Question: You didn’t make your Ryder Cup debut until 1961, by which time you had already
won three Major championships. Why the delay?
Ap: In those days, the PGA was still requiring what you might call a probationary period before a
tournament player could become a PGA member and be eligible to compete for a spot on the Ryder
Cup team. I didn’t get my membership until it was too late to compile enough points to make the 1959
team, even though I had won five times [during that qualifying period], including the Masters. So, in
effect, the PGA said [that] I was not qualified to make the team, that I didn’t belong. The funny thing
was that they gave me a spot in the 1958 PGA Championship because I had won the Masters that year.
Q: Still a little bitter?
Ap: It was a sore point for me for a long time. I had to sit at home and watch my friends play while I
couldn’t. I was pretty hot about having to sit out the Ryder Cup until 1961.
Q: Who was your most difficult opponent in the Ryder Cup?
Ap: Peter Alliss always gave me a real dog fight. Like a lot of Europeans, he played a nice, controlled
fade, shaping his shots from left to right. I had to work my tail off just to halve him. He was very
tenacious and I enjoyed playing against Peter. He is a nice man.
Q: Which ‘team’ format did you prefer—foursomes or four-balls—and why?
Ap: I didn’t really have a preference. I enjoyed them both.
Q: What was your attitude towards conceding putts to your opponent?
Ap: I think I was generous in conceding my opponent’s putts and I think that was in the spirit of the Ryder Cup. Its original intent was to bring players from both sides of the Atlantic together for friendly matches.
The competition was always fierce, but there were never any real antagonisms. That was the way it was
with conceded putts, too. Sure, there’d be some gamesmanship—giving away all the easy ones until one
counted—but that’s just part of the game. In general, both sides did a lot of friendly conceding.
Q: The 2010 Ryder Cup was badly disrupted by the weather and had to finish on a Monday for the
first time. Do you think the event is being played too late in the year, especially as diminishing
daylight is also a potential issue?
Ap: Moving the event to earlier in the year is something they may want to consider. Nobody wants
to see a Monday finish and the length of matches and the shortness of the days they’re played on can
lead to that unwanted result.
Q: Do you think the authorities should be stricter with players who play slowly in Ryder cup
match play? If so, what potential penalties would you put in their power?
Ap: Slow play’s a real problem in golf at all levels. With the professionals, it’s a problem because how
do you punish the slow players? They’re all making so much money that fines don’t deter. That leaves
stroke penalties for chronic slow play. But that’s going to take a lot of spine.
Q: Have you kept all your bags and equipment from the six Ryder Cups in which you played?
Ap: Yes, I still have them all. Seeing them brings back so many great memories.
Q: What are your fondest playing memories from the Ryder Cup and who was your favorite partner?
Ap: Just having the opportunity to represent my country on those occasions is my fondest memory.
Thinking about it still gives me a lump in the throat. As for playing partners, Dave Marr was always
a good buddy of mine and a great partner. He always kept me loose and laughing. Billy Casper and I
were very competitive, too, but we made for great Ryder Cup teammates. Jack Nicklaus was a great
partner. We had a great individual rivalry, but we had a lot of success as a team, not just in the Ryder
Cup but in other team events like the World Cup.
Q: You didn’t play in the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. What was the reason for that?
Ap: Simple. I didn’t have the points and back then there were no captain’s picks.
Q: How did you cope with being the U.S. captain as well as a player back in 1963, only your second
playing appearance in the Ryder Cup, at East Lake?
Ap: Cope? It was all a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the aspects of playing and captaining at once. I had a really
great team and enjoyed working with all the players. And getting to play, too, made it even more special.
Q: Did you feel at the time that it was a dual role unlikely ever to be repeated, or did it seem
Ap: It never occurred to me it was anything unusual. I was happy to take it all in and have fun with it.
Q: How difficult was it for you to decide which of your players to leave out and which to pair
together? What criteria did you apply to both decisions?
Ap: That’s probably the most difficult aspect about being captain. And those are the kinds of decisions
that make or break Ryder Cup teams. As captain, I looked at all the factors: the personalities, the
strengths, the weaknesses and, most importantly, just who I thought could help our team to win.
Q: Most golf fans assume that all match-ups in the Ryder Cup are randomly selected by a draw.
Was that the case in your day or has there always been some manipulation of the draw to produce
some box-office contests?
