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Ryder Cup Countdown: American Domination Ends in 1985

By: | Thu 19 Aug 2021

WE HAD waited a long time to see it but when Sam Torrance holed a 20-foot putt on the 18th green at The Belfry and raised his arms in triumph, tears rolling down his cheeks, Europe had delivered a first Ryder Cup defeat upon the United States since 1957 - and it was something that they have since become used to.

Facing an old adversary, Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin’s European team was formidable, featuring the likes of Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Torrance and, of course, Seve Ballesteros.

Nine of the European team were chosen from the money list at the conclusion of the Benson & Hedges International Open with the remaining three team members being chosen immediately after the final event by Jacklin. Prior to the final event Christy O’Connor Jr was in the ninth and final qualifying position. However he missed the cut in the Benson & Hedges International Open and was overtaken by José María Cañizares, O'Connor finishing just £115.89 behind Cañizares. Jacklin's choices of Nick Faldo and Ken Brown were widely expected but his choice of José Rivero was a surprise.

With its smooth, manicured fairways and manmade lakes, the Brabazon Course at The Belfry was chosen as the host - a venue that has since gone on to hold the contest on a further three occasions - more than any other in Ryder Cup history. 

Despite the incredible form of Ballesteros, the Europeans trailed by 4½ to 3½ after the first day and the same old story seemed to be repeating itself. All that changed on Saturday when the home team began to assert their dominance, leading 9-7 after the second day.

It all came down to Sunday’s singles matches. After Lyle, Langer, Paul Way and Manuel Piñero all secured victory, Europe needed just one more point to win the coveted trophy for the first time in 28 years. 

It fell on the shoulders of Torrance to finally get Europe over the line. Up against the reigning US Open champion, Andy North, Torrance had his work cut out.

The Scot had a poor start, quickly going three down, but gradually began to claw his way back into the contest and by the 18th hole, the pair were all square. When North found the water with his approach shot, Torrance played it safe and landed on the green. The crowd erupted, Torrance raised his arms in triumph and players queued up to embrace the Scot, knowing that the job was nearly done.

Finding himself with a 22-foot putt to secure victory, Torrance held his nerve in what would become one of the most famous scenes in golf history. The entire European team celebrated on the clubhouse roof, with Torrance hoisting Jacklin onto his shoulders much to the delight of the crowd, who honoured the captain with a rendition of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’.

"Never have I felt as wonderful as I feel today. And never will I feel as wonderful again," said Torrance.

The Europeans were ecstatic.

"We must say that maybe 80% of the victory is thanks to all the British people, because they are just fantastic. They cannot be better," said Ballesteros of the role played by the fans at The Belfry. "It feels like I've won another Open.”

"28 years. That's my age." - Bernhard Langer, on the wait to end the United States' dominance.

This was the second of four consecutive times Jacklin was European captain. His side lost the first one, won the next two, and drew the fourth. 

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Day 1


Seve Ballesteros/Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Curtis Strange/Mark O'Meara, USA, 2 and 1

Calvin Peete/Tom Kite, USA, def. Bernhard Langer/Nick Faldo, Europe, 3 and 2

Lanny Wadkins/Raymond Floyd, USA, def. Sandy Lyle/Ken Brown, Europe, 4 and 3

Craig Stadler/Hal Sutton, USA, def. Howard Clark/Sam Torrance, Europe, 3 and 2


Paul Way/Ian Woosnam, Europe, def. Fuzzy Zoeller/Hubert Green, USA, 1-up

Seve Ballestero/Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Andy North/Peter Jacobsen, USA, 2 and 1

Bernhard Langer/Jose Maria Canizares, Europe, halved with Craig Stadler/Hal Sutton, USA

Raymond Floyd/Lanny Wadkins, USA, def. Sam Torrance/Howard Clark, Europe, 1-up

USA 4.5, Europe 3.5

Day 2


Sam Torrance/Howard Clark, Europe, def. Tom Kite/Andy North, USA, 2 and 1

Paul Way/Ian Woosnam, Europe, def. Hubert Green/Fuzzy Zoeller, USA, 4 and 3

Mark O'Meara/Lanny Wadkins, USA, def. Seve Ballesteros/Miguel Pinero, Europe, 3 and 2

Bernhard Langer/Sandy Lyle, Europe, halved with Craig Stadler/Curtis Strange, USA


Jose Maria Canizares/Jose Rivero, Europe, def. Tom Kite/Calvin Peete, USA, 4 and 3

Seve Ballesteros/Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Craig Stadler/Hal Sutton, USA, 5 and 4

Curtis Strange/Peter Jacobsen, USA, def. Paul Way/Ian Woosnam, Europe, 4 and 2

Bernhard Langer/Ken Brown, Europe, def. Raymond Floyd/Lanny Wadkins, USA, 3 and 2

Europe 9, USA 7

Day 3


Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Lanny Wadkins, USA, 3 and 1

Craig Stadler, USA, def. Ian Woosnam, Europe, 2 and 1

Paul Way, Europe, def. Raymond Floyd, USA, 2-up

Seve Ballesteros, Europe, halved with Tom Kite, USA

Sandy Lyle, Europe, def. Peter Jacobsen, USA, 3 and 2

Bernhard Langer, Europe, def. Hal Sutton, USA, 5 and 4

Sam Torrance, Europe, def. Andy North, USA, 1-up

Howard Clark, Europe, def. Mark O'Meara, USA, 1-up

Calvin Peete, USA, def. Jose Rivero, Europe, 1-up

Hubert Green, USA, def. Nick Faldo, Europe, 3 and 1

Jose Maria Canizares, Europe, def. Fuzzy Zoeller, USA, 2-up

Curtis Strange, USA, def. Ken Brown, Europe, 4 and 2

Europe 7.5, USA 4.5

Final score: Europe 16.5, USA 11.5

NEXT: Europeans win on American soil

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