Tony Jacklin says that English players need to push themselves to compete with the world’s best on a more consistent basis if they want to once again challenge at the pinnacle of the world rankings.
As it stands, there are no Englishmen residing in the top 20, with Tyrrell Hatton the highest-ranked at 23rd, which is a far cry from a decade or so ago when the likes of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald enjoyed spells as the World No. 1.
And while Jacklin admits “change is inevitable,” he also thinks inflated prize purses on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour has caused some homegrown players to become complacent.
Jacklin, who spoke to Golf Monthly in association with Boyle Sports golf betting, said: “There's a lot of reasons [for the decline]. I mean, to be on the European Tour, you're not a pauper anymore - these guys are making good money. You have to have a mindset - each individual has - to want to go and do it. A lot of their ambitions stop at just getting on the tour.
“Winning tournaments is hard, especially on this [the PGA] Tour. But this is where you need to be. I mean, this is where it's hardest to win. That’s why I made it my business in 1967 to come over here and play with and be where the best players were. And you push yourself to the limit.
“But there's no need to do that now to make a decent living. Once you marry and children come along, you have different decisions to make. Not everybody wants the nomadic life, and that's what it is. The life of a professional golfer is you're on aeroplanes constantly, and your life is upside down a lot of the time.
“So it's down to the individuals and it's down to getting spoiled. People get spoiled if they reach their objectives. Nothing terribly wrong with it but I think you can't push people.”
According to the 77-year-old, a consequence of this apparent slump was evident at Whistling Straits last year, when Steve Stricker captained the United States to a record-breaking 19-9 Ryder Cup victory - the largest winning margin since it became a continental contest in 1979.
“The Ryder Cup comes to mind - the last one wasn't much of a match,” Jacklin, a four-time Ryder Cup captain, added. “We had Stricker picking six young guns, who were all more than capable and showed it. And we were left wanting, not winning a series. That's serious.
“I didn't even know we didn’t have a player in the top 23, but it's indicative, I’m afraid, of the way things are going. It comes down to what you want for yourself. Rory [McIlroy], he tries and spreads himself in both places, but he knows where the best players are. And unless you're butting heads with the best players on a consistent basis, you're going to take your foot off the gas. That is just human nature.
“They all need to be pushed. Team members, whoever the psychologists are - mine was Johnnie Walker and he wasn't much good to me for advice for the future - need to inspire and push them to be over here as much as they can.”
Finally, like McIlroy, Jacklin also believes the rumoured mega-money Saudi Golf League further “muddies the water” when it comes to maintaining a competitive edge at the elite level.
“You marry it all in with this Saudi deal and there are more opportunities to not win. It muddies the water even more.
“'OK, we got signed up. Oh, this is alright - no cut, three rounds. I'm copping more money than I know what to do with and I only have to play 14 times. Blimey, give me a bunch of that'. And if you haven't got the big aspirations, that becomes a very, very attractive alternative.”
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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