LONDON (Reuters) - Match-play golf is nigh on impossible to predict and it is flashes of inspiration and key momentum shifts that often decide the destiny of the Ryder Cup, according to former captain Tony Jacklin.
The 70-year-old Englishman, Europe's most successful skipper having registered two wins and one tie in his four matches in charge between 1983-89, says it is the unsung heroes who regularly come to the fore in the biennial clash between Europe and the United States.
"On paper Europe seem very strong this time but in match play anybody can beat anybody on any given day," Jacklin told Reuters in an interview as he looked ahead to the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles that starts on Sept. 26.
"That's the reason why we don't see match play golf played that much, especially in America. No one wants to see the marquee player beaten on the first day and that can easily happen in that form of the game.
"Looking at it from that standpoint, the Ryder Cup is up for grabs. What you have to try and do is get the momentum on the side of your team because confidence among your players is huge."
Jacklin said rival captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson could make a real difference with their foursomes and fourballs pairings or by springing an upset with the singles order on the final day.
"If you can get certain things to happen for you at certain times during those three days of competition it can change the whole flow of the match," said the winner of the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open.
"Who you put out first in the singles for example. In 1985 I put Manuel Pinero out first against Lanny Wadkins who was a cocky, confident player, and for our boys the fact Pinero kicked his butt was huge.
"It was an inspiring moment for the others and that's what you need to happen."
Jacklin, who also competed in seven Ryder Cups as a player between 1967-79, highlighted other incidents involving Craig Stadler and Ian Poulter to emphasise his point.
"In 1985 Stadler missed the hole completely with a tiny putt on the Saturday and it gave huge momentum to our team," he said. "Things can change so quickly in the Ryder Cup.
"Look at what Poulter did two years ago on the Saturday. His finishing run of five birdies in a row gave hope to the rest of the guys," added the Florida-based Jacklin who is on a UK-wide theatre tour until Oct. 16 (www.tonyjacklin.com/theatre-tour).
"That sort of thing can happen for a European player or for an American - you just don't know. That's what makes the Ryder Cup great because the teams are invariably well matched and it is so unpredictable.
"That's why the public get drawn in to it so much. Nothing is pre-conceived and there is nothing sure about any of the matches."
Jacklin said the 14-14 tie at The Belfry 25 years ago was another example of how difficult the Ryder Cup is to forecast.
"We'll be looking to our best players to deliver at Gleneagles, the likes of Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell, but sometimes the best players don't deliver," he explained.
"When we tied in 1989 Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam all lost in the singles and it was Christy O'Connor junior and Ronan Rafferty who came through with the wins we needed.
"There's a lot of pressure, a lot of nerves, among the players and it sums up how unpredictable the Ryder Cup is."
Editing by Pritha Sarkar