The institution of a sportsmanship award at this year’s Ryder Cup has failed to prevent outbreaks of ill-feeling over “gimme” putts that were not conceded.
Home favourite Justin Thomas made an “inside the leather” gesture on Saturday after he was asked to complete a 2ft 10in putt on the eighth, while Lee Westwood looked decidedly unimpressed when he had to sink one of a similar length two holes earlier.
The “inside the leather” convention refers to the length of the putter’s shaft. Originally, this meant that putts shorter than the leather grip (or about a foot) should be conceded, although the practice now refers to almost the full length of the putter (more like two foot).
After holing his mini-putt on the eighth, Thomas held out his putter horizontally to demonstrate to his opponents – Victor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger – that they should have conceded the putt.
On the sixth, meanwhile, the rookie pairing of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay perked up the crowd dramatically with their request that Westwood hole out.
The resulting buzz was so loud and intrusive that the American golfers had to hold out their hands and ask for quiet while Westwood made his tap-in.
That was borderline disrespectful from Xander/Cantlay to not give Westwood that putt. That was like 18 inches.
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) September 25, 2021
There appeared to be words exchanged after that one, as indeed there had been on the same hole on Friday morning. In that instance, ironically enough, it had been Thomas and his partner Jordan Spieth who asked Sergio Garcia to hole a tiddler.
“It’s all part of the Ryder Cup, right?” said Garcia’s partner Jon Rahm on Friday lunchtime, in reference to Garcia’s tap-in. “People are going to try to play mind games.”
But the timing of these disputes will not sit well with the institution of the Nicklaus-Jacklin Award, which is to be presented to one member of each team at the conclusion of the event.
The very name of the award is a reference to the most famous conceded putt of all: the three-footer that Jack Nicklaus gave to Tony Jacklin on the last hole of the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale.
“I don’t believe you would have missed that, but I’d never give you the opportunity in these circumstances,” said Nicklaus at the time.
The two men were so close that they later collaborated on a golf course in Florida which they named “The Concession”.