TONY JACKLIN ANNOUNCED HIS ARRIVAL AT THE SUMMIT OF WORLD GOLF WITH HIS
VICTORY IN THE OPEN AT ROYAL LYTHAM IN THE SUMMER OF 1969, AND THE FOLLOWING
JUNE BECAME ONLY THE SECOND EUROPEAN PLAYER EVER TO WIN THE US OPEN WITH A
RUN AWAY VICTORY AT HAZELTINE, MINNESOTA. WHEN YOU CONSIDER THAT ONLY THIRTEEN GOLFERS HAVE THEIR
NAMES ENGRAVED ON BOTH THE BRITISH AND US OPEN TROPHIES, YOU APPRECIATE JACKLIN'S
PLACE AMONG THE TRUE LEGENDS OF THE GAME.
To a whole generation, of course, 'Jacko', is better known for his
part in resurrecting the Ryder Cup, his inspired
leadership qualities injecting such a belief in four
consecutive European sides that his reign signalled
the end of American dominance and the first
European win on US soil in 1987. As a player, his
own record in the biennial contest was equally
impressive, especially given the quality of the
opposition. He played in seven matches between
1967 and 1979, the highlight of which was his
performance at Royal Birkdale in ’69. The newly crowned
Open champion didn't lose a match all
week, and, having already beaten the world’s
greatest player in the Sunday morning singles 4&3,
Jacklin’s encounter with Jack Nicklaus later that
afternoon concluded with possibly the greatest
sporting gesture of all time.
Born out of a desire to commemorate the spirit
of that handshake, the two men recently codesigned The Concession, a stunning new golf
course on the outskirts of Sarasota, Florida. And it
was there that editor Richard Simmons took the
opportunity to tee it up and shoot the breeze with
one of the most engaging, thoughtful and vocal
characters in the game.
Here we are on one of the best new golf courses in
America, and it's a Nicklaus/Jacklin joint effort. To
have your name alongside that of the game’s greatest
must feel very special?
You’re dead right, and it’s a privilege to have created
something so unique with the man I still regard as the
world’s greatest ever player. Jack and I have been
friends ever since that match at Birkdale in ’69. I guess
that experience cemented it. When I first came over to
play here in America I stayed in Jack’s guest house
and he helped me to find my feet on the tour. So we
go back a long time and have always maintained a
strong friendship. We’re not in each others pockets
but there’s a lot of mutual respect there, obviously.
For many, that moment on the 18th green has almost
come to define your career as much as the individual
victories in the two Opens.
Well, it’s right up there. And we always get reminded
of it when the Ryder Cup comes around. It’s a sporting
moment that transcends golf. Pure sportsmanship,
which is Jack through and through. I was still on
a high after winning the Open at Lytham and I was
unbeaten that week at Birkdale, so it was a highlight
of my life and my playing career. Because of the
funny rules the American PGA had regarding selection,
the ’69 match was Jack’s first appearance in the
Ryder Cup, and I had already beaten him in the second-
day fourballs and again 4&3 in the morning singles
on Sunday. So I was in great form, but having the
weight of the Ryder Cup on your shoulders coming to
the last green is not really a place you want to be!
You’d have holed it though, right?
[Smiles]. Let’s just say I was preparing myself mentally
to make it as Jack went about holing the four-footer
he had left himself. I was confident and at the top
of my game. But I’m not going to say it wasn’t a huge
relief when he bent over to pick up my marker.
How did your collaboration with Jack here
at The Concession come about?
The developer of this property, Kevin Daves, had
been courting Jack to build a golf component for a
luxury hotel here in Sarasota. But there were some
issues with the land they originally looked at and
Kevin told me he had found this incredible parcel a
little further inland. The hotel weren’t convinced but
Kevin was and there is little doubt that this is going
to be something very special. I took along a photo of
Jack and I on that day in 1969, told him about the significance
of it all and he agreed we should go and see
Jack together with the idea of a joint venture. The
concept just grew. I can remember sitting bolt upright
in bed one morning in 2002 and thinking ‘The
Concession’ – that’s the name for our golf course. At
the time I was more than happy to bow to Jack’s
experience in design, but he insisted we do it together.
