Arnie & Jack By Ian O'Connor
Release date: 01st October, 2008
Publisher: Yellow Jersey
Our Price: £12.59
You Save: £6.4 (33%)
Individual sporting battles, from which great sporting rivalries emerge, generally fall into either the inspirational or corrosive category. History has produced a great many of them and not all end up with the main characters regularly swapping Christmas cards.
For example, despite the passage of time, few get the impression that Mohammed Ali has yet to become Joe Frazier's bosom buddy, while one senses there remains an element of needle between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.
Perhaps our greatest sportsmen can never compromise or become too friendly with an opponent as they strive to become the very best, because it's that very attitude which differentiates them from the their peers.
Amongst some of the greatest sporting rivalries, few come close to that which existed between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The pair contested not only major golf titles but unwittingly, also for the affection of golf fans across the globe.
As anyone who has ever swung a club in anger will attest, golf is both a game from which lifelong friendships can be forged, or one where an enormous amount of pressure can be exerted on opponents simply by playing well. When two pros are performing to the maximum, there is even more pressure - simply to keep performing at the top of one's game.
Arnie & Jack by Ian O'Connor relives the compelling rivalry which existed between the pair, driven as it was by a phenomenal will to succeed on the part of both men. They clearly admired each other's style of play and temperament, but like two brothers, both sought to come out on top in what developed into a fascinating fraternal battle.
Younger golf enthusiasts who have yet to see anyone challenge Tiger Woods' hegemony, may find it difficult to comprehend how the mantle (official or otherwise) of world number one flitted between Nicklaus and Palmer - and indeed Gary Player, whose influence warrants greater space in this study. The trio ushered in a golden age of golf, although Palmer and Nicklaus always had a slight edge on the South African.
Before the burly Jack Nicklaus arrived, golf was dominated by the affable Palmer. American golfing aficionados loved him, whereas Nicklaus was considered an upstart, a powerful hitter who lacked any of Arnie's inherent touch or class. While Brits marvelled at each man's outstanding technique, Americans were in one or the other's camp; no-one straddled the two.
Palmer was loved by his followers for being an average guy who enjoyed a beer and a cigarette, a straight-talking man with a god-given talent. Such was the intensity of his followers' support that Arnie's Army, a vocal gallery that followed him to every major tournament, was born. They made life hell for his opponents, particularly Nicklaus.
Arnie's supporters drove Jack nuts, although he irritated Palmer with his meticulous playing style and his refusal to take on adventurous shots (as Palmer was famed for doing) if there was a safe alternative.
The pair were hardly at each other's throats and their wives became good friends; the men shared the same private aircraft on their way back from tournaments and one suspects that behind the scenes, they probably shared a beer too. As both men mellowed, their respect for the other's achievements became increasingly apparent and both are now unequivocally admired by the golfing public.
Today, they appear like any other pair of ageing golfers, figuratively arguing about whether they need a buggy and if so, who will drive. Nonetheless, their intense sporting rivalry remains undiminished. How refreshing.
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