capable of leadership as Ebenezer Scrooge."
Tensions could have reached a breaking point during the final match between American Jack Nicklaus and Brit Tony Jacklin. After days spent jockeying for position, the tournament had continually returned to a tie. On the final hole, Nicklaus and Jacklin were struggling for something, anything, to help them pull ahead. Both men made it to the green in two shots. Nicklaus' eagle putt was five feet past the hole; Jacklin's was two feet short. Nicklaus sunk his putt for birdie, and then picked up Jacklin's ballmarker and conceded the two-foot putt. After three days of tension, acrimony, and near-violence, Nicklaus forced the match, and the tournament, to end in a draw.
After the match, Nicklaus told Jacklin, "I don't think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity." It was a pretty cool move on Nicklaus' part, even if Ebenezer... er... Sam Snead didn't appreciate it at the time. Said Snead, "When it happened, all the boys thought it was ridiculous to give him that putt. We went over there to win, not to be good ol’ boys."
No matter what Snead thought, The Concession remains one of the suavest instances of good sportsmanship in golf history, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Jacklin and Nicklaus.