Tony Jacklin ended a lot of droughts in his golf career.
In 1969, he was the first British player to win the British Open in 18 years. In 1970, he was the only European player to win the U.S. Open in an 84-year span. In 1985, he captained the European team to its first Ryder Cup victory in 27 years. In 1987, he captained the European team to its first victory on American soil.
Jacklin is regarded as the best Ryder Cup captain ever. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jacklin will be at Medinah in Illinois for the Sept. 28-30 Ryder Cup matches. He was in Sacramento this week on behalf of the First Tee of Greater Sacramento.
When you retired from tournament golf, you were quoted as saying: "I'm glad it's all over. I think the word is relief. I don't have to sweat over any more short putts." Do you remember that?
A 3-footer is always a lot harder than you would like it to be, at least in my estimation. I don't want any more pressure in my life. When you play golf for a living, basically that's what it's about short game, enormous discipline and pressure.
You came over from Europe to play the PGA Tour before that was commonplace. Your win at the 1968 Jacksonville Open was the first on the PGA Tour by a Brit. What brought you here?
I like America, ever since the first time I stepped foot here in Boston in 1965. I feel more American in my being than I do British. When I won my two majors, I would have moved here in a heartbeat, but Mark McCormack from IMG managed me. And I didn't realize it at the time it wasn't about me, it was about him. He wanted me in Europe as a catalyst to get other clients for him. I'm sad about that.
You relocated to America permanently for the Champions Tour?
When it came to senior golf, I happened to be broke by the time I got to be 50. I said to my wife, 'This time I'm not going to miss the boat. We're going to go and live there.' This is where I should have been all my life. I thank God I made the move when I did, but I wish I had made it 30 years before.
Where did you make the most impact as Ryder Cup captain?
I changed a lot of things on the European end. Our circumstances were being dictated by administrators. We came over here flying on the back of a British Airways bus; your team was flying the Concorde. We huddled in the corner of a smelly locker room; I established a team room. We would wear anything anybody would give us; your guys would have the best-fitting everything. We were wearing plastic shoes in the 1970s. On one occasion, the sole of my shoe fell off on a Sunday when I was halfway around playing Ray Floyd. That kind of thing does nothing for your confidence. Once the European players started getting treated the way they should have been treated, their self-esteem took off. Just look and see. Europe has won (eight of the past 13 matches).
What was your thinking on your discretionary picks?
I got them to give me three captain's picks. I would have had six picks if I could have gotten away with it. It's not stroke play, it's match play. And certain players are better match players than they are stroke players. Who's got more money on the money list is irrelevant. Manuel Pinero comes to mind when I think of 1985. He was a tenacious player who beat Lanny Wadkins in the first singles match when we won at the Belfry.
Who else comes to mind as a great match player?
I would have put Gary Player against Jack Nicklaus, even though I know that Jack Nicklaus was the best player in the world. I wouldn't have backed Jack against Gary in match play, ever.
What was your thinking on pairings?
I'm a great believer in that if you get on with the person you're drawn with, you'll do well together. I think it's the same with in the workplace. Putting any two players together, smacking them in the butt and saying everything will be all right is just not true. People need to feel responsible for each other.
How is Ryder Cup pressure different?
If you have a bad week at the Ryder Cup, nobody forgets it for a long, long time. There's an inquisition every night, and certainly after the matches.
Is there anything that could make the Ryder Cup better?
No. The format is fantastic. Sundays are always relatively close. It's fascinating. It's stimulating. It's great.
Who's going to win this year and why?
The home team always has the advantage, but it's going to be close. I'm not going to bet on it.