By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) - The best players don't always make the best partners in the Ryder Cup.
It worked for Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, not so much for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. U.S. captain Hal Sutton made partners out of Woods and Mickelson, rivals on and off the golf course, and the experiment failed miserably as they lost both matches. Overlooked was the fact that Woods was in the middle of a major swing change in 2004, and Mickelson was in poor form.
An argument can be made that Europe has an easier time forming natural partnerships with players coming from different countries. That's a crutch. Nick Faldo (England) and Ian Woosnam (Wales) were formidable, as were Jesper Parnevik (Sweden) and Sergio Garcia (Spain). Bernhard Langer didn't have another German to have as a partner.
Ultimately, it's all about winning. And that's what makes the following the best partnerships in Ryder Cup history.
5. ARNOLD PALMER AND GARDNER DICKINSON
Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson would seem to be nothing alike. One honed his game in Latrobe, Pa., and was known as "The King," a winner of seven major championships and 62 tournaments overall on the PGA Tour. Dickinson, raised in Alabama, was known as "Slim Man" because of his 5-foot-10, 130-pound build. He won only seven times on the PGA Tour and never finished better than fifth in a major.
As a Ryder Cup tandem, they proved to be unbeatable. Both were part of the 1967 team, considered the best ever in a Ryder Cup, and they beat Peter Alliss and Christy O'Connor Sr. in the opening foursomes session, and then whipped Malcolm Gregson and Hugh Boyle. This was not Great Britain & Ireland's strongest team.
Four years later, Palmer and Dickinson won all three of their team matches, twice against Peter Oosterhuis and Peter Townsend, another against Oosterhuis and Bernard Gallacher. They were the only Ryder Cup partnership to play at least five matches and win them all.
4. COLIN MONTGOMERIE AND BERNHARD LANGER
This is not the flashiest pair, though they were reliable even against some of the toughest, albeit understated, American tandems. Montgomerie and Langer were 5-1-1, their only loss coming at Valderrama in the opening fourballs against Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods, who was making his Ryder Cup debut. This European partnership was at their best as Europe began its dominance.
Their finest performance came at The Belfry in 2002. They easily beat Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk in the opening fourballs, earned a halve against the best U.S. team that week (Phil Mickelson and David Toms), and then beat Hoch and Scott Verplank.
Plus, there's that wonderful story that Langer denies, when they first played together at Kiawah Island and Langer asked Montgomerie to step off the yardage from a sprinkler head to the front of the green. Monty told him it was 183 yards. "Was that from the front of the sprinkler or the back?" Langer supposedly told him.
"The Germans might be precise," Langer said in trying to quash a rumor. "But not that precise."
3. PETER ALLISS AND CHRISTY O'CONNOR SR.
This is the only tandem on the list with a losing record, although some perspective is in order.
Alliss and O'Connor played on seven Ryder Cup teams together from 1957 through 1969, after which Alliss decided to grace golf with his presence in the broadcast booth. What must be noted about this era is that Great Britain & Ireland won only one Ryder Cup. Much like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson today, a losing record goes along with not winning the cup. So this GB&I mark of 5-6-1 was quite strong.
They won in their partnership debut in 1959 against Art Wall and Doug Ford, two of the past three Masters champions. And they were at their finest in 1965 at Royal Birkdale, when they were 3-1 despite a 19 1/2-12 1/2 win by the Americans. Among their victims that week were Billy Casper and Gene Littler on the opening day, and Arnold Palmer and Dave Marr the next day.
2. JACK NICKLAUS AND TOM WATSON
A team like this is what U.S. captain Hal Sutton had in mind when he put Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together in that ill-fated pairing of 2004 at Oakland Hills. Only that one didn't quite work out like Nicklaus and Watson, two of the greatest players of the last 50 years.