Ap: Getting marquee match-ups was part of it. But the Ryder Cup is always going to be a compelling
match no matter who’s playing.
Q: What other memories do you hold from 1975 when you were the non-playing captain over a
course, Laurel Valley, with which you have a close association?
Ap: That was very special to me because it was my last direct involvement with the Ryder Cup team
and I was flattered to be selected captain. We had a sort of Dream Team that year with Nicklaus, Gene
Littler, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Billy Casper—I think it was the strongest team the U.S. ever fielded.
Nicklaus was at the top of his game then, too. That’s why it was so surprising when Brian Barnes beat
him in the morning singles. When we had the team meeting at lunchtime, the players urged me to
give Jack another shot at Barnes. I did and Barnes beat him again in the afternoon. Jack took a lot of
good-natured razzing about that afterward, even though we won the Ryder Cup rather easily.
Q: Are you happy with the current playing format of the Ryder Cup or would you like to see it
emulate the Presidents Cup and enable every player to play in every round of matches?
Ap: I don’t think I’d change a thing. The format works as well as it’s ever going to and I think the great
competition proves that.
Q: How much time did you spend, both as a captain and as a player, fraternising with the
opposition? In the case of your opposite number as captain, did you spend as much time together
before the match as they seem to today?
Ap: We spent a lot of time together and it was always very enjoyable. We competed against them a lot and were on friendly terms already. That’s what it’s all about. The Ryder Cup’s supposed to be about sporting competition. There are times when it gets pretty heated—and there’s nothing wrong with that—as long as the players and the fans remember to honor the spirit of the game. Me, I loved the Ryder Cup. It’s about playing for something more than money. It’s about playing for your country. That meant the world to me.
Q: Which was the most exciting Ryder Cup you’ve ever seen or participated in, and why?
Ap: There have been so many great ones but for sheer drama, it’ll be difficult to top the 1991 event
at Kiawah Island when it came down to Bernhard Langer’s final putt with everything on the line
—and he missed.
Q: How do you assess the qualities of the two captains, Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal, and
what do you think each will bring to their teams?
Ap: Well, they’re just two great guys and veterans who can be counted on to motivate their teams and
get the best out of them.
Q: Medinah is one of America’s outstanding courses and the scene of two of Tiger Woods’ PGA
Championship victories. Do you think he will have an advantage over his opponents playing on a
course of which he undoubtedly has positive memories?
Ap: That should give him an advantage. Clearly, he’s very comfortable playing and winning there. He’s
done it before and will rely on those positive recollections. On the other hand, his opponents will
know of his success there and may be a little intimidated. I expect him to do well at Medinah.
Q: How would you assess Medinah as a Ryder Cup venue—the course, facilities and also the crowd?
Ap: It’s a great course, a great club and Chicago’s one of America’s great golf towns. They know how to
run major events. The course is tough, but fair and I expect Chicago to really support the matches and
the U.S. team.
Q: Why do you think a panel of vice-captains has become so important to both teams in the Ryder
Cup? What would be your ideal number?
Ap: I wonder if it’s becoming excessive. I understand the captain needing an assistant, but all these
vice-captains seem unnecessary.
Q: How important do you feel a caddie is at a Ryder Cup? In an ordinary tournament the
relationship is essential, especially when pressure kicks in, but does the caddie have an equally
important role to play in a team match-play context, or a diminished role?
Ap: The caddie certainly plays his part with reading putts and encouraging his player, but it is
somewhat diminished in team play when a playing partner is there to share strategy.
Q: Sticking your neck out, which team do you fancy to win at Medinah and why?
Ap: It could be one of the most exciting ever. I’m expecting it to be very dramatic. I think the U.S. will
win with the help of the home turf advantage, but the Euros have some players who are doing very
well right now, too. I’ll tell you this much, I’ll be watching.
Q: Finally, London recently got done hosting an even more international event, the 2012 summer
Olympics. Did you watch much?
Ap: I certainly did. I enjoyed a lot of the swimming competitions and was amazed at the agility of the
gymnasts. I love the Olympics and look forward to 2016 when golf will be part of the program.
Q: Thank you, as always, Mr. Palmer for such lively and engaging conversation.
Ap: And thank you. It’s my pleasure.
Courtesy of Honor & Glory - Arnold Palmer's Guide to the Ryder Cup