Picking The Greatest European Ryder Cup Team
“PICK your dream Ryder Cup team Derek,” they said. “Going all the way back to the earliest days of the event, it's your chance to pick your dream team of 12 players. You can also pick a captain.”
I have been hooked on the Ryder Cup since watching the tied match at Royal Birkdale in 1969. I love the drama, the passion, the atmosphere, the unlikely heroes, the controversy. And I love seeing Americans looking bemused after suffering yet another drubbing.
So here we go. There will be selections here you don’t agree with, but I believe this team could beat any 12 that the USA set against them.
The man who changed the Ryder Cup forever, with four stints as captain. He insisted upon first-class travel, ensured that the players were able to travel with their own caddies and got Seve Ballesteros on side.
His captaincy at Gleneagles in 2014 was flawless. He left nothing to chance and the players loved him.
Led GB&I to a famous victory at Lindrick in 1957 as a playing captain. The diminutive Welshman was a ferocious competitor.
A fiery Scot who captained GB&I when they finished all square with the USA at Birkdale in 1969. He ordered his players not to help the Americans look for their golf balls.
Was there ever a more inspirational figure than the Spaniard? He formed an outstanding partnership with Jose Maria Olazabal, but it was his flair, his passion and his never-say-die attitude that made him stand out. And he just loved to beat the Americans.
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal actually has a better record than Ballesteros - 18-8-5 to Seve's 20-12-5 (.608). Surprisingly, Olazabal was 2-4-1 in singles, But in partnership they were something special. Ballesteros and Olazabal partnered one another 15 times and lost only twice, earning 12 points for their team. That's six points more than any other Ryder Cup partnership. A veteran of seven Ryder Cups, Olazabal made his debut in the famous 1987 win - Europe’s first victory on US soil - scoring three points after forging what would become one of the best partnerships in the history of the match with Seve Ballesteros. Signed off in style going 3-0-0 in the 2006 Ryder Cup and then captained Europe in the Miracle of Medinah in 2012. An undisputed European Ryder Cup legend.
While the aforementioned clutch of players thrived in an era of US dominance, Donald came to the fore in an era of European dominance in the 00s. After making his debut in 2004, the Englishman was unbeaten in 2006 and kicked off the final day comeback at Medinah in 2012 by taking down Bubba Watson 2&1 in the opening singles match. His record is 10-4-1, which stands comparison with the very, very best.
In 2018, Garcia won three points out of four, with his 2&1 singles win giving him the record of 25.5 points. Not bad for a man who was a controversial pick for the match at Le Golf National. Garcia brings passion and fire to the event, often producing his very best against the Americans. In singles, he only has a record of 4-4-1, but when paired with someone else, he flourishes; in foursomes, his record is 10-4-3 and in fourballs it is 8-4-3.
Montgomerie is surely the greatest Ryder Cup player Europe have ever produced. He never lost in the singles from eight matches, was a rock in the European team and always produced a point when needed, frequently getting under the skin of the other team’s players and fans. His overall record was 20-9-7.
Christy O’Connor Snr
The Irishman played in 10 successive Ryder Cups. He was a serial winner, claiming 23 European Tour victories, 33 other wins and eight wins on the Seniors Tour. He was a formidable competitor and is arguably the best golfer Ireland has ever produced.
The pipe-smoking Scot was hugely underrated. Barnes played in six consecutive Ryder Cup matches from 1969 to 1979. He was never on the winning side but in 1975 he beat Jack Nicklaus twice in one day in the singles, winning 4&2 in the morning round and 2&1 in the afternoon session.
Poulter’s record at the Ryder Cup is 14-6-2, with the Englishman living for the Ryder Cup. So much so, his nickname is ‘the postman,’ due to his ability to deliver points at the most important times. Of course Poulter should best be remembered for his exploits in 2008 where he produced four points from five matches and obviously 2012, where he brought Europe back from 10-5 down to win the Cup in what’s known as the Miracle of Medinah.
The giant Englishman faced Arnold Palmer twice in Ryder Cup singles, winning on both occasions against The King. Like Barnes, he never tasted a team victory. Oosterhuis played six Ryder Cups, 28 matches total, with an overall record of 14-11-3. But it's in singles where Oostie's value is clear. He went 6-2-1 in singles, not losing until his final two Cup appearances. In Oostie's first seven singles matches, he beat Gene Littler, beat Palmer twice, halved Lee Trevino, beat Johnny Miller, J.C. Snead and Jerry McGee. He also partnered Nick Faldo to two wins in Faldo's first Cup appearance in 1977.
Before Sergio Garcia in 2018, Faldo was the leading point scorer for Europe with 25 points and has an overall record of 23-19-4. That record equates to a total of 46 matches, the highest ever, with the Englishman appearing in 11 Ryder Cups, which is the most for a European and second in all-time Ryder Cup appearances, with Phil Mickelson breaking the record at Le Golf National in 2018 with 12. He wasn’t a great team player but you cannot argue with his overall record.
Way’s time at the top was all too brief. He played in the Ryder Cup in 1983 and again in 1985. When he made his debut win 1983 he became the second youngest Ryder Cup player at the time time after Nick Faldo. He had an outstanding Ryder Cup record of six wins, two losses and one halved match.
Played in the Ryder Cup five times, scoring 14 points and a member of three winning teams. Produced some true heroics in his singles match against Phil Mickelson at Medinah in 2012, holing a couple of massive putts as he turned a deficit into a crucial one-up victory
Torrance was a model of consistency, playing in eight successive Ryder Cups. He was a member of the winning team on four occasions and famously holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 1985. He also was a member of Cup-winning teams in 1987 (first-ever win for Europe on American soil), 1989 and 1995. In 2002, he was the non-playing captain on the European team which won the 2002 Cup at The Belfry. This made him the second European to sink the winning putt and captain a winning team at separate Ryder Cups, after Ballesteros. A hugely popular man.
Last year, Golfshake Digital Editor Kieran Clark selected his choices. Do you agree with Derek's picks for the Greatest European Ryder Cup Team? Let us know who would make your side!
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