Tony Jacklin Interview - Captain Fantastic
Tony Jacklin's foresight and inspired leadership qualities set in motion a chain
of events and a series of spectacular European victories that effectively led to
the Ryder Cup becoming the commercial event it is today.Richard Gillis talked to him about the opportunities it brought along
Along with a certain Seve Ballesteros you were overlooked
as a player for the matches in 1981 – did it come as a surprise
that you were then invited to be captain in '83?
Totally. I wasn't picked in ‘81 and – to add insult to injury – they
asked me to go along as an official. Naturally I told them to
stick it in their, er, ear. I was in 13th place in the table and they
picked Mark James, who two years previously had been levied
the biggest fine in PGA history for his behaviour in the 1979
Ryder Cup at The Greenbrier. I don't forget these things. At a
time when he was arguably the best player in the world, Seve
was left out, too, as he was involved in a row over appearance
money. So if I was teed off, he was even more so.
What do you remember of the invitation to take
up the role in 1983?
Ken Schofield approached me with Colin Snape while I was
hitting balls up at Moortown. I was shocked, to tell you the
truth, and told them I couldn't answer their question on the
spot and that I'd see them the next day. I thought about it that
night. My first instinct was to tell them to stuff it but I could
see there was an opportunity to make the changes that I
knew needed to be made. I knew how organised things were
in America and how disorganised things were here. I always
felt that we were second-class citizens. How can you compete
on the same level if you are treated poorly?We were flying in
the back of the bus, not knowing who was paying for the
bloody dry cleaning, not being able to take caddies with us –
everything was about what we couldn't do. The attitude of
the PGA was that it's always been done this way so why did
it need changing. The first thing I said was that as the
Americans travelled on Concorde we would be, too. I insisted
on the best of everything.
Who was running the Ryder Cup then?
The PGA ran the whole shebang. They'd secured headquarters
at The Belfry and they were doing their best as they saw
it to furnish the team and put up a show but it was being
done on a very unprofessional basis. The Americans stood
there like Gods in their jackets and leather golf bags, they
came off the plane with a supreme confidence. We were
standing on the tee two shots down before we'd hit a ball.
What other initiatives did you bring in terms of
managing the team?
I wanted a team room where we could relax – there was nothing
like that before. Any meetings we had were invariably
around the locker-room when the captain could get you all
together. Then we'd all clear off and be left to our own devices.
I didn't think that was how you created the team atmosphere
we needed. We had the team room stocked so there was no
need to go anywhere else and once you supplied it the players
didn't want to go anywhere else anyway.
What did you learn from previous captains you had
Certain captains became aloof, they became different people
and didn't connect to the team at all. I made it my business
to have a one to one relationship with every single player
whether it was Faldo, Seve, Langer or Lyle. The first challenge
in '83 was the ego thing – players had to leave egos at
home. The brief was to win the Ryder Cup. We were not trying
to make friends, we were going to shake hands and look
the other guy in the eye win, lose or draw. But let's do everything
we can to get the job done.
Were there restrictions on how you could commercially
exploit the role of Ryder cup captain?
[Laughs] The length and breadth of my commercial involvement
was with Johnnie Walker, who wanted to make some of
their lesser markets in Europe aware of what the Ryder Cup
was and they said would I get on an aeroplane and go to Italy
and talk about the Ryder Cup. But I never got any other commercial
opportunities for the whole four times I did it. I might
have made £20,000 from Johnnie Walker, and they probably
sent me a case of whisky, but nothing else was available at the
time. It was a case of people couldn't believe what was going
on and how important the Ryder Cup was becoming and by the
time they did believe it I had finished.
Has that changed?
[Laughing] I would think there's a million pounds in it for anyone
doing it now. Where it's all gone is mind-boggling. The
sheer cost of staging the Ryder Cup now is vast.
When did you sense that there was momentum building
around the Ryder Cup and the captaincy itself?
