The first official Ryder Cup, between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland, was held in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club, in Worcester, Massachusetts. The United States won, by a lot. Then Britain, then America, then Britain, then America, then America again. The competition was suspended for the duration of the Second World War. It resumed in 1947, and America won five times in a row. Britain won in 1957, and then the Cup returned to the United States and stayed there until 1985, by which time the inclusion of the rest of Europe on the British side, beginning in 1979, had restored both balance and suspense. The only close contest between 1959 and 1985 was in 1969, when the two sides tied for the first time ever.
That tie was secured on the final hole of the final match, when Jack Nicklaus conceded a short par putt to Tony Jacklin, halving the hole, halving the match, and halving the Cup. After picking up Jacklin’s marker, Nicklaus said, “I don’t think you would have missed it, but I wasn’t going to give you the chance, either.” Nicklaus’s gesture has been celebrated ever since as one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship in the history of competition.
On the other hand, the Concession could also be viewed as one of the greatest acts of gamesmanship. It overshadowed the long eagle putt that Jacklin had made on the previous hole to square the match, and Nicklaus didn’t concede Jacklin’s par until after he’d made his own, from double the distance. The Concession made the half look less like a British triumph than like an American act of charity, and that’s pretty much the way it’s been treated ever since. Nicklaus also left forever hanging the possibility that the reigning British Open champion might have gagged over his two-and-a-half footer.
And that’s yet another cool thing about match play.