So although it’s a Jack Nicklaus Signature course
‘in Association with’ Tony Jacklin, it was very much a
joint effort. I picked him up at the airport on his site
visits and we made all the major decisions together.
Did you find you shared a lot of common ideas
when it came to the nature of the layout?
Mostly, yes. Neither of us wanted the greens to be too
big, the premium was to be on iron play. We didn’t
want the greens to be too flat, either. They had to be
challenging – and they are. This whole acreage was infused with palmetto and much of it is still a conservation
area. So there were certain limits to what we could do in terms
of earth moving and so on. When I tell you the course was
more or less built in eight months you get a picture of what an
incredible piece of property this was to work on. Golf Digest
ranked The Concession the No 1 private course in the US when
it opened in 2006, which was a huge accolade. And in fact the
whole experience – working with Jack and being so heavily
involved with the day-to-day development of the property –
spurned me on to getting back fully into the design business.
The recession may not be playing into our hands right now,
but designing golf courses is what I want to be doing for the
rest of my days and we have a lot of opportunity lined up in
Europe and beyond once things do turn around.
Is there a Tony Jacklin style or ‘blueprint’?
No, not really. I have no pre-conceived ideas and I don’t believe
I am reinventing the wheel. I try and take every site on its merits
and of course you have to listen to what the owner is looking
to achieve. I’m loathe to introduce non indigenous plants,
and I like to create a good variety of holes. I like a course to be
challenging, but balanced, playable. I’m big on contrast, I like to
see that on a golf course. I like the ‘shaggy’ natural look around
bunkers, the Alister McKenzie sort of look. I still love links golf
– that’s where my inspiration comes from. One of the projects
on the drawing board right now is on a piece of land right next
door to Nairn – to create a genuine links would be a wonderful
experience. We have a couple of others in England, one in the
south of France and a couple on the go in Cyprus. But these
things take time – from the first meeting it can take three to
five years to get the project on the ground.
Where do you stand on the whole issue of equipment and the
fact that so many great courses have been rendered obsolete
by the ridiculous distances modern players hit the ball?
What’s so sad is Britain has come out of it the worst, because
we have so many traditional golf courses from the late 1800s
that are 6,700 yards or so, and they have nowhere to go. I’m
talking about the likes of Sunningdale, the Berkshire, Walton
Heath – you could reel off dozens. They just don’t have the
room to expand, and so have become obsolete in terms of challenging
the best players. And that’s a crying shame in my book.
The modern ball has rendered these courses defenceless and
yet when you stop and think about it it’s crazy that a game
would let itself do that?. It’s ridiculous the distance modern
players hit it now. I probably hit the ball the same distance now
as I did forty years ago – I hit an 8-iron 145 yards or so, just as
I did when I was in my prime. Even Nicklaus, who was a longer
hitter than me off the tee, he hit an 8-iron around 145. Because
the ball just wouldn’t take any more than 145 – any harder and
it would spiral out of control. A seven was 155, a six 165 and
so on. This obsession with distance baffles me. It’s a shame
there are not more short courses, to my mind. I hosted the
British Par 3 Championships last year, with holes between 87
and 150 yards, and it’s those fiddly bits that get the job done.
That’s what wins golf tournaments. But there’s this obsession
with distance. You hear people say ‘Have you seen Tiger smash
the ball with a driver...’ That’s all they really care about. The
modern game is a masquerade. It’s a false impression of what
golf is about.
Continuing along that theme, I’m assuming you would feel
that shot-making skills are less important today?
Sadly, yes. A lot of the skill, or the artistry, has gone out of it,
I’m certain of that. The ability to create shots, to use the wind.
To try and make the wind your ally. I could shape shots, but I
wouldn’t try to work the ball against the wind. I’d always use
the wind as an ally and let the ball go with it. That’s the art of
it. To make the wind your friend. This obsession with distance
and stretching courses to the limit has changed the nature of the game – for the worse in my opinion.
Has putting become too important?
