Last Summer whenthe touring pros made their trek slowly across the breadth of the continent,for the first time in a good many years the caravan's hot weather roster wasaugmented by Sam Snead. The man in the coconut straw hat, as everyone knows,needs prize money about as badly as Bing Crosby needs a shot at the $64,000question. An entirely different motive—and a very refreshing one in this dayand age—had drawn Sam away from the comfortable indolence of his home in WhiteSulphur Springs.
Selection to ourRyder Cup team is almost strictly a matter of arithmetic. (The almost isincluded to cover the PGA's arrant exclusion of Bob Toski from the team on amost untenable technicality: his failure to fill out and mail in a piece ofpaper work by a certain date.) In any event, as a matter of general procedure,the 10 American pros selected for the biennial matches against Britain's bestare the 10 who over the past two years have accumulated the highest number ofpoints in PGA-coordinated competitions. Because he is affluent enough not tohave to trudge the circuit endlessly, Snead did not rank among the top 10 as oflast July. Thereupon he took to the road, but it was not until early Septemberwhen he won the Insurance City Open, the last tournament that counted, that heupped his total sufficiently to insure himself a place on the team.
This pastweekend, when the United States defeated Great Britain 8 to 4 in the 10th RyderCup match at the Thunderbird Country Club in Palm Springs, Sam equaled GeneSarazen's record of having played in six of these flavorful internationalaffairs. Moreover, by winning his singles and his foursome, Sam gained thedistinction of having accounted for nine winning points, the highest total anyindividual has amassed in the Ryder series.
November 14, 1955
Like the WalkerCup, its equivalent for the amateurs, the Ryder is a two-day affair. On thefirst day there are four foursomes, that type of match in which two partnersplay alternate strokes and drive from alternate tees. Each is worth a point. Onthe second day, there are eight singles, each worth a point. As the teamswarmed up over the extremely flat fairways at Thunder-bird, memorizing thedistances which can be most deceiving when there are so few hillocks and swalespunctuating the course's 6,843 playing yards, there was the usual speculationas to whether or not the Americans would simply waltz off with their seventhconsecutive victory or whether this team of low-pressure, soft-spoken, andunglittering British pros might make a real match of it, something visitingBritish teams have been historically unable to do. In 1947 at Portland, Oregonand in 1951 at Pinehurst, for instance, the British managed to collect a grandtotal of 3½ points out of a possible 24.
Not until theSaturday morning, though, when the foursomes got underway did the air bristlewith the impending excitement of a major international clash. If you know PalmSprings, you can understand this with no elaboration. Few things can bristlethe air in this man-made oasis beneath the jagged San Jacinto mountains, whichis precisely why the spot has become the favored sandlot of such hard-pressedpublic utilities as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, to mention the two most prominentof the Hollywood names who have homes there. It is hard to get het up aboutyour usual concerns in Palm Springs. Smoke trees and palms and hotels builtaround swimming pools dominate the desert-scape. Around the pools you usuallyfind one or two specimens of that distracting migratory fauna which becomeslocal to such a region—the platinum-haired dear. Under these conditions, ittakes discipline to keep your concentration on your golf, a lot more than whenthe Ryder is played, say, at Ganton or Wentworth.
After the firstday's play, it was practically assured that the United States would retain thecup. The home forces won three of the four matches, making it necessary for theBritish to take five of the eight singles—a very thin likelihood—to gain even atie. The foursomes, however, were decidedly closer than the cold figures mightindicate, for Dai Rees, the doughty little Welshman who captained the British,did a bang-up job of bringing his men up to the starting line, genuinelybelieving that, if a few putts fell from them, they might fool Henry Cotton andeveryone else who had given them up for lost months ago. They played with greatresolution. There were no runaways this time.
THE DEUCE THATDID IT
For example, inthe second foursome, where Doug Ford and Ted Kroll scored the most decisivevictory of the day by defeating Syd Scott and Eric Brown 5 and 4, the outcomeremained pretty much in doubt until the short 26th where Ford rapped in a30-footer for a deuce that put his side 2 up.
The two captains,Rees and Chick Harbert, followed the identical strategy of placing theirstrongest players at the bottom of the batting lineup, so, as things workedout, the fourth foursome was the glamour match, Snead and Middlecoff versusRees and Harry Bradshaw, a calm, portly Irishman who looks like the man whocomes to read your gas meter and who plays his shots so quickly andnonchalantly that the ball is on its way to the pin while you are still waitingfor Bradshaw's practice swing. After a rocky start that saw them lose the firstthree holes, Bradshaw and Rees roared back into business by taking the 11th,12th and 13th with a string of three birdies and were all square at lunch. Bythe 23rd, Snead and Middlecoff were 2 up again but it was very much a matchuntil Snead holed a downhill 8-footer for a birdie on the 31st to set up theAmericans' eventual 3-and-2 victory.
The two remainingfoursomes—John Fallon and John Jacobs versus Chandler Harper and Jerry Barber,Arthur Lees and Harry Weetman versus Jack Burke and Tommy Bolt—wereterrifically exciting matches. Two down at lunch, Fallon, a scholarly42-year-old Scot, and Jacobs, who looks enough like Middlecoff to be hisbrother, won three holes back on the first nine in the afternoon and came tothe 36th still harboring that slim one-hole lead after halving the 35th inbirdies. On the home hole, a 450-yarder to one of the course's rare plateauedgreens, Barber and Fallon, playing the approach shots, were both too strong andboth balls finished well beyond and below the raised bank at the back of thegreen. Trying to drop the ball just over the bank. Harper didn't give the ballquite enough and it expired on the back apron 25 feet short. Jacobs played apretty shot five feet from the hole.
At this point itlooked all over for the American duo but in the next moment the situationchanged entirely. Jerry Barber, who had previously holed two chip shots,proceeded to hole his third. Now the pressure was on Fallon, and that shortfive-footer had suddenly grown a lot longer and curlier. He stroked it into thecenter of the cup. G.B.—1 up. Half an hour after this, Lees and Weetman came tothe 36th standing 1 down to Burke and Bolt, still alive, thanks to two sizableclutch putts the burly Weetman had sunk for last-breath halves on the 30th and32nd. Two superb irons to the green here, Bolt firing a seven-iron seven feetbelow the pin, Lees following with a peach that finished about 11 feet away onthe left. Weetman, however, was faced with an exceedingly difficult putt, adownhiller with a sharp left-to-right break. He and Lees studied it for perhapstwo minutes. Weetman got set to putt, walked away, restudied the line, got setagain, and holed the critter. Up to Burke now—a straight seven-footer slightlyuphill. With little hesitation, Jack stepped up to the ball and knocked it in.United States—1 up.
It proved to be afairly important putt, Burke's seven-footer that saved a critical half point,for in the singles the British played their hearts out and some mightyaggressive golf in the bargain. The outstanding contribution, of course, wasJacobs' 10-birdie 1-up conquest of Middlecoff (who was 67, 68 himself), butBradshaw sauntered home in the morning against Burke with six consecutive 3s,Rees birdied four of the first five holes in the afternoon to cut Snead from 5up back to 1, and every match, for that matter, was not beyond winning. In theend the British won only three of the eight singles, but they achieved indefeat the finest performance by far a British Ryder team has ever made in thiscountry.