Thursday September 25th, 2014

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.

Golfing rivals Tony Jacklin (left) of Britain and Jack Nicklaus of the USA marking their balls after they had played their shot within inches of each other during the Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale, Lancashire
Dennis Oulds / Getty

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."

Great Britain's Tony Jacklin in action at the 1969 Ryder Cup
Bob Thomas / Getty

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.

1969 Ryder Cup, Birkdale, Lancashire, America 16 v Great Britain and Ireland 16, Great Britain's Tony Jacklin shakes hands with USA's Jack Nicklaus

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."

1969 Ryder Cup at Birkdale, US Captain Sam Snead pictured holding the trophy with Britain's Eric Brown after American and British teams tied.

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.

Former Team Europe captain Tony Jacklin with former USA captain Jack Nicklaus during Opening Ceremony on Thursday at Valhalla GC. Louisville, KY 9/18/2008
Fred Vuich

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