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A tie may be like kissing your sister...
Gwilym S. Brown
September 29, 1969
But It was one sweet smack for U.S. pros, as the British all but stole away with the Ryder Cup
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September 29, 1969

A Tie May Be Like Kissing Your Sister...

But It was one sweet smack for U.S. pros, as the British all but stole away with the Ryder Cup

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It was a bad time for zero morale. Fortunately, the U.S. had two players, Lee Trevino and Dave Hill, who couldn't care if they were being led by Sam Snead or Shirley Temple. They infected their teammates with new serve just by the way they hurled themselves into each shot. Also doing his part was the quiet Littler, who said almost nothing and was allowed to compete in only three of a possible six matches. Littler was on the winning end of the handshake each time, and in the end the three of them—Littler, Hill and Trevino—produced eight of America's 13 victories.

After the second day of play the score was tied 8-8, with 16 singles matches to go. The morning rounds on the final day gave the British a 13-11 lead and high hopes, for among other things Jacklin had crushed Nicklaus 4 and 3. But by late in the afternoon the U.S. had fought back again to a 15-15 tie, with only two matches still in contention.

Now a strong west wind, carrying a light rain, began blowing in off the sea—the first bad weather of the matches—and under these treacherous conditions America's golfing reputation rode on the slightly frayed skills of Billy Casper, all even after 16 holes in a match with Brian Huggett; and on Nicklaus, all even after 15 holes in another confrontation with Jacklin.

The final holes won't soon be forgotten by either the oh-so-anxious British or the we'll-never-be-able-to-go-home-again Americans. On the 510-yard 17th, both Huggett and Casper hit their second shots over the green. Casper chipped stiff for a birdie, but Huggett had to hole a five-footer to stay even. He crouched over the ball for an eternity and then punched it into the cup. The two moved on to 18, where Casper got his par but Huggett left himself a four-footer to tie the match. Again he stood transfixed over the ball, when suddenly there was a resounding roar from the 17th green. "My God," Huggett thought, "Tony has beaten Nicklaus. If I sink this putt we win the Ryder Cup." Slowly, carefully, he made his putt. Brian Huggett is a 32-year-old worried, weathered Welshman. He has been a golf professional for 16 years. He walked over to Eric Brown, leaned against his shoulder and began to cry.

But Huggett had misread the shout from the 17th green. Instead of being even, Jacklin had lost 16 to go one down. On 17 Nicklaus hit two excellent shots, leaving himself only a 15-footer for an eagle. Jacklin pushed an indifferent second shot off to the right, and British hopes seemed ended as the ball headed for the willow scrub. But by a sudden thrust of luck the ball caromed off a slope and onto the green some 50 feet from the hole.

Jacklin swung his putter firmly and sent the long putt on its way, skidding across the rolls and breaks—and in. An eagle. That caused the enormous cheer that Huggett had heard. Shaken, Nicklaus missed his putt, and the match was tied again.

Nicklaus and Jacklin were both nicely on 18 in two, but after Jacklin insured his par Nicklaus hit his first putt five feet past the hole. Despite the crowd of 8,000 jamming around the green, the silence was so complete that the unvoiced prayer for a miss was like a wave of heat. Nicklaus sank the putt and saved the tie. His stroke saved the cup, too, but America's reputation as unbeatable was beyond rescue. The Ryder Cup is a sports event again.

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