Top 5: European Ryder Cup Moments vs USA Ryder Cup Moments
Post by Golf Journalist Josh Carr
The Ryder Cup has shown us the good, the bad and the ugly that golf can offer, but within the historic event are some of the most memorable, iconic golfing moments the world has ever seen. There is something special when Europe take on the USA and with the 2016 event just around the corner, we’ve picked out some of our favourite moments for both sides.
Europe Top 5
1957. Lindrick – Great Britain’s first win in 24 years
The 1957 Ryder Cup saw the introduction of a new points based system for the then Great Britain team and saw them lift the Ryder Cup for the first time in 24 years. The Great Britain team was led by Dai Rees at Lindrick Golf Club, Rotherham and saw the bi-annual match finish 7.5-4.5 in Great Britain’s favour.
It isn’t just the fact that Great Britain won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1933 in 1957 that makes this a stand out victory, but the fact that the GB team lost three of the four matches on the first day of the competition. The format was slightly different back then and meant Britain had work to do in the eight singles matches. However, the GB team would go on to take 6.5 points from a possible 8 to win the 1957 Ryder Cup.
1987. Muirfield Village – Europe win in America for the first time
The 1987 Ryder Cup is arguable one of the most famous in Europe’s history as it saw them win the competition on American soil for the first time. The USA had previously been unbeaten in the 13 previous Ryder Cups held in America.
Europe took a large lead of five points into the Sunday singles matches. There are three memorable moments that came in the Sunday singles, with the first being that Europe winning the Ryder Cup. Eamonn Darcy defeated Ben Crenshaw to get Europe to 13 points, but it was Crenshaw who became the main talking point after breaking his putter in frustration and was forced to putt with either his 1-iron or sand wedge for the rest of the match. And who could forget Jose Maria Olazabal’s victory dance on the 18th green?
1989. The Belfry, Christy O’Connor Jr’s famous 2 iron
With the American’s sitting on 14 points, it was up to Christy O’Connor Jr to win the final hole to earn the draw for the European’s as his match against Fred Couples went down the last All Square. Couples hit his drive 50-yards past the Irishman, who was 0-3 in his Ryder Cup career, and heaped the pressure on O’Connor Jr.
However, what followed was truly magnificent. O’Connor Jr hit what must be the shot of his career when his 2-iron stopped just a few feet from the hole. Couples then followed up by failing to hit the green with just a 9-iron in his hand. This meant that the Europeans won the final singles match to see the final score finish 14-14 and retained the Ryder Cup.
2006. The K Club – Darren Clarke’s emotional unbeaten week
The 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club brought back a bit of humanity to the Ryder Cup after years of fierce rivalries on and off the course. Having halted all playing commitments after the death of his wife Heather, who died of cancer, Clarke needed a wildcard pick to make the team. When captain Ian Woosnam offered him the chance to play, Clarke accepted in accordance with the dying wish of his wife.
Lee Westwood, who was Clarke’s partner, left the putting green first to “work up the crowd” but no one was prepared for the tsunami of noise that would come when Clarke arrived at the 1st tee. There was a lump in everyone’s throat, Westwood and Clarke’s caddie Billy Foster were both in tears, yet Clarke still managed to hit a straight 300-yard drive down the middle. Clarke went on to win all three of his matches played at the 2006 event.
2012. Medinah – Miracle at Medinah
With team USA taking a commanding 10-4 lead in the Ryder Cup, it seemed as if there was no hope for the European’s to get back into this match. Nobody expected the events that proceeded next.
With Seve watching down over his good friend Jose Maria Olazabal, the Europeans embarked on what is a record comeback to win the Ryder Cup. The day had almost everything and made for a fantastic watch as some of the world’s best players went head to head. Rory McIlroy nearly missed his tee time and despite needing a police escort to make it, McIlroy managed to dispatch of team USA’s Keegan Bradley.
There was plane that flew over the course with the message “it’s not over” to boost the morale of the team, with some saying it felt like a message from Seve. Martin Kaymer sank a five-foot putt on the 18th green to make sure Europe retained the Ryder Cup, closely followed by Francesco Molinari who earned a half to make sure Europe won the trophy outright. Europe took a staggering 8.5 points from the 12 on offer and gave all spectators a spectacle that will never be forgotten.
USA Top 5
1967. Champions Golf Club – Ben Hogan’s speech
1967 was quite a remarkable year for Hogan as he won the Masters and was captain of the American Ryder Cup team. His team was filled with new golf stars such as Arnold Palmer, Al Geiberger, Julios Boros, Gardner Dickinson, Gene littler, Billy Casper, Johnny Pott, Bobby Nichols, Gary Brewer and Doug Sanders. But it was at the team dinners where the most memorable moment of this Ryder Cup came to fruition. Hogan introduced his team as the “finest golfers in the world,” and he wasn’t far wrong as his side went on to win 23.5-8.5. The Britain team never had a chance all week.
1983. PGA National Golf Club – Narrow win for team USA
The 1983 Ryder Cup was one of the toughest to take for the European’s as they came so close to winning the Ryder Cup on American soil for the first time ever. The sides were level at 8-8 after the second day and as the match progressed into the singles, a mighty battle ensued.
The vital moment came when Lanny Wadkins hit a miraculous pitch shot on the final hole against Europe’s Jose-Maria Canizares, which earned them half a point and ensured they retained the Ryder Cup. Team USA’s captain Jack Nicklaus famously kissed the divot of Wadkins pitch shot as a celebration of the sheer quality of the shot.
1991. Kiawah Island – The War by the Shore
The 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island has aptly been renamed “The War by the Shore”. A highly-charged American side took their team spirit into battle and it is widely regarded that this Ryder Cup is when the intensity of the rivalry really stepped up a level.
With the scores at 8-8 heading into the Sunday singles, it was hard to call a winner as the momentum had swung from one team to another all week. It came down to the final match on the final hole between Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer. The European had the eyes of the world upon him but couldn’t convert his six-foot putt to earn Europe a tie and retain the Ryder Cup. This meant the Ryder Cup returned to America after an absence of six years. Queue USA celebrations with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
1999. The Country Club in Brookline – Payne Stewart
The 1999 Ryder Cup was a rather cagey affair with both teams fired up and going head to head. The American’s had home advantage and took advantage of that fact, especially the home crowd who got on the backs of many of the Europeans during the week. The American’s went on to win the Ryder Cup after completing a record come-from-behind victory.
However, among the several incidents that happened during that week, it was Payne Stewart’s concession to Colin Montgomerie that really stands out. The Americans had already clinched the Ryder Cup and knowing this, Stewart conceded a long putt to Montgomerie, which meant he won the match. The American fans had been heckling Montgomerie all day, so this was a nice touch from Stewart to concede the putt. This was one of Stewart’s final acts on the golf course as he tragically died in a plane crash a few months later.
1999. The Country Club in Brookline – Justin Leonard seals the comeback
Described by Sam Torrance as “the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf,” the 1999 Ryder Cup will live long in the memory of both sets of fans, for many different reasons. The Americans were whipping their crowd into a frenzy as they battled in the Sunday singles and it made for some rather unsavoury scenes. Ultimately, the defining moment came from team USA’s Justin Leonard.
With Leonard requiring just a half from his match against Jose Maria Olazabal to win the Ryder Cup, the American staged a comeback of his own. He won five of the final seven holes to secure the cup for the American side and break the record of the biggest comeback from any side on a final day.
It is a shame that Leonard’s celebration with his teammates on the 17th became the defining moment of this Ryder Cup match. Leonard holed a putt from over 40ft meaning that if Olazabal didn’t hole his putt from roughly 25 feet, then team USA would be guaranteed victory. However, the American, his team, some fans and even some camera crew ran across the green to celebrate, despite the fact that Olazabal still had to putt. It is reported that from these over exuberant celebrations, some members walked over Olazabal’s line, which goes against the etiquette of golf. The incident came in for some extreme criticism from the worlds’ media, accusing the Americans of bad sportsmanship.
However, this does not mean to say that sportsmanship doesn’t exist in the Ryder Cup. This was shown at the 1969 Ryder Cup. Jack Nicklaus faced Tony Jacklin and after the American holed a clutch 4-foot par putt, Jacklin would need to hole his own short par putt to half. However, rather than forcing Jacklin to putt, the gracious Nicklaus conceded the putt. This concession resulted in the first tie in Ryder Cup history and endures as a symbol of exemplary sportsmanship.
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