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Ryder Cup Countdown: The Battle of Brookline

By: | Mon 20 Sep 2021 | Comments


THE 1999 Ryder Cup has gone down in history as The Battle of Brookline after astonishing scenes on the 17th green in the crucial singles match between Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazabal.

With the match all-square, Leonard holed a 45-foot birdie putt and members of the American team ran on to the putting surface to congratulate their teammate despite the fact that Olazabal still faced his own 20-foot birdie putt. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard missed his putt. It meant that Leonard went to the 18th one up, assuring him of a half point and guaranteeing an American victory. The scenes were appalling. The behaviour of both US spectators and the US team was criticised by both American and European media.

American fans heckled and abused European players throughout the three days of competition, in particular Colin Montgomerie. Veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke described the last day of the tournament as "a date that will live in infamy" in a Letter From America entitled "The arrival of the golf hooligan”.

The US team had gone into the singles trailing Mark James’ European team 10-6. At the time, the American win was the largest final day come-from-behind victory in Ryder Cup history, although Europe achieved the same feat in 2012.

In the build-up to the match Payne Stewart said of the European team: "On paper, they should be caddying for us.” Jeff Maggert echoed the sentiment in a press conference prior to the matches, saying: "Let's face it, we've got the 12 best players in the world.” Montgomerie refused to react, saying: "You want someone to bite. Well, I'm not going to.”

The 1999 European Team Points Table began in September 1998, and concluded on August 22, 1999, after the BMW International Open. The top 10 players in the table qualified automatically for the team. Captain Mark James then left out Robert Karlsson, who was 11th, and Bernhard Langer, instead selecting Andrew Coltart and Jesper Parnevik as his two 'wild card' players to round out the team.

He then left Coltart on the sidelines until the singles, and did the same with Jarmo Sandelin and Jean Van de Velde. Unsurprisingly, all three men lost their singles.

The US team was chosen on the basis of points compiled by the PGA of America, from early 1998 through to the 81st PGA Championship, August 12-15, 1999. Points were awarded for top-10 finishes at PGA Tour co-sponsored or sanctioned events, with added emphasis on major championships and events played during the Ryder Cup year. The top 10 finishers on the points list automatically qualified for the 12-member team, and US Captain Ben Crenshaw selected the final two players - Steve Pate and Tom Lehman.

Paul Lawrie hit the opening tee shot but the Americans got off to a good start when Lehman chipped in at the first hole. However, the matches quickly swung toward Europe's favour. With the Americans' top two pairings losing, the Europeans gained confidence, finding a dynamic duo in Parnevik and Sergio Garcia.

In the afternoon four balls Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke defeated Tiger Woods and David Duval, the top two players in the world rankings. Woods missed a short eagle putt at the 14th that would have squared the match, while Westwood hit a fantastic chip at the final hole to secure victory.

The day's best match pitted Parnevik and García against Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Parnevik holed out for eagle at the par-four eighth, putting him and García a combined six-under-par for the match, but just one up. At the 13th, Furyk chipped in from near a pond to square the match, giving the American fans a chance to go into a frenzy. At the next hole, Garcia pitched in for an eagle from just the right of the green at the par 5, putting Europe back in front. At the 16th hole, with the Americans one down, Mickelson hit his tee shot inside of four feet from the hole. He was left with the short putt to square the match, but missed it, and the Americans continued to trail. At the final hole, Mickelson again put the ball within five feet of the hole, but again missed the putt, leaving the Americans with a one down loss, and keeping Parnevik and Garcia unbeaten.

Woods won his first match of the week, teaming with new partner Pate in the Saturday foursomes. Woods eagled 14 while Pate hit a shot from the rough at the 18th to within 15 feet to secure the win over Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Parnevik and Garcia won their third straight match, dominating the back nine to beat Leonard and Stewart,
The final match on the course was Maggert and Hal Sutton against Montgomerie and Lawrie. Maggert took the match into his hands in the final holes, making a long birdie putt at 17 to put the Americans in front, then sealing the win by hitting his approach within five feet at the final hole.

With the Americans desperate to climb back into the contest in the Saturday afternoon four balls, Crenshaw changed his pairings in hope of making up at least two points. After playing with Maggert during the first three sessions, Sutton teamed with Leonard, but could only produce a half against the Spanish duo of Jimenez and Olazabal.

Woods and Pate played together again, facing Montgomerie and Lawrie. Pate chipped in for birdie at the first hole, just as Lehman had done the day before, also while playing with Woods. However, the world number one missed key putts on the back nine and lost for the third time in four matches.

Mickelson finally found his game, nearing holing out for eagle at the 10th, as he and Lehman beat Westwood and Clarke.
The most dramatic finish of the session came in the match featuring Davis Love III and Duval against Garcia and Parnevik. Love had hit a glorious approach at the ninth from a large rock formation to secure an eagle, followed by a Duval birdie at the 10th to go one up. Parnevik responded by pitching in for a par at the 12th to halve the hole, causing Garcia to engage in a large display of emotion, running onto the green pumping his fists, then doing a victory lap. However, the Americans were on the verge of handing the European duo their first loss of the week, with Love and Duval still one up on the final hole. Both Love and Garcia had birdie opportunities. Love's putt was to win the match, but he missed. Garcia then holed his birdie to salvage a half point, keeping he and Parnevik undefeated for the week, and causing another wild European celebration.

No team had come back from more than two points down on the final day to win the Ryder Cup. James put most of the team's strength at the back of the lineup. Meanwhile, Crenshaw put most of his strength at the beginning, knowing that a fast start was needed if the Americans were going to recover from the four point deficit. This led to several early mismatches. Sandelin, Van de Velde and Coltart faced Mickelson, Love and Woods, and all three Europeans lost.

Lehman and Westwood, playing in the lead match, halved the first three holes. However, the Europeans seemed to pick up where they had left off when Clarke chipped in at the opening hole, though Sutton squared the match at the next hole and did not trail again.

The matches were close in the early stages, but then Love chipped in at the fifth for a birdie, which seemed to inspire his teammates. Woods, looking much more comfortable in individual play, followed with a chip-in of his own a few minutes later at the eighth. The Americans now led in the first six matches. Love secured the first point of the day, winning 6 & 5 over Van de Velde, followed quickly by Lehman and Sutton. Mickelson and Sandelin had history, stemming from the 1996 Alfred Dunhill Cup. Sandelin missed a short putt for birdie at the second hole and the crowd cheered, prompting Sandelin to raise his hands in mock acknowledgement. He lost to Mickelson 4 & 3. Parnevik played poorly, losing six of the first eight holes to Duval. Woods then closed out Coltart to give the US a 12-10 lead.

The Americans had won the first six matches of the day. Harrington got the Europeans their first point of the day when Mark O’Meara failed to escape a bunker at the final hole. Pate then defeated Jimenez. The biggest European win came from the anchor match, with Lawrie winning three of the first eight holes against Maggert, and going on to win 4 & 3. However, Garcia lost by the same margin to Furyk.

The Americans now led 14-12, with two matches on the course. The US needed just half a point to win, while Europe needed two points to retain the cup in a tie. The remaining matches featured Montgomerie against Stewart and Olazabal against Leonard.

Montgomerie and Stewart had gone back and forth for much of the front nine, with both players making several long putts. Montgomerie won the 12th to move two up. Stewart won the 14th, while both players found trouble at 15, and both faced lengthy par putts. Montgomerie missed from 15 feet, while Stewart holed from 35 feet to square the match with three holes to play.

Olazabal was four up on Leonard with just seven holes to play. However, the Spaniard played the next three holes in 5-6-5, losing all three. Leonard then drained a 40-foot putt at the 15th to square the match. At the 17th, Leonard had another 40 footer for birdie, with Olazabal about 15 feet closer. Leonard holed the unlikely birdie, sending the American team into a frenzy. The team, their wives and cameramen ran onto the green to hug Leonard. Eventually order was restored, and Olazabal had a 20-foot putt to keep Europe's hope alive. He missed the putt which gave Leonard a one up lead with one hole to play. This guaranteed the US the half-point they needed to win the Ryder Cup and complete the improbable comeback. Olazabal won the 18th hole with a birdie and the match was halved.

With the crowd in a frenzy, the marshals unable to keep order, and the result already decided, Stewart conceded the putt Montgomerie had to win on the 18th, in a gesture of sportsmanship for the abuse Montgomerie in particular had suffered throughout. This made the final score 14½–13½ officially.

Day 1 Foursomes (Morning):

  • D Duval & P Mickelson lost to C Montgomerie & P Lawrie (3&2)
  • T Lehman & T Woods lost to J Parnevik & S Garcia (2&1)
  • D Love & P Stewart halved with M A Jimenez & P Harrington
  • H Sutton & J Maggert beat D Clarke & L Westwood (3&2)

Day 1 Fourballs (Afternoon):

  • D Love & J Leonard halved with C Montgomerie & P Lawrie
  • P Mickelson & J Furyk lost to J Parnevik & S Garcia (1 hole)
  • H Sutton & J Maggert lost to M A Jimenez & J M Olazabal (2&1)
  • D Duval & T Woods lost to D Clarke & L Westwood (1 hole)

USA 2 Europe 6

Day 2 Foursomes (Morning):

  • H Sutton & J Maggert beat C Montgomerie & P Lawrie (1 hole)
  • J Furyk & M O'Meara lost to D Clarke & L Westwood (3&2)
  • S Pate & T Woods beat M A Jimenez & P Harrington (1 hole)
  • P Stewart & J Leonard lost to J Parnevik & S Garcia (3&2)

Day 2 Fourballs (Afternoon):

  • P Mickelson & T Lehman beat D Clarke & L Westwood (2&1)
  • D Love & D Duval halved with J Parnevik & S Garcia
  • J Leonard & H Sutton halved with M A Jimenez & J M Olazabal
  • S Pate & T Woods lost to C Montgomerie & P Lawrie (2&1)

USA 6 Europe 10

Day 3 Singles:

  • T Lehman beat L Westwood (3&2)
  • H Sutton beat D Clarke (4&2)
  • P Mickelson beat J Sandelin (4&3)
  • D Love beat J VD Velde (6&5)
  • T Woods beat A Coltart (3&2)
  • D Duval beat J Parnevik (5&4)
  • M O'Meara lost to P Harrington (1 hole)
  • S Pate beat M A Jimenez (2&1)
  • J Leonard halved with J M Olazabal
  • P Stewart lost to C Montgomerie (1 hole)
  • J Furyk beat S Garcia (4&3)
  • J Maggert lost to P Lawrie (4&3)

USA 14.5 Europe 13.5

Next: How Europe won at The Belfry in 2002...


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