Yes, I would say it has. It overshadows what I
regard as the superior skills of shaping shots and
flighting and working the ball. The art of playing
golf. It was not like that years ago – the great ball
strikers were the guys to emulate and they were
the ones winning. Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jack,
Gary Player. They were the guys you wanted to
play like. Putting didn’t seem like such a big deal
back then, and I’m sure that if you look at the stats
you’d see that in those days averages of around 30
putts per round were decent. But don’t forget the
greens were not like they are today. With new technology,
grasses and maintenance, soft spikes, the
greens are usually perfect and as a result putting
has become, what, 60% of the game, perhaps even
more at the sharp end.
Why do you think it is that no other European
player has followed you in winning a US Open?
Who knows? A quirk of fate? It’s just one of those
things. The Americans, through the rank and file,
tend to be better putters, so that’s certainly one of
the reasons why they have dominated. But looking
at it from a European standpoint, there are only a
few players actually capable of doing it, and a lot
of those have tried to hit and run, by which I mean
they played mostly in Europe or elsewhere in the
world and try to pick off the US Open with a flying
visit. You just can’t do that. The likelihood of
doing that is very remote, although having said
that Colin [Montgomerie] was unlucky a couple of
years ago and Nick [Faldo] lost a playoff to Curtis
Strange when in all probability he should have won
the tournament in 72 holes.
Hazeltine came in for a lot of stick in 1970?
The Hazeltine I remember was a wild and remote
course, and at 7,100 yards long it was a tough proposition
using the gear we had in the bag then, believe
me. There were a lot of doglegs, the rough was up
and there were a lot of complaints from certain quarters.
On walking into the press room early in the
week Dave Hill was asked how he found the course
and he quipped that he was ‘still looking for it’. We
all remember those stories. It was just a very tough
layout, and the weather conditions, with winds gusting
to 40mph, compounded it all.
As the Open champion you presumably arrived
with a lot of confidence?
I was hugely confident and I was playing well coming
into the event. My form had been good and
that week will go down as the best I ever played
during a tournament, there’s no doubt about that. I
got locked in to a certain putting mode following a
tip from Bert Yancey’s brother, Jim, and everything
just clicked. It was the simplest thing: he told me
to look at the hole while making my practice
stroke, and that just helped me to get a terrific feel
and visualise the ball going in.
How vividly do you remember your feelings as you
extended your lead day by day and realised what you
It was the most nervous I ever was on a golf
course. It just built up as the week wore on. I was
OK on the first day, even though the wind was up I
felt right at home. I birdied four of the first seven
holes and shot 71 to lead by two. There were some
big scores – Arnold shot 79, Gary 80 and Jack 81.
Having been weaned on playing in the wind I just
got my head down and stuck to it, and I increased
my lead each round. In some respects that puts
you under even more pressure. You get six or
seven shots in front and you start thinking, ‘if I
lose this now I’ll be known as a choker’. I remember
hitting a 4-iron to four feet at the 7th on the
final day and missing it – the first short putt I had
missed all week. I then three-putted the 8th and so
the alarm bells were about to go off. At the next I
had the slice of luck you always need in a major. I
over hit a 30-footer from just off the green at the
9th, the ball hit the stick square on and disappeared.
That got me back on track. The pressure
lifted and I actually enjoyed the last few holes.
Were the USGA as judicious in the manner they set
up the course then as they are today?
The USGA always always wanted their Open to be
the strongest examination paper in golf. And I still
believe to this day that the US Open is the hardest
tournament to win. It was built for Faldo, but he
might have been just too timid, leaving the driver in
the bag and putting too much pressure on his iron
play. You’d have marked Monty down as a fantastic
bet for a US Open, and had it not been for breaking
his routine at the final hole at Winged Foot he
would probably have won it. The way they set up a
US Open course, you cannot afford to be crooked.
Paul Casey might have a great chance, as he’s one
of the game’s finest straight drivers of a ball and is
obviously in some form. When you look back, it just
didn’t suit someone like Seve, for example, who
never hit the ball straight enough to win a US Open
– and he’s one of the greatest players the world has
ever seen. For all his powers of recovery there is
only so much in the tank and ultimately the course
wears a player down.
When it comes to watching the majors which
do you enjoy the most?
Obviously I have a soft spot for both of the Opens,
but links golf is still my favourite form of the game
and so the Open Championship is No.1. But the
weather plays such a huge part in our Open – you
need the tee times to be on your side, you need the
breaks. The weather doesn’t usually play such a big
part in the US Open, although I suppose you could
say it did for me in 1970 as the wind was brutal,
and I felt very much at home. In some respects
that extra challenge holds your focus, you get the
bit between your teeth.
We’ll come to Tiger in a minute, but who do you
rate as the player most likely to take the No. 1 spot?
Sergio Garcia, without a doubt. He can be the next
world No. 1 if he gets self-assured with his putting.
I still think it comes down to that, how self
assured you are. I’ll tell you, as will many, this is
one of the toughest courses in America and yet
Paul Azinger (who’s a member and practices here)
regularly shoots under 70 off the back tees. I said
to his caddie, ‘Steve, what are you doing? Tiger
can’t beat those scores! Why are you not doing
this out on tour?’ But he goes away and he’s not self assured in a tournament, he doesn’t believe in himself
enough. He missed the cut up the road at
Innisbrook in the Traditions, and the course is a
doddle compared to this place. Self doubt is so
destructive. It sits here [taps his shoulder] and niggles
in that ear, and you know it’s having the
strength to deal with that – and of course the ability
to putt – that determines the winners and the losers.
Players these days should be less obsessed with
their technique and go figure out how to make the
brain work effectively. We all know the power of
positive thinking. I was reading a new manuscript
the other day, by the guy who wrote the book
Natural Born Winners, a writer called Robert Siegar.
He was here last week, came over to the house and
we talked about this in some length. I wish I had the
benefit of this sort of material when I needed it, in
the early 1970s when I ran into Lee Trevino and
some of his antics. Who knows what I might have
achieved. I was reading Timothy Galwey’s The Inner
Game of Tennis (before he wrote the Inner Game of
Golf) in 1974/5, because that was all there really
was. We didn’t have the experts around in those
days to help us understand what the brain is capable
of, how it digests information and how to deal
with certain events that come along in sport. I was
confident in my ability in my prime, and when you
have that raw confidence you don't need to worry so
much about the mind game. But it only takes a few
knocks to threaten that confidence, self doubt
creeps in and you lose the plot.
You were arguably the best in the world for three
or four years from 1969 to ’73. Did you ever think
No, not really. I just knew I had to beat Jack!
Was he the only one you worried about?
Yeah, he was really. I played with all of them. I
knew what I had to do to be out there with them.
And I thoroughly enjoyed being around these great
players. They set the standard. Arnold, Jack, Lee
Trevino, Gary Player – they were the men to beat.
But I didn’t feel intimidated by them.
Who was the best you ever played with?
Ben Hogan was the best ball striker. He was just a
Did you learn a lot playing with Hogan?
Yeah, I would say so. I always knew I was on the
right track with my own game, but he just did it
differently to everyone else. I had as much respect
for him as anyone in golf. Jack was another one,
the ability to use the mind and not be intimidated.
Being ‘in the moment’, able to control the mind –
like I say, that whole area of the game is where it’s
at. Hogan’s wife told me a few years ago that when
they cleared out Ben’s den after he died they found
all these books to do with mental strength and the
power of positive thinking. When we talk about
Hogan we tend to think of him as this master technician,
which of course he was, but clearly he knew
the importance of the mental side of the game, he
studied it, which makes sense when you consider
what he went through.
From a technical point of view, what struck
you the most with Hogan?
There were lots of little things you picked up on. He
was just so technically perfect. Everything was so controlled.
I’ve studied a lot of photographs of him
recently as I’ve been working on a series of studies in
marquetry. Nobody did it like Hogan. Yes, the right
foot was pulled back behind the left with a driver, he
rifled that ball with a real ‘crack’. He was classic. The
other thing that always struck me was his weight distribution
at the top of his backswing. When you
watched Hogan swing (face on), it was clear he
absorbed a significant amount of his weight down the
inside of his left leg. You read so much these days
about the importance of turning and coiling behind
the ball and ‘loading’ into the right side, and yet
Hogan, distinctly, had this ‘hang-back’ on the left side.
I was talking about this with Doug McClelland who
was over here just a few weeks ago. And I particularly
remember arguing the same point with John O’Leary:
the weight does not go over here [mimicking the
swing, Jacklin taps his right thigh]. Hogan took some
of the strain in here [touches the inside of the left
leg]. A significant ration of weight stayed up the
inside of the left leg as he reached the top of his
backswing and then he ‘fired’ into the downswing.
Do you think Tiger will make it to Jack’s record?
I don’t know. It all depends on whether that knee is
going to remain strong enough. Reconstructive surgery
is a big deal. You can see in the way he is, the
way he walks and the way he picks the ball from the
hole that he’s carrying an injury. But he has such a
strong mind nothing would surprise me. What I think
is interesting is the way the game has changed in the
9 months or so he’s been away, with so many seriously
talented youngsters emerging from all over the
world. He [Tiger] almost has to re-assert himself again
in the majors. To do that he’s going to have to get his
driving back on course. For me, Tiger’s driving hurts
him too much. There’s too much ‘hit’ in it. When he
just swings freely and let’s the club do all the work
it’s magical and the ball flies forever. It’s almost like
this physical fitness thing has got to the point where
he feels he has to use it and muscle the ball. Go back
to 2000 and the US Open at Pebble Beach and there
was a lot less of that, it was more of a swing.
There’s a whole generation of golfers out there
today who are now playing that power game – one
day that may be Tiger’s legacy?
True – my son Sean is one of them. But the thing is
you don’t need to be bulging with muscles to play
good golf. You need to be strong in the thighs and in
the body core, and in the arms and wrists. But these
days young golfers are like sheep. They follow the
guy who’s out in the lead – and when that guy is as
good as Tiger is I suppose you can understand it all.
We can’t finish without reference to the recent
Ryder Cup – what did you think of the treatment
Nick Faldo received in the press after Valhalla?
Obviously the press were out for him, simple as
that. It’s been a long dance hasn’t it. I suppose you
make your bed you lie in it. I dunno. The British
press are tough, everybody knows that. I really didn’t
think he did anything wrong particularly.
Ultimately he just didn’t get the service from a
number of the so-called top players. If he had the
outcome might have been different.
Were you optimistic for Europe when you
saw the singles line up?
Yeah, I was. OK, we were trailing 9-7, but I thought it
lined up very well for Europe – when we saw the pairings
in the SKY booth we were reasonably confident.
But Anthony Kim came out with all guns blazing and
never let Sergio into that first match and all of a sudden
we were on the back foot. Europe didn’t win
enough of those first matches to allow the players at
the foot of the order to do what they might have
done. Lee Westwood really didn’t come up with as
many points as we’d all expected and Padraig looked
like he struggled all week. There is risk in any way
you put out the singles order and sometimes you just
have to accept it when you get outplayed. I was with
Nick [Faldo] at Wentworth two days before he made
his captain’s picks and he was very comfortable with
the guys he took along. If he needed vindication with
regard to Ian Poulter, he certainly got it because Ian
was man of the tournament. I personally was always
on the fence with regards to his selection, as he has
never won anything in America and, even though he
has won a few times in Europe, I still wasn’t sure
what he was made of. But he showed us at Valhalla
and came through as a star. That guy could be the
definition of being ‘self-assured’. As I said earlier,
that’s what winning is all about. And that experience
could well take Ian to the next level.
Jacklin on Marquetry
I've been interested in woodworking and marquetry since 1957, when I was 13 years old.
Someone must have bought me a kit as a present and I just became hooked on it. I've
always loved wood, the way it lives, the different grains and finishes that you can achieve
and over the years I suppose I've reached a decent standard. Low single figures.
Marquetry involves the inlay of various veneers, using different types, colours and finishes
to create contrast and so build up an image.
When I came to America to play the
Champions Tour in the early 90s I used to try and rent my own small apartment with its
own kitchen so that I could come back at the end of a day and switch off. I had a travel
bag with all my tools and the veneer is light and easy to transport, and I would spend my
evenings doing this. Its relaxing. From start to finish, the Hogan study you can see here
probably took me a week. Once it's all put together, you have to press it and then iron it,
then sand it and finish it. I'm still at the experimental stage with it all. It's a bit of fun.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine
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