Surprising ‘good-good’ concession at Walker Cup comes at crucial moment
More than 53 years after Jack Nicklaus’ famous concession in the 1969 Ryder Cup to Tony Jacklin, the golf world has another Sunday-singles concession to debate.
This iteration once again involved the best player on either team, but this time took place at the Walker Cup.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what happened.
Gordon Sargent, a Vanderbilt University junior and the No. 1-ranker player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking was locked in a Sunday singles duel with John Gough from the Great Britain and Ireland team. The U.S. team started the final day down three points but closed the gap to just one after winning the morning foursomes session 3-1.
Gough held a slim lead on the front nine, even holing his second shot on the par-4 6th at the Old Course at St. Andrews for eagle, but Sargent fought back to claim a 1-up lead on the back nine.
But by the time the pair arrived at the 16th green, the match was tied.
With Sargent about four feet away for par, Gough gave his mid-range birdie putt an aggressive rap, but missed it low and watched as it rolled just outside of Sargent’s mark. That’s when things started to get interesting.
From the vantage point of the TV camera, it looked like Gough was still away, but Sargent walked in behind him anyway, presumably to make an estimate as to whether he was away or not.
Gough had marked his ball and was stepping back to get a read on his par putt when Sargent looked at him and pointed at their two putts. The NBC/Sky Sports mics did not pick up who said what, but both players immediately picked up their marks and headed to the 17th tee in an apparent “good, good” agreement.
The broadcast crew was shocked.
“I’m amazed at that,” said one announcer. “When you need the points, just say no and take a ‘good, good’ situation?”
Analyst Brad Faxon later said on the broadcast that fellow NBC broadcaster and former Ryder Cup caddie John Wood texted him his reaction to the concession by the players.
“These kids don’t know how to play match play,” Wood said in his text.
After the match, Sargent explained the situation on the broadcast.
“We were just having a friendly match,” Sargent said. “And there was no point in — we felt like we both were gonna make it so we were kinda like let’s just take it to 17 and hopefully put on a show for the fans.”
“He was a little closer than me,” Gough said later. “We both had disgusting left-to-righters and said, ‘On to the next tee,’ and he agreed, so we went.”
That decision didn’t pan out well for Gough. The 24-year-old Englishman blocked his tee shot at the famous “Road Hole” into the Old Course Hotel and out of bounds. Sargent made an easy bogey from in front of the green and then drove the 18th with a 3-wood for an easy birdie to secure a 1-up victory.
The result in that match, the second of the afternoon session, proved to be a momentum killer for the GB&I team, which began the session with a one-point lead and was in control of several other matches on the course.
Team USA ended up winning six of the 10 matches in the final session and retained the Walker Cup by finishing off a 14.5-11.5 win.