As the most of us usually think, golf should be a sport in which rituals and habits are almost integral part of the discipline. Perhaps, you have never got in touch with the extraordinary act of sportsmanship made by the golf star Jack Nicklaus, who definitely broke the mould during the final phase of the 1969 Ryder Cup.
The Ryder Cup, the biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, is well-known to be one of the most prestigious international competition in golf, which America has never lost since 1927.
This competition has been seen for a long time just as a international meeting of golf lovers, mostly related to the stereotype of “a diplomatic hands-across-the-sea ritual than a hot-blooded athletic event”. Whereas everything has been changed since 1969 edition: indeed the United States and the Britain and Ireland team were locked together at 15.5 points on the course at Royal Birkdale in England.
The match got involved the American golf legend Jack Nicklauls agains British champion Tony Jacklin, which were pairing until the 18th hole, decisive for the result of three days of eyeball-to-eyeball golf: they both had long putts for birdie on the last, with Nicklaus leaving his slightly further away than Jacklin to four-foot range, which would have given golfers nightmares.
At the centre of this case there is specifically the one rule in matchplays which can be decisive in order to turn the game around: indeed golfers have the option of “giving” their opponents a putt, conceding that it is such a short distance that they are guaranteed to hole it. Whereas, granting a goal during the Ryder Cup in a situation of balance is considered almost a foolish.
Nicklaus, considering his comfortable plus, had the chance to win the match and give the further Ryder Cup to his National team. So he stood over his four-footer and holed the putt.
But then, as Jacklin went to try taking his own putt, Nicklaus unexpectedly shook hands. Despite the crowd of 8,000 jamming around the green, the silence was so complete and then an enormous applause rang out for the unbelievable concession made by Jack Nicklaus.
It is said that Nicklaus would have told Jacklin: “I don’t think you would have missed that, Tony, but I didn’t want to give you the chance.”
The final handshake between Nicklaus and the Jacklin granted Britain and Ireland a half in the match and a first-ever share of the Ryder Cup.
Nowadays Nicklaus’ heroics is considered an indelible page of sports history, resulting a new impression of golf not only as a Gala event: the Ryder Cup was a sports event again.
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