PGA of America

1969 United States Ryder Cup team

Building a World Class Team: 1969

Team USA Ryder Cup Update, August 25, 2014:

Mark Aumann,

United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson's list of possible captain's picks grew a bit shorter when Tiger Woods formally withdrew his name from consideration.

Woods admitted his injuries will keep him from playing competitive golf, at least until the end of the year. So that ends Tiger's Ryder Cup tale, at least for 2014.

BUILDING A WORLD CLASS TEAM: 2008 Team USA | 1985 Europeans | 1991 Team USA | 1993 Team USA 1963 Team USA | 1935 Team USA | 1987 Europeans | Full series

Injuries have also put an end to vice-captain Steve Stricker's hopes of making the team as a player. A hip injury has forced him to be sidelined until December at the earliest, but he will be at Gleneagles.

And Jason Dufner's situation is still tenuous at best. His neck injury caused him to withdraw from the PGA Championship, and there's no guarantee he'll be healthy by the time Watson needs to choose the final three spots on Sept. 2.

So where does Watson go from here? He spelled it out in his latest blog:

"I've laid down the gauntlet for those who want to be on the team: Play well and I'll give you a look. Don't play well and I won't."

Hunter Mahan may get a very good look from Watson after winning The Barclays and moving into the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings. Mahan's motivation may stem from the fact that he finished ninth in 2012 Ryder Cup standings but wasn't chosen as one of captain Davis Love's four picks that year.

Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson tied for fifth at the Wyndham Championship, but missed the cut at The Barclays. What they do for the rest of the season may sway Watson one way or the other.

Brendon Todd, Harris English and Ryan Moore -- all sitting in or just outside of the top 25 in FedExCup points heading into the Deutsche Bank -- can go a long ways toward securing a captain's pick with a strong finish to the season.

So who will the final three be? We may not know until Watson steps up to the microphone in New York on Sept. 2.

But that's part of the Ryder Cup mystique, much like the way the final hole of the 1969 Ryder Cup played out at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, when Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin set the stage for one of the most remarkable finishes in Ryder Cup history.

1969 - The Draw Nobody Saw Coming

Bob Denney, PGA of America

The United States had won 14 of the 17 Ryder Cups coming into the 1969 Matches at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Lancashire, England. In an all-out effort to reverse that trend, fiery Eric Brown was appointed Captain of the Great Britain & Ireland Team.

Among Brown’s directives was that no GB&I Team member would follow a USA Team member into searching for a lost ball. His reasoning: To prevent his players from accidentally treading on a “lost” ball and forfeit a hole. It caused a stir, and Brown’s edict was rescinded before the Ryder Cup began.

Building a World Class Team

Contentiousness didn’t subside, and reached a percolating point with Americans Ken Still and Dave Hill in the thicket. In a Thursday morning foursome match, Still stood too close to Great Britain’s Maurice Bembridge asked him to move further away and Still moved caddies and officials in dramatic fashion.

In a Friday four-ball against Great Britain’s Brian Huggett and Bernard Gallacher, Hill and Still became embroiled in a Rules disagreement. The ill will carried over to the eighth fairway, with opposing players shouting at each other. PGA officials calmed things to prevent a fight.

During the three days, 17 of the 32 matches were not decided until the 18th hole. Five more finished on 17. It was the first Ryder Cup to have 12-member teams and 15 of the 24 players on the two teams were rookies – including 10 of 12 on the U.S. Team. It was the first Ryder Cup for future Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd and Lee Trevino.

The Ryder Cup began at that time on a Thursday. The Matches were deadlocked, 8-8 by Friday evening after four completed sessions. A grueling two sets of Saturday singles loomed.

With Great Britain & Ireland starting fast on Saturday morning for a 5-3 session lead, the Ryder Cup hopes for the U.S. appeared in doubt. Nicklaus lost his morning match to England’s Tony Jacklin, 4 and 3.

In the afternoon singles, Nicklaus drew first blood with a birdie at the fourth, before Jacklin seized the lead with birdies at 6 and 8. The lead exchanged twice more before Nicklaus grabbed a 1-up lead at 16 when Jacklin found a bunker on his drive. Royal Birkdale Golf Club played to a par-74 and 7,140 yards. It featured four par-5 holes on the closing nine, including 17 and 18 – ideal for a match-play scenario.

Jacklin gave Great Britain its biggest lift at 17 by ramming home a 55-foot eagle putt to square the match. The roar from the gallery was misjudged by Huggett, who collapsed in emotion at 18 after halving his match with Billy Casper. Huggett had assumed the Ryder Cup was won. The scoreboard operators slowly told the true story:

USA 15½, Great Britain & Ireland 15½

Nicklaus and Jacklin each found the fairway with their drives on the par-5 18th, with Jacklin slightly ahead. Nicklaus hit his approach 24 feet from the flagstick. Jacklin’s approach hitting behind the flag and came to rest 30 feet from the hole.

Jacklin lagged his putt to within two feet -- which was estimated to be shorter by Nicklaus – and marked his ball. Nicklaus then stroked his putt too hard, with the ball running 4½ feet past the hole. Nicklaus crouched over the ball and stroked the crucial birdie putt home.

Before Jacklin could think about lining up his par putt, Nicklaus reached down, picked up Jacklin’s marker and reached to shake his hand. The concession, which assured the U.S. would take home the Ryder Cup for another two years, accomplished much more.

The Golden Bear had sewn a vital thread of sportsmanship back to the Matches.

“I don’t care if it was Tony Jacklin. It doesn’t mattcr who the Ryder Cup player might have been,” Nicklaus said. “To put that on his shoulders is wrong. It’s not in the spirit of the game to turn away a whole week’s golf, a whole golfing continent against another golfing continent, on a twenty-inch putt.”

The 16-16 draw, was the first in the 42-year history of the Ryder Cup. Years later, Jacklin never forgot the noble gesture by his friend. In 2004, he and Nicklaus entered into a business agreement to collaborate on the design of The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla.