Golf's most dynamic duos
A look into the best teams to ever play together
April 25, 2017
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
A look into the best teams to ever play together
Davis Love III may be the ultimate team player.
He teamed with his good buddy Fred Couples to win the World Cup four straight years, starting in 1992. He also won the 1992 Franklin Funds Shark Shootout in 1992 with Tom Kite.
Oh, and Beth Daniel was Love’s partner at the JCPenney Classic. The duo won the mixed-team event two of the six times they played together, finished second once and were third twice.
“I might not be very smart but I can catch on after a while – get the best players if you want a partner,” Love said, laughing, referring to the three World Golf Hall of Famers he will join in September.
For Love, who has served two terms as Ryder Cup captain and will be an assistant at the Presidents Cup this fall for the second straight time, picking the right partner isn’t rocket science.
Trusting your partner is the key. So is having fun.
“I loved playing with Freddie just because it made me relaxed because I was playing with him, and it made him relax,” Love said. “We did well. It was one of those partnerships where you didn't worry about what the other guy was doing.
“All the way through all the stuff I've done with the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, now I get what (New England Patriots coach Bill) Belichick says -- if you just do your job, the other guy can do his job aggressively. That's what Fred felt like.
“If I just get up and hit, hit it in the fairway, then he could be more aggressive, and he always wanted me to hit first.”
Love’s team victories didn’t come in official PGA TOUR events, though. In fact, he was still in high school when Vance Heafner and Mike Holland partnered to win the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship, the last official team event on TOUR.
That changes this week when the much-anticipated Zurich Classic of New Orleans returns the format to the TOUR schedule. And not only will the tournament at TPC Louisiana be the first team event in 36 years, it will be the first to ever incorporate Foursomes play.
The first and third rounds of the Zurich Classic will be contested in the alternate-shot format while the second and final rounds feature Four-ball. The winners split 800 FedExCup points (first and second from a standard TOUR event) and receive a two-year exemption.
Team golf used to be fairly common on the PGA TOUR, with three events contested in a single year on four occasions. Through the years there have been a total of 61 events with two pros paired together, starting with the 1916 Rockland (N.Y.) Country Club Four-Ball and ending in the happiest place on earth in 1981. There were 13 other pro-amateur events with the pro getting the official win.
Some have featured total stroke play scores, match play brackets and round-robin matches with points awarded for holes one and subtracted for holes lost. At TPC Louisiana this week, the winning team will have shot the lowest cumulative four-round total in the two different formats.
To celebrate the return of team golf to the TOUR schedule, PGATOUR.COM has decided to put together a list of the game’s most dynamic duos. It’s an interesting mix of historic figures and current veterans, and like any subjective ranking, up for debate.
Small wonder, though, that Love and Couples top the list.
Their four World Cup wins came in a cumulative stroke play format. The first victory in 1992 capped a season that saw Couples and Love finish 1-2 on the PGA TOUR money list, winning three times each. Couples was the World Cup medalist in 1994 while Love led the field the following year.
So it’s not surprising that Lanny Wadkins decided to partner the two in 1995 at Oak Hill and Couples and Love responded by beating two of the greatest European Ryder Cuppers, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo 3 and 2. The Americans next two turns in the Ryder Cup didn’t go quite as well as the two went 0-2 the following year. But Couples and Love were golden at the Presidents Cup, posting a 5-2-1 record.
Love compared the success he and Couples had at the World Cup with the Ryder Cup domination of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, who rank second on this list.
“They were just intimidating. It was impressive,” Love said of the Spaniards. “And I think Fred and I did that in the World Cup. We came down to the end, we were the team to beat. We had that intimidation factor.”
Indeed, Nick Price, a three-time major winner, called Love and Couples “unstoppable” at the 1993 World Cup where he and Mark McNulty finished second.
At the same time, Couples once told Sports Illustrated that he and Love thrived at the World Cup because the atmosphere is more laid back than other team events.
"You're still playing for your country, but because they're not waving flags and screaming, ‘USA! USA!’ it's not difficult to play," Couples said.
This partnership is hands down the greatest in Ryder Cup history. The two Spaniards, who many took to calling “The Armada,” played 15 matches together and won an astounding 11 of them. The late Ballesteros and his protégé, Olazabal, only lost twice with one of those coming in 1993 when Love and Kite took a 2 and 1 Four-Ball victory. Ballesteros and Olazabal got revenge, though, when they beat the same two Americans twice in Foursomes that year in the last Ryder Cup matches the Spaniards would play together. Ballesteros and Olazabal had amassed a 9-1-2 record entering that first match with Love and Couples, their only other loss coming at the hands of Hal Sutton and Larry Mize in 1987.
“Perhaps the biggest thing I learned from Seve is to be patient and never, ever give up,” Olazabal told Golf Digest in 2012. “He always saw the glass as half full. It didn't matter if he was in a tough situation and the opponents were in good shape. His attitude was always, 'Make a par.' Force the other guys to make a birdie, which is never easy. That was the mentality I learned just by being around him so much.”
The two Spaniards had unwavering confidence in each other. Olazabal was 7 the first time he saw Ballesteros play and 16 the first time the two played 18 holes together.
“Jose looked so much up to Seve, and then they were both great players, obviously, but I think they just felt like together they were invincible,” Love said.
Nick Faldo, who played on 11 Ryder Cup teams, including five with Ballesteros and Olazabal, once told Golf Digest how impressed he was with the Spaniards' chemistry. The Englishman said he and his teammates always expected the two – among the game’s greatest escape artists -- to come out on top.
"They didn't always win, but we always assumed they would,” Faldo said. “It's amazing how much of a lift the rest of us got from that knowledge. So, great as their record was, they were worth even more points to the team than they put on the scoreboard.”
“You had to assume one of them would hole out, no matter where they were. Of course, getting up-and-down from unlikely spots is the best thing you can do in match play.
Like Love and Couples, these two icons of the game teamed up to win four times in what was then known as the Canada Cup and later became the World Cup. Their wins came in 1963, ’64, ’66 and ’67 with Gary Player and Harold Henning breaking that streak in 1965. Nicklaus earned medalist honors twice while Palmer took the honors in 1967. Nicklaus and Palmer also proved formidable in the National Team Championship, winning it in 1966, 1970 and ’71.
In “The Greatest Game of All,” the autobiography Nicklaus wrote at the age of 28 with another legend, Herbert Warren Wind, he said that he and Palmer were first focused on winning the Canada Cup before competing for medalist honors. Nicklaus led the field twice while Palmer did once.
“Our record in the World Cup stems, I believe, from the fact that we concentrate primarily on playing as a team and we forget about the concurrent individual competition – at least until we get the team championship wrapped up.”
Nicklaus told PGATOUR.COM in 2007 that transitioning from individual competitors to teammates wasn’t as hard as people might have thought.
“Too much has been made over the years of our rivalry when we actually spent a lot of wonderful times playing and travelling together including, of course, the World Cup,” Nicklaus said.
"I consider Arnold one of my closest friends in the game. Our wives were very good friends and he was always a good companion and a good playing partner. Arnold was always the competitor, but also always the gentleman and friend.”
Interestingly, the two only played three Ryder Cup matches together, winning two Foursomes (in 1971 and ’73) and losing just once, this time 3 and 1 in Four-balls to Maurice Bembridge and Brian Huggett. In those days, the Ryder Cup pitted the United States against Great Britain (Ireland was added in 1973) and the Americans held a lopsided 17-3 edge in the competition.
“It’s probably unfair to put those two together,” Love mused.
These two have more official team victories than anyone else. Hogan, who was known as “The Hawk,” owned eight team titles while Demaret had seven. The two won six times together. Four of those victories came in the Inverness Invitational, which was played from 1935-1953 in Toledo, Ohio. The format was an interesting mix. The field consisted of eight teams playing the other seven in match play with points awarded and taken away for wins and losses, respectively. Hogan and Demaret, a three-time Masters champion who twice appeared on the “I Love Lucy” show, won the Inverness Invitational in 1941, ’46, '47 and ’48. The duo also won the Miami International Four-Ball in 1946 and ’47. The tournament, which was played from 1924-1954, featured a field of 16 two-man teams in single elimination match play when Hogan and Demaret won it.
Although both were Texans and friends since their teenage years, their partnership was intriguing given their differing personalities – Hogan came from a hard-scrabble background and was among the game’s hardest workers while Demaret was a colorful character, literally and figuratively, a comedian with a penchant for bright clothes and a smooth baritone who sometimes entertained at nightclubs after finishing his round.
But Demaret rarely was able to coax a chuckle out of the uber-serious Hogan.
“When he is taking about anything except and out-and-out joke, he remains absolutely deadpanned,” Demaret wrote in 1954, according to the book “Hogan” by Curt Sampson. “His opinions, when he delivers them, don’t have even the hint of a light touch in them.”
Hogan, though, wasn’t looking to be entertained on the golf course. He just wanted Demaret to continue to hit it straight off the tee so more tournament titles came their way.
“When he played with me, there was no fooling around,” Sampson quoted Hogan as saying about Demaret. “He had a tremendous talent as a shotmaker.”
These two have a combined total of five team victories, three coming at the Miami International Four-Ball (1935, ’36 and ’37) and two more at the Inverness Invitational (1935 and ’39).
The two also went 1-1 at the Ryder Cup back when the competition consisted of four Foursome matches and eight Singles. Picard, who won two major championships, counted Jack Grout, Nicklaus’ long-time coach, and Daniel, the LPGA Hall of Famer, among his students, and once helped Hogan weaken his grip. Hogan even dedicated his first instruction book to Picard, who also won two other team titles (but not with Revolta).
Revolta won five times in 1935, including the PGA Championship where he beat Tommy Armour 5 and 4 in the finals, and two of his titles with Picard. Revolta, who was known as the “Iron Master” and whose bunker play was superb, led the money list that year.