Everyone knows that match play brings out a respectable dosage of gamesmanship. It's one of the reasons match play is so exciting!
And with the Ryder Cup residing on top of the heap of match play events, you can rest assured the players will bring every tool in their golf arsenals to their matches this weekend.
But these are PGA professionals, they would never stray into the dark arts of head game manipulation at the great Ryder Cup competition! Au contraire, my fellow golf enthusiasts ...these boys will be using every trick in the book to get inside the heads of their formidable opponents.
And often it's nothing more than a distracting cough in a backswing or some pocket change jingling when an opponent is about to putt.
Consider the tactics of master head gamer and golf intimidator, Seve Ballestaeros. A seemingly innocent question about his opponents missing wife, whom Seve knew had recently filed for divorce, was just enough to knock his rival's mind off the game and into his personal tribulations.
Seve was also known to stand too close to his opponent, continually fidget with gadgetry and refuse to concede short putts. These little gestures created a constant stream of distractions that would often provide him a significant competitive advantage if his opponents were unable to remain focused.
The 1969 Ryder Cup witnessed an ungentlemanly tiff involving American golfer Ken Still and England's Bernard Gallacher. According to the British press, Ken Still, in the first-day foursomes, had been accused of gamesmanship when he regularly stood too close when his opponent was putting. Later in the matches, Still squawked about some recurring gamesmanship by Bernard Gallacher. He reportedly knocked aside Gallacher's ball marker and conceded loudly, "You can have the hole – and the goddamn Cup!" The two nearly ended up in a fistfight.
Golfs true gentleman prevail
In the final match of the competition that year Jack Nicklaus conceded, what many believed (including American captain Sam Sneed), was a missable putt to Tony Jacklin. It halved their match and ended the 1969 Ryder Cup in a first ever tie at 16-16. The Americans retained the cup.
The challenges and contoversies of the 1969 Ryder Cup ignited a golf media frenzy on both sides of the Atlantic. It fueled stories of manipulative head games, Britain's unexpected competitive performance and Jack Nicklaus' generous and good natured sportsmanship. It provided a much needed boost to The Ryder Cup's somewhat tarnished image.
Pay close attention to how the players interact with each other this weekend. Their game faces will be on and their body language will be strategic. It's the entertainment behind the entertainment.
Do you know any juicy stories of Ryder Cup head game shenanigans? If so, leave a comment. We'd love to hear them. Who knows... you may pick up a few mind bending tricks you can use in your next match.