Obviously 1985 was the first win for 28 years and everyone
was excited that we won, but I wouldn't say it it changed the
climate in terms of the commercial opportunities.
What do you make of the role now?
The world turns, nothing stays the same, nor should it. If these
lads can make it work financially, why wouldn't they?
Nothing's for free, they still have to show up for the sponsors,
be there for the photograph sessions or whatever it is they do.
And next time it will be more and more and more. They are
now setting out their table for these things I just wish someone
had set the table out for me.
Why do you think you didn't make as much of the commercial
side of the captaincy as you might have done?
Well, for one thing the Cup itself simply wasn't the big business
it is today. But on top of that I was pretty poorly managed.
I left IMG in 1983 because I was dissatisfied with what
was going on, they weren't interested in it [the Ryder Cup] at all. They treated it like it was a non-starter and then it took
off and grabbed their attention so anyone who then did the
captain's job was hooked into the commercial aspects of it
with them for the most part.
What was your issue with IMG?
At that stage in my career I was obviously past my best as a
player. I effectively stopped playing in 1982 after I'd won the
PGA Championship [at Hillside] because I just wasn't enjoying
it, my putting was driving me mad, and I thought I just can't
do it anymore. So in '83, I accepted the Ryder Cup job, and in
order to keep an eye on things I started to do television and
worked for the BBC – that was the best way I felt to keep
abreast of what was going on. I didn't realise when I signed up
with Mark McCormack that it was about him and not me. On
reflection, I should have based myself in America when I won
my two majors, there is no doubt about that. I had a tie up with
Sea Island, but that was the only affiliation I had. IMG priced
me out of the market and I never got another club affiliation in
America. All the time McCormack was encouraging me to stay
in Europe – but not for my sake, for his.
To drive IMG in Europe?
Absolutely. It's clear now but it wasn't clear then because I
was too busy getting my head down, trying to be all things to
all people. I even went and lived in Jersey [shaking his head]
which was like living on this table. For a golfer that's international
I should have been Stateside where I could have
made an intelligent schedule and stuck to it, supported golf
in Europe but made America my main focus. But I was being
fed different stories from Mark's end.
What was his argument for you to stay in Europe?
Because I was European, and that's where I should be. It came
to a head in the late '70s, when they [IMG] came to me and
asked me to go to South America for an extended visit to play
five events, saying that I could take the family.We started off in
Argentina and went to Chile and Venezuela. The fee was
$20,000 for the five events plus expenses for my wife and two
kids. At the first tournament I sat and had dinner with Tom
Weiskopf and I said, what's your deal? And he said I am getting
$35,000 for this one and I'm coming back for the last one and
getting $35,000 for that one, too. And when he wasn't there
Trevino came down on the same deal. Tom wasn't even an IMG
client like me, it was just a one-off thing for him. I'd won two
majors and he'd won one. I won the fourth event and I said stuff
this and went to Barbados and rented a house for three weeks
with the kids. IMG weren't too thrilled about this but you can
imagine how I felt. There was no loyalty there so I just left.
So the privilege of being Ryder Cup captain didn't open
as many doors as it might have done has you had the
representation you had hoped for?
Exactly. I was seen as the dissenter, the guy with a mind. Was
I annoyed? Of course I was. It became stand-off from their
point of view. It wasn't helped that I was living in Southern
Spain during that period and was out of the loop.
Is Faldo captaincy material?
He's got all the experience necessary and has had time to see
how it all works. He's a highly intelligent fellow. He won't
leave anything to chance and he's got good people around
him. He made a determined effort to build the Faldo brand
when he stopped playing. It works beautifully for him. It's a
great platform from which he can move forward. I think he's
mellowed over the years. He did what he had to do to get the
job done – and he won six majors. He gave little thought to
what people said, but that was his way. I wish him well.
It could be said that there are parallels between your
experience (i.e. taking over a team that had become used
to losing) and that of the American's now – the tables
have been reversed.
Paul Azinger is neighbour of mine in Bradenton and he's a
member of The Concession [the course designed by Jacklin
and Jack Nicklaus] and we play a fair amount of golf together.
Paul is a very determined individual and he takes no prisoners.
I remember going up to him in '89 at The Belfry to
shake his hand and he was quite reticent to do it. He would
have been very happy to go down the “we're not talking”
route. He's shaking up their side in the same way I did ours.
He recognised the US didn't have their best 12 on show last
time out. He now has four picks, which could ultimately
prove to be very important.
The qualification is on strokeplay which is completely
different to matchplay. Do you see any natural match players
among the Europeans today?
You're right. There's a huge difference in mindset. A good
example in my era was Manuel Pinero – he's tenacious, like a
terrier. I wouldn't bank on him necessarily in a strokeplay event
but he beat Lanny Wadkins in 1985, who was one of their big
hopes. Pinero jumped sky-high when he knew he was playing
him, he was totally sure in his mind that he could beat him and
he did. Darren Clarke would be in my mind as a born match player.
What he achieved last time after all he'd been through
was magnificent.He's won a tournament recently, he would rise
to the occasion and is capable of anything. We know he loves
matchplay – he beat Tiger in the World Golf Championship
event a couple of years ago.
Monty is passionate about the Ryder Cup and would be on
my shortlist, as Langer was always on my shortlist. There are
certain players who rise to the occasion.
How influential is the captain?
I've got a film somewhere which shows Lee Trevino saying it
doesn't matter who you put with who, which in my mind is
total bullshit. In a team game it absolutely does matter who
you put with who. Look at what happened when Hal Sutton
put Mickelson and Woods together – it didn't work. It was
naive to think it would. But Sutton did it. I don't know the
personalities of today's players well enough to suggest likely
pairings – that is Faldo's job. And it's mighty important to get
it right. I remember in '85 with Faldo, he was going through
a divorce and going through a lot emotionally. I went up to
him after he played with Bernhard Langer in the morning
and said you don't look comfortable. I said am I going to put
you out with Bernhard or am I going to put Ken Brown out
with him, and he said put Ken out. This told me this was a
man I could rely on, the team is more important. I don't
agree that you should put the long-hitters and short-hitters
together in the foursomes. Bullshit. They're all pro's, they know how to get the job done.
So their personal characteristics
are more important than their
characteristics as a golfer?
Golf is at least 95% mental. Once
you can play, it's all about how
they're thinking. Tiger is the ultimate
example. Everyone in the
world thinks that if they could hit the
ball like Tiger then they could win
tournaments like him, which misses
the point entirely. Tiger wins the way
he does because he thinks the way
he does. He is mentally untouchable.
And, of course, he he makes more
putts than anyone else.
What do you think about Tiger
absence this year?
I don't think Tiger's that important
and I don't think his absence diminishes
America's chances one iota.
Like I said, they're coming into this
like we did in the early 1980s,
they're on home ground, and the
Zinger wants more than anything in
his life to stop the rot. I thought
there was more camaraderie in the
last Presidents Cup team [when
Woods was absent through injury] than any other American
team I've seen ever. If they can bring that to the Ryder Cup
they will be a real threat. The American way over the years
has been very selfish. They've all got their own jet standing
outside, they go when they want and come in when they want
and don't mix if they don't want to. Their world is exactly
how they want it all the time and they don't want to share.
Teamwork is about sharing.
What about the singles?
Obviously a lot depends on the situation going into the last
day. But my overriding instinct is that I want my top players
out in the top half, putting points on the board. I remember
at West Palm Beach in '83, I flipped everything over. Joe
Black [President of the PGA of America] was there when me
and Jack opened our envelopes and showed the team and he
said “you can't do that” because he saw that Seve was up the
front and the power was at the top. Tradition had always
been that you put your best players at the end, like we did in
1969. Historically that was seen as the way to do it. The fun
for me was trying to outwit the opposing captain.
Can you see a time when they host the Ryder Cup outside
Europe? Dubai is an obvious example.
Maybe. After we won in '85 I was adamant the game should
go to Spain – but not to Valderrama. It should have gone to
Madrid, but unfortunately Madrid didn't have the right
course. I've always believed in fair play as a professional
golfer for 50 years but they don't play like that in business.
Where we pick up our ball and put our marker down and put
it back exactly in the same place. And I just thought the contribution
the Spaniards made in '83 and '85 tipped the scales
in our favour so thought they should have had the Ryder Cup
earlier but there are other factions at work – the guys with
the blazers, where the money is. We all know the Ryder Cup
is a huge cash cow, which is why you have so many resorts
in a bidding war trying to get the Cup. At Palm Beach in '83,
there was a garden party atmosphere; the last one in Ireland
there was so much security and red tape it was ridiculous. It's
grown in stature beyond my understanding. Tome it's just 12
guys playing against the other team.
For a month in 1970, you held the Open and US Open
championships. You were 25 and so much more was
expected. What happened to Tony Jacklin's self-assurance
as a player?
Looking back, it was the Open in 1972 when that self-assurance
was taken to task. I was never as sure after that, when
I had to watch Trevino chip in five times in the last two
rounds. I was always of the belief you just keep on trying but
he made four or five flukes. It happened and it was up to me
to make the best of it I could. Both Nicklaus and Palmer came
up to me that night and said don't let this change you, but it
did change me. I won tournaments every year until I quit but
I was never in the frame in a major again. That self-assurance
that I'd had previously just dissipated enough to prevent me
from competing at the highest level. The same thing has happened
to Greg [Norman] and lots of other players. It bruises
you and takes away from what you were. It also matters when
something like that happens to you. If it was in some small
tournament you just dust yourself down and move on, but a
major is a different animal altogether. Timing is very important.
Arnold Palmer took six out of the bunker on 18 at
Augusta to let Gary win – Gary took six at the last at
Muirfield in 1959 but he still won. Everybody's circumstances
Was Ben Hogan your hero?
Yes, there was no one else like him. I asked him to play a
practice round at the Masters in 1967 but he refused and
then he asked to play with me, after I'd won the US Open in
1970, at the PGA Championship in Tulsa. He had that aura.
Everybody looked to him as being the greatest. He was
revered by everyone, he put the time in and came up the hard
way. He dug it out of the ground, as they say. Gary was besotted
by him. I've sat and talked with him about Hogan a lot.
Nobody hit it like him in terms of control and the trajectory
and sheer ball-striking ability. He was unbelievable. But even he didn't win them all. I find it fascinating that Byron Nelson
didn't quit at 34 because he had enough money to go and
buy a ranch. He quit because his nerves were so shot. He'd
won 11 in a row, so much was expected of him. I know for
an absolute fact because I've played a lot of golf with Tommy
Bolt, who used to travel with Nelson, that when he was at a
tournament every night his wife would be mopping his puke
up because he was so sick with nerves. Why would you put
yourself through that? I quit when I was 38. I could still play
but if you can't putt you start trying beyond the sensible. You
can't make the ball go in the hole but you put yourself under
incredible pressure. I ended up playing trying to prove to
everybody that what I'd done was not a fluke. I was doing it
for all the wrong reasons; the reasons weren't the same anymore.
Life takes it toll.
The concession has become part of Ryder Cup folklore,
but do you think it planted a doubt in people's minds
about your putting?
That's an interesting question and I've never really thought
about it like that. I never thought it was to my detriment. I
was unbeaten that week, nobody else was unbeaten that
week. That he gave me that putt was part of me being
When I played with Jack we both played the same game.
We always said great shot and he would say the same to me
and try and hit a better one. It was competitive in that
respect, and I enjoyed that with Jack. Arnold was different.
He had a different approach. You hit a good shot with Arnold
and he'd look at you and snarl as if to say how dare you,
you're playing with me, I'm the only one who's allowed to hit
a good shot! With Jack there was none of that pretence. It
was very simple good sportsmanship. Brian Barnes beat him
twice in a day in 1975 and Jack was the opposing captain in
1987 when we beat them for the first time on US soil, but no one
could have taken it better than he did and frankly he was
probably the only one of the Americans that could have that
happen. It has not affected him at all in terms of his standing
in the game. In fact, only enhanced it.
What do you remember of that 1969 match?
It was fascinating. Eric Brown was our captain and he
announced on the first day that if one of the oppo's ball goes
in the rough under no circumstance should you help them
look for it. I was thinking ‘f*** off, Eric' I'm not about to
approach it like that. But there was no love lost between him
and Sam Snead [the American captain]. But you've got to
remember these guys were hard cases and you tend to forget
what tough nuts these old geezers were. They didn't give
a shit whether they talked to you or not, they'd been brought
up tough. They saw any youngster as a spoilt brat. I guess
every generation thinks the next one's got more. When we
came down 18 in that match Eric came up to me and said
“You know what you've got to do” and I said [mimicking
Browns Scottish accent] “yes I know what to do Eric” before
I hit the second shot.
The million-dollar question: would you have
made that putt?
Yes, I think so. I was at the top of my game and I was ready to
make it. I knew I had to make it. I'm bloody glad I didn't have
to but I think I would have made it. I'd won the Open two
months before, I'd beaten Jack 4&3 that morning – we played
two series of singles on the Sunday in those days – and it really
was only that long [holds his hands out approximately two
feet apart]. The greens at Birkdale then may not have been
quite in the same condition they were for the Open this past
July, but I'd not had a yip at that stage. But the gesture was
such that I didn't have to. And I was relieved.
Designs on a second career
Following his recent collaboration with Jack Nicklaus on the
much-lauded new‘The Concession' course in Florida, Europe's
most successful Ryder Cup captain has announced that he is
extending his second career as a golf course designer with developers
in the Middle East, continental Europe and the Caribbean.
Jacklin, now 63, has made a conscious decision to concentrate on
course design, and says he is taking a hands-on approach with his
projects – which will bear all the hallmarks of the Open and US
“I have decided only to take on a limited number of design contracts
at any one time, as this gives me the opportunity to get personally
and deeply involved in each of the projects,” he said at the
opening of the Concession, a unique 5-star course near Sarasota
that he designed in collaboration with Nicklaus.“I hope that my
signature design courses will be my legacy in Europe,where I
learned the game,made many friends and enjoyed many of my
finest moments in the sport.”
Jacklin is determined that each and every one of his Tony Jacklin
Signature designed golf courses will be a very special place for golfers
to learn the game, play and most of all enjoy their golf.His passion
for golf, and his never-say-die spirit, has earned Tony a level of respect
and admiration among European golfers that is unique and long-lasting
and is destined to continue into his course design career.
Also on the drawing board is a project in Cypress. Jacklin,who
remains the only post-war British or European golfer to have won
both the Open and US Open, has been asked to replace the existing
18 holes at Secret Valley with two completely new 18-hole
courses, thus forming a 36-hole complex integrated within the
recently redesigned Venus Rock Golf Resort, just a 15-minute
drive from the international airport and main town of Paphos.
Next door is Aphrodite Hills, south-eastern Europe's first and, currently,
only golf-integrated residential resort. Nearby are two similar
quality-integrated resort developments spearheaded by
Dolphin Capital Investors, the leading investor in the residential
resort sector in south-eastern Europe.The Jacklin Design Group
will work on the project in collaboration with Austrian architect,
“I'm thrilled that The Concession has proved such a hit,”
enthused Tony ,“and I'm looking forward to creating a fantastic
experience at Venus Rock.As I'm playing competitive golf less
often now, I'll be able to spend my time working with Hans-Georg
Erhardt and the team at Aristo Developers to create something
very special in Cyprus – a first-class golf complex that everyone
Tony Jacklin speaks more about course design in the following feature:-
Tony Jacklin Interview - Master of his craft
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine