Reign of Spain Helped to Transform the Ryder Cup

By: | Tue 24 Sep 2019 | Comments


THE 2019 BMW PGA Championship will live long in the memory for the quality of golf played by Danny Willett as he completed his remarkable return to form. He defeated a world-class field, defeating Jon Rahm by three shots. The tournament will also be remembered for the emotional scenes beside the 18th green during the second round when Jose Maria Olazabal missed the cut at the end of his 25th and final appearance in the European Tour’s flagship event. 

Olazabal will be remembered for his two Masters victories and his wins all around the world, as well as for his return to the top after an agonising battle with arthritis. But it is as a Ryder Cup player that he wrote his special place in golf’s history. He is one of 10 Spaniards who have represented Europe since 1979. Here, we look at the contributions made by them all.

Seve Ballesteros: 1979, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 

Captain: 1997

The man who transformed the Ryder Cup. When Tony Jacklin was first appointed captain he made it clear that his top priority was to heal the rift between Seve and the European Tour. He shared his vision with Ballesteros and the Ryder Cup was changed forever. He would go on to form a spectacular partnership with Jose Maria Olazabal, with whom he was well night unbeatable. Seve would go on to captain Europe during the 1997 encounter at Valderrama, during which he drove his players mad by constantly interfering as they prepared to play. His vice-captain, Miguel Angel Jimenez, later revealed that he didn’t get much sleep during the three days of the match - or in the run-up to it. Seve simply shrugged and pointed to the fact that Europe won.

Jose Maria Olazabal: 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2006

Captain: 2012

When he first made the team, Olazabal was taken under the wing of his idol, Seve Ballesteros, and the pair proved to be well-nigh unbeatable. Olazabal also established a fine singles record. He was a member of four winning teams and would also have played in 1995 but wasn’t fit at the time the match was played and withdrew. But his finest hour probably came when he captained Europe at Medinah in 2012. Going into the singles trailing 10-6, Olazabal’s team talk the previous evening invoked the spirit of Seve and, inspired by the heroics of Ian Poulter, Europe stormed back to stun the Americans. It all left Jose Maria in tears at the end, as he raised his eyes heavenwards and said: “This one is for you Seve."

Sergio Garcia: 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 20012, 2014, 2016, 2018 

Garcia made his debut in 1999, aged 19, and it was quickly obvious that he revelled in the special atmosphere. That, of course, was the year that Europe lost after going into the singles with a 10-6 lead at Brookline. He would have qualified for the 2010 team at Celtic Manor but told captain Colin Montgomerie that he was in no fit state to play. Monty appointed him a vice-captain. He has played in nine matches and been on the winning side six times. His singles win in 2018 made him the all-time Ryder Cup points leader, with 25½ points, overtaking Nick Faldo. He is surely a future captain. 

Miguel Angel Jimenez: 1999, 2004, 2008, 2010

Jimenez did things back to front. He was one of Ballesteros’ vice-captains when Europe defeated the USA in Spain in 1997. It whetted his appetite for the contest. Jimenez, of course, enjoyed most of his success after he turned 40 and made his Ryder Cup debut at the age of 35. He was a member of two winning teams, in 2004 and 2010, and has since resumed his role as a vice-captain.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: 2016 

A world-class player who had been knocking on the door for some time, Cabrera Bello finally qualified for the team in 2016 and formed a wonderful partnership with close friend Garcia. Despite their heroics, he ended up on the wrong side of a defeat on American soil, and will be looking to put that right in 2020. In 2016 he also represented Spain at the Olympic Games, where he finished fifth.

Jose Maria Canizares: 1981, 1983, 1985, 1989  

Canizares was a regular tournament winner in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s and played in four Ryder Cups. Along with Ballesteros and the hugely underrated Manuel Pinero, he was a member of the team that turned the Ryder Cup on its head at The Belfry in 1985. He was a pivotal figure in helping to raise the profile of the Ryder Cup.

Jon Rahm: 2018

The Spaniard made his debut at Le Golf National in 2018 and immediately proved that he possesses the same spirit and fight for the contest as Ballesteros and Garcia. It is a racing certainty that he will be a fixture in the team for many years to come and will surely end up becoming one of Europe’s all-time record points scorers. He simply adores matchplay.

Antonio Garrido: 1979

The 1979 Ryder Cup was the first to feature Europe after the powers-that-be decided they’d had enough of the ritual humiliation of GB&I at the hands of America’s finest. Nothing much changed initially and Garrido and Ballesteros were members of the first European team to suffer yet another defeat. It would be Garrido’s one and only performance in the event.

Ignacio Garrido: 1997

The son of Antonio, Garrido’s best year on the European Tour came in 1997, when he finished sixth in the Order of Merit and qualified for the Ryder Cup team at Valderrama. Playing on home soil, he was a key member of Seve Ballesteros’ winning team.

Manuel Pinero: 1981, 1985

The diminutive Spaniard played in two Ryder Cups. He was a member of the team that helped to transform the competition when Sam Torrance memorably holed the winning putt at The Belfry. That team contained Sandy Lyle, Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam and finally marked the end of America’s domination. And Pinero played his part.

And one who nearly made it…

Miguel Angel Martin qualified for the 1997 team, captained by Ballesteros but injured a wrist in the run-up to the match. At the time he claimed that he had been excluded in order to have a bigger name player involved. Martín wanted to make his own decision about his fitness nearer the time, but the European Ryder Cup committee requested that he play 18 holes to prove his fitness. He refused as it was just 30 days after his surgery, and his place on the team was taken by Olazabal, who was next on the qualification list. Seve made it perfectly clear that he considered his fellow countryman’s absence to be no great loss to his team.


Